Little League baseball was a big part of my early years. Before dying of Cancer, my father Paul Rothman got great enjoyment in seeing me play. When he was well enough, he came to my games held in Hackensack, New Jersey. I made the Hackensack All-Star team as a shortstop. But, unlike the Little League World Series (LLWS) teams which play about 15 games, my team was eliminated in 1956 in game one by a Palisades Park team.
In August, 2014, the talk of Little League Baseball and the talk of all of baseball is a 13-year old girl playing for the Philadelphia Taney Dragons in the LLWS. Her name is Mo’Ne Davis. Taney is the first team from Philadelphia to make it to the LLWS. This is not surprising since Philadelphia first became Little League sanctioned in 2012. Like so many other baseball fans, I rushed home anxious to watch the 3 pm game between the Taney Dragons and the team from Nashville, TN. The Nashville team was making a return visit to the LLWS and had two players from last year’s team. Yes, this game would be a real challenge for Taney.
Pitching for Taney would be Mo’Ne. After leading her Taney Dragons to a victory in the Mid Atlantic Regionals on August 10, 2014 tossing a 3-hitter and striking out six in an 8-0 victory over a Delaware team, she was ready to make her appearance in the LLWS. She along with Emma Marsh of the Canadian team would be the 17th & 18th females to play in the LLWS.
Was I impressed by her pitching? The answer is an emphatic YES. What I saw was a composed pitcher using three different pitches to keep the hitters off-balance. She mixed a 4-seam 70 mph fastball (which equates to about a 95 mph fastball in the MLB) with a split-change and occasional curve, changing eye-level and speeds to keep a very good hitting Nashville team off-balance. Her control was almost perfect issuing no walks. Blessed with a quick lead on a 3-run home run by Jared Sprague-Lott before she even took the mound, Davis ran a clinic on pitching to contact and pounding the strike zone at differing rates. Those three runs were all she needed in leading Taney to a 4-0 complete game victory over a very good hitting Nashville team. Davis has now pitched back-to-back shutouts, striking out 15 and walking three while allowing only five hits in 12 innings. She is the first woman to win a game in the LLWS.
The final suspense of the game was whether Mo’Ne would have the opportunity to pitch a complete game. Even though she entered the sixth and final inning with a 4-0 lead, completely dominated her opposing hitters, the pitch count in Little League would come into play. She entered the bottom of the sixth inning having thrown 57 pitches. The pitch count rule uses 65 pitches as a cutoff point for whether you need three or four days rest before pitching again. In an interview after the game, she said, “So, I knew I had to squeeze those eight pitches in and I was able to do it.” When asked if it’s been hard on her to cope with the media. Davis, a quick-witted honor student replied, “It hasn’t been too bad. And anyway, I can always say, ‘No.’ That’s my secret weapon with the media.”
It is now 7 pm on Sunday, August 17. I am ready for the contest between the Taney Dragons from Philadelphia and the team from Pearland, Texas. Mo’Ne Davis will start at third base and bat sixth. In her first at bat Mo’Ne singled to right driving in their second run becoming the 6th female with a hit in the LLWS. At the half-way point Philadelphia led Texas 3 to 1. Rallying from behind, as we enter the bottom of the sixth, Texas had the lead by one run. The leadoff hitter for Tangy reached first with a drag bunt. With two outs a triple ties the score. The next batter reaches on an error and the legend of the now 2 and 0 Taney Dragons continues.
Mo’Ne will pitch on Wed. at 7:30 pm against Las Vegas, NV. I can hardly wait!