Mo’Ne Davis struck out six batters and allowed just three hits Sunday in leading Philadelphia’s Taney Youth Baseball Association to a berth in the Little League World Series.
But the reason Davis is such a big story coming into this week’s World Series is only partially explained by the batters who keep swinging and missing. The other reason Davis stands out among the crowd of young ballplayers who will descend on Williamsport, Pennsylvania in the next few days?
She’s a girl.
Davis, a 5-foot-4 eighth grader, boasts a 70 mile-per-hour fastball and induced a game-ending double-play to seal her complete game shutout and Taney’s place in Williamsport (you can see highlights of her performance here).
Davis, who struck out 10 in a previous outing at the regional tournament, is an honor roll student who has played for a local travel team since she was 7, according to Philadelphia Magazine’s Marc Kravitz. She will become just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series since it began allowing them to play in 1974. Emma March of Canada’s South Vancouver Little League will also play in the tournament, making March and Davis just the third pair of girls to appear in the same Little League World Series.
Another girl, 12-year-old Kayla Roncin of Toms River, New Jersey, struck out 10 batters in 5 1/3 innings of work during the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament against the same Delaware team Davis baffled in the regional final (Roncin’s team lost before her and Davis could face off on the field).
Davis and March will make their first appearances at the World Series on Friday, when March’s Canada team takes on Mexico (1 p.m., ESPN) and Davis and Taney meet South Nashville Little League (3 p.m., ESPN).
For all the success Davis, March, and Roncin have had even before the World Series begins, there is still a dearth of opportunities for girls who want to keep playing baseball after their earliest years in the game. As Emma Span detailed in the New York Times, girls are usually pushed into softball as teenagers (and often before) under the misguided belief that it and baseball are identical twins as sports. That’s not to denigrate softball, which has its own Little League World Series and offers girls opportunities at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. But thanks to a lack of girls’ baseball leagues and teams and a reticence among schools and coaches to let them play with the boys, girls who want to play baseball often don’t have the chance, Span wrote:
Even where no official rules keep them out of baseball, girls face enormous pressure to switch to softball. “They get chased right out of middle-school baseball,” said Jennifer Ring, the author of “Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball,” whose daughter fought to play in high school and played a season on Vassar College’s Division III men’s team. When a girl persists in playing, Ms. Ring said, “you can’t count on it being a good experience, because you have to explain why you’re even there.”
Davis and March, along with Roncin, have already established themselves among the legion of girls who are making it clear that they can play alongside boys no matter the sport. Their presence on Little League’s biggest stage should also help enhance the discussion about how to further increase opportunities available to girls, in baseball and any other sport they want to play.