Mo'ne fans six in Philly's LLWS loss to Vegas
Sports Illustrated cover girl could pitch in US title game if club wins Thursday
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- They filled the seats and both levels of the outfield berm, a crowd more than 34,000 strong that included Major League Baseball's Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred and hundreds of signs bearing the nation's hottest first name:
And this was her Mo'ment.
Alas, all the lead-up to young Ms. Davis' latest Little League World Series endeavor at Howard J. Lamade Stadium on Wednesday night could not surmount the inevitable ups and downs of the sport. Mo'ne still used her 70-mph fastball and confounding curve to rack up the K's against the boys, but those strikeouts were surrounded by the smattering of hits that would send the South Philadelphia Taney Dragons down the path to an 8-1 loss to Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas.
What that means is that Davis and the Dragons are set to take on the Series' other inner-city feel-good story -- Jackie Robinson West of Chicago -- at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday for the right to face Mountain Ridge in Saturday's U.S. championship round.
"At this point, we're playing to get to Saturday," Taney manager Alex Rice said. "Whether we were going to get there tonight or [Thursday], they feel very good about playing on Saturday."
Rice limited the 13-year-old Davis' pitch count so that she'd be eligible to throw again Saturday, should Taney advance. And he acknowledged that Mo'ne, who allowed three runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts in her 2 1/3 innings of work, simply did not have the stuff that carried her to Sunday's shutout and helped land her on this week's Sports Illustrated cover.
Against a hot-hitting Vegas club, there was no room for error.
"She's entitled to an off night," Rice said. "I don't want to take anything away from the Vegas kids. That's a real good team, maybe the best team we've faced this year. But she certainly wasn't locating and didn't have the pitches that she typically does. I don't think any of the distractions this week [played a part]."
Oh, but the distractions have been many. Davis and those surrounding the Taney squad have been bombarded with national interview requests, and Mo'ne has been a regular trending topic on Twitter and the like.
Even Manfred, elected last week to succeed Bud Selig as MLB's Commissioner, was caught up in Mo'ne's splendid story and the dialogue it has created about a place for women on the big league stage.
"Fifty years ago, people would have had a list of things that women couldn't do that was as long as your arm, and they're doing every single one of them today," Manfred said. "So I'm not betting against the gender."
On this night, however, the odds aligned against Davis and her team quite quickly. Vegas' leadoff hitter, Zach Hare, ripped a single, and Austin Kryszczuk followed with an RBI triple. Mo'ne quickly collected herself to strike out the side, but the air of invincibility was gone. With a man on in the second inning, Vegas' eight-hole hitter, Dallan Cave, smacked a two-run homer to left to make it 3-0 and largely quiet a crowd obviously partisan to the team from nearby Philly.
The Dragons would make it interesting in the fourth, when Mo'ne worked the count full after falling behind 0-2 and then drew a walk on a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. But they didn't close the gap any further, and Vegas put up a five spot in the sixth to seal it.
Much attention has been placed upon the two inner-city squads advancing to the tournament's late stages, and that's allowed this Vegas team to lay in the weeds.
"It's a lot [of attention] to put on a 12-year-old or 13-year-old, and we've seen what's gone on publicly," Vegas manager Aston Cave said. "Our guys have done a good job of keeping things simple."
For Mo'ne, simplicity is an unattainable luxury at the moment. Though her newfound fame undoubtedly contributed to Wednesday's attendance total, which surpassed the same-day tally of the Phillies by nearly 9,000, she'll no doubt remain a curiosity, a kid uncommonly cool in the spotlight and uncommonly talented on the field.
"I think it's really a great story for Little League," Manfred said of Davis, "really a great story for diversity and equality, and I think we should embrace it and hope that she continues to develop."