Mo'ne Davis dazzles in Taney's LLWS-opening win

Mo'ne Davis dazzles in Taney's LLWS-opening win

August 15, 2014, 8:00 pm

Pitcher Mo'ne Davis smiles while running off the mound during Taney's 4-0 win over South Nashville in the team's Little League World Series opener on Friday. (AP)

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These guys should be interviewed more, because it's not just about me. It's about the whole team that's here right now.
— Mo'ne Davis talking about her teammates at the Little League World Series

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Mo’ne Davis keeps a few dollars in her back pocket whenever she pitches. It’s an old superstition, she said -- as old a superstition as a 13-year-old can have, anyway.

And in the Taney Dragons’ 4-0 win over South Nashville (see Instant Replay), $7.05 was exactly what Davis needed. With $7 in bills in one pocket and a nickel in the other, the Dragons’ sensation became the first girl ever to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series.

More than 15,600 fans packed Lamade Stadium Friday afternoon to watch Davis and the Dragons, governor Tom Corbett (dressed head-to-toe in Taney gear) among them. They cheered when her name was first announced, were on their feet for every strike and held their breath whenever she approached the plate.

Davis has become summer’s it-girl, and not just in Philadelphia. As South Nashville’s manager Chris Mercado put it, almost the entire stadium spent the game’s six innings “cheering for one player.”

Unsurprisingly, as that “one player,” Davis has had a whirlwind week.

“It’s very unreal,” she said. “I never thought that at the age of 13 I would be a role model, but now it’s real. I always wanted to be a basketball role model, but being a baseball role model is real cool. Hopefully more girls will play little league.”

Davis struck out eight and gave up just two hits in her complete-game effort, gaining momentum and strength as the game progressed. She got a sense of the umpire’s strike zone, she said, and went from there.

“She definitely had her game today,” catcher Scott Bandura said. “She was powering the strike zone, pitching with good velocity. They were late on everything. Her curveball kept them off balance.”

Davis began with a nine-pitch inning, settling down after shortstop Jared Sprague-Lott handed her a 3-0 lead with a three-run home run in the bottom of the first. It was clear after that she had hit her stride.

And that’s the thing about Taney; it’s not just Mo’ne Davis’ team. The Dragons were confident after Davis started strong, but the pitcher admitted she was nervous at the start, and calmed down after Sprague-Lott’s big hit.

It was only then that she “went out and had fun,” Davis said.

“I just wanted to help Mo’ne out,” Sprague-Lott said. “Because I knew she was going to do well, but she needs a couple of runs. As soon as it went out, I was very excited.”

Zion Spearman reached home in the sixth inning for the Dragons’ final insurance run. The team, though, was at its best on defense. The few times when the opposition made contact with Davis’ pitches, Taney outfielders were there to catch them.

The Dragons, it’s clear, are a well-coached team. Their fundamentals are sound, their game clean. Davis steals the headlines, but the team could last a while in Williamsport. They next play Sunday at 7 p.m.

“They did terrific,” manager Alex Rice said. “It was the Mo-show out there. She did absolutely fantastic. … With our defense and Mo pitching like that, as long as we can sequence the pitching and keep it in the yard, we’re in good shape.”

Davis has spent her week doing interviews with scores of news outlets. A waiting list thousands-long wants her to approve them as followers on Instagram. There’s even a parody Mo’ne Davis Twitter account.

At the Little League World Series at least, Davis is a superstar. But that’s not how it should be, she said.

“These guys should be interviewed more, because it’s not just about me,” she said, motioning to her teammates. “It’s about the whole team that’s here right now.”

But what about that back-pocket cash superstition?

“I do well when I have money in my back pocket,” Davis said with a grin. “If I ever get hungry, I know I can get something to eat.”

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