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Spelling Bee champ tosses Game 2 first pitch

Kansas City native Sada K. sings national anthem

KANSAS CITY -- Given that Vanya Shivashankar knows the pressure of having to spell "scherenschnitte" in front of a live and national television audience, it's safe to assume that throwing out a ceremonial first pitch in front of a packed Kauffman Stadium probably wasn't that nerve-racking.

Shivashankar, a 14-year-old ninth-grader from nearby Olathe, Kan., finished as co-champion at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. The instant fame that comes along with such a distinction netted her appearances on shows like "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and on Friday, she was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch prior to Game 2 of the American League Division Series, a 5-4 Royals victory over the Astros.

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"The Royals contacted my dad around the first or second of this month and invited us," Shivashankar said. "I was so excited, I couldn't wait." :: ALDS: Astros vs. Royals -- Tune-in info ::

Shivashankar, who won the Bee on her fifth and final try, shared the championship title with Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Mo., who correctly spelled "nunatak."

To win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, competitors first have to prevail above more than 11 million students who take part in local and state spelling bees.

From there, 285 students go to Washington, D.C., for the national spelling bee. From there, 10 go on to compete on live TV in the finals.

In addition to being a master speller, Shivashankar, whose sister won the Bee in 2009, is an actress in her spare time. Someday, she'd like to study to become a cardiac surgeon, "but I still have a lot more time," she said.

The national anthem prior to Game 2 was performed by singer/songwriter Sada K., a Kansas City native who has been living in Los Angeles for the past nine years.

Being away from Kansas City has not blocked Sada from watching her Royals. She has the MLB Extra Innings package and watches the team regularly, and she also attends Angels game when the Royals are in town.

Video: HOU@KC Gm2: Sada K. performs the national anthem

"It's awesome to be able to be here at such a big game," she said. "I'm just so thankful and want to do the city proud. To be able to be on the field and sing, it's going to be a beautiful experience."

Sada K, a Christian R&B and urban contemporary gospel artist and musician, started her music career in 2009 with the band Press Play, serving as the lead vocalist for two years.

She released a solo album titled "Long Story Short" earlier this year.

Despite numerous performances during her career at all kinds of venues, she had never performed at a baseball stadium -- until Friday.

"I've performed at UCLA games, charity events for soldiers, arenas for concerts and shows, but not a stadium," she said. "It's really special that the first stadium is Kauffman Stadium."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.
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