BRISTOL, Conn. - Taney's fans rose to their feet Sunday when Mo'ne Davis had to leave the mound after a 10-strikeout performance because of Little League's 85-pitch limit.
For five innings, Davis was masterful in the Taney Dragons' 8-4 victory over Newark (Del.) National in the Little League Mid-Atlantic Regional at Breen Field. The all-stars from Center City improved to 2-0 in pool play with the victory, thanks in large part to the pitching of their outstanding female player, who was much better than Newark's boys.
If Davis' waist-length braids were the first thing Newark players noticed when they stepped into the batter's box, the next thing they noticed was that they could hardly hit her. For five innings she made them look silly, stymieing an offense that posted 11 runs in its regional opener.
"I just was throwing strikes," said Davis, a 13-year-old who is one of only two girls playing in the regional. "We needed that win, so I had to go out there and do my best and try to get the win for my team."
Davis allowed one hit in the first five innings before she tired in the sixth and gave up three runs, exceeding the pitch limit with one out to go in the game. But that hiccup took little away from her performance.
"She looked terrific; it's not an uncommon sight," Taney manager Alex Rice said. "She had her A game, which she usually does, and she won the game for us."
The only run Davis allowed in the first five innings scored on an error when shortstop Jared Sprague-Lott made a wild throw to first trying to finish off a double play in the third inning. Sprague-Lott hung his head after watching the Newark run cross the plate, but he put it behind him quickly. Second baseman Jahli Hendricks approached Sprague-Lott and gave him words of encouragement.
"My teammates always have my back and they're always cheering me up," said Sprague-Lott, who finished with two hits and two RBIs.
Whatever Hendricks said worked. Sprague-Lott was the second batter in Taney's half of the inning. He made up for the error by launching an opposite-field home run to give Taney a 4-1 lead, knocking in Hendricks, who had singled. Hendricks and Sprague-Lott, the team's three and four hitters in the lineup, combined to reach base seven times, scoring six runs. Taney led by 6-1 at the end of the third inning and by 8-1 at the end of the fourth.
Davis didn't soften with the lead. In the fourth and fifth innings, she struck out five of the six batters she faced. Newark was behind on her fastball and befuddled by her breaking ball.
She made the job of Taney's outfielders look easy. They had to play only two balls in the first five innings, a fly-out to center field and a single to left.
Because she threw 85 pitches, Davis will not be available to pitch until a possible Friday semifinal, which is looking more likely after this win. Depending on the results of games Monday and early Tuesday, Taney could clinch a semifinal spot before it returns to action Tuesday night against New York champion Colonie Little League.
For now, Taney can only wait, thankful it has a player who throws like a girl.