The 2014 Little League World Series got underway in grand fashion on Thursday with a three-homer game and four teams scoring at least 10 runs. Friday's action figures to be just as eventful, though hopefully with more compelling games.
It will also be notable for another reason besides just the baseball. Mo'ne Davis has become the talk of the town after pitching a shutout to get Taney (Philadelphia) Little League to Williamsport. She is expected to take the mound on Friday, so expect a lot of social media discussion about the 13-year-old this afternoon.
While Davis is certainly the top story on everyone's mind, there are four games on the docket with their own storylines to watch for. At the very least, the games are going to be fun and fascinating to watch.
To whet your appetite for Friday's matchups, we have a look at the schedule for Friday, where you can see the games streaming online, picks for the matchups and what you can look for.
|2014 Little League World Series Schedule - Day 2|
|Start Time (ET)||Matchup||Network||Live Stream||Pick|
|1 p.m.||Canada vs. Mexico||ESPN||Watch ESPN||Mexico|
|3 p.m.||Mid-Atlantic vs. Southeast||ESPN||Watch ESPN||Mid-Atlantic|
|5 p.m.||Japan vs. Latin America||ESPN2||Watch ESPN||Latin America|
|8 p.m.||Southwest vs. New England||ESPN||Watch ESPN||Southwest|
The Mo'ne Davis Show in the Spotlight
You couldn't go on Twitter or watch ESPN on Sunday without seeing something about Davis' pitching performance against Delaware in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. She was masterful, allowing just three hits and striking out six in six innings of work.
Davis' effort even earned the attention of Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who gave the young right-hander a shoutout:
She will become the first American female to play in a Little League World Series game since 2004 and just the 18th in the 75-year history of the event. The spotlight on her is going to be brighter than anyone else because of her gender and the fact she's as good as any boy on the field.
If you watched her last outing, Davis was pumping fastballs in the 70 mph range. With the mound being just 46 feet from the plate, her heater is coming in at the same rate of speed a 91 mph fastball would be from a major league mound.
Davis has been making the media rounds, even appearing on NBC's Today show, saying that her message to other girls who want to play a predominantly male sport is "keep dreaming and go for it."
We will see if Davis' message works. If she remains successful, don't be surprised if there is a spike in female participation in Little League Baseball.
The "Other" Woman
While not generating the same kind of publicity as Davis, Canada's Emma March should not be forgotten in the quest for Little League gender diversity. She is part of the South Vancouver team that will take on Mexico.
March plays multiple positions, mostly first base in the field, but makes her living on the mound. Her best game came in the provincial tournament with a one-hit shutout that included seven strikeouts.
Canada isn't getting a lot of attention leading up to the Little League World Series because it didn't come from a big regional. As South Vancouver Little League President Graham Randell told Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun, the league is incredibly small:
We are really small. We only had 25 players and two teams in our majors division for the spring season and, at the end, when they came together to try out for this team, only 14 kids showed up.
When I started as president six years ago, I think we were at 155-160 kids and now we're at 242 kids from ages 4-12. So we are very small compared to the Hastings, the White Rocks and the Whalleys of the world.
Whatever happens to Canada in the Little League World Series, it's important to remember that Davis isn't the only one representing the female gender in Williamsport. Davis will get more attention in this country because she's an American, but March deserves to stand alongside the Pennsylvania star.
Japan Looks to Defend Its Crown
Even though the players aren't the same, Tokyo is back in the Little League World Series to defend its title. The kids from Japan have a long, storied history at Williamsport. They have won three of the last four titles, with a runner-up finish in 2011 being the lone blemish.
In an article for Rheana Murray of Good Morning America, via ABCNews.com, ESPN's Karl Ravech said that Japan is a team that American fans should make a point of watching because they are so unique compared to the rest of the field:
They are traditionally, fundamentally superior to every team you will see here. To watch them take the field, there’s a very mechanical and systematic approach they take that no one else does.
It’s like watching a ballet, and it leads to great success. They don’t make mistakes very often. Even though 12-year-old kids tend to make a lot, they don’t make many.
There's a reason Japan has been so successful at the Little League World Series and is one of the biggest baseball powerhouses in the world. Whether we are talking about professionals or little leaguers, they are so fundamentally sound that opponents never get extra outs.
Given how good Japan has been at the Little League World Series, especially in recent years, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see them run the table and capture another title. The journey starts on Friday against Latin America.
If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.