Philadelphia Rallies to Win Amid Frenzy Over Female Star

Philadelphia's Mo'ne Davis is safe at second as the ball falls out of the glove of Pearland second baseman Bryce Laird during the third inning of a baseball game in United States pool play at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014.
Philadelphia's Mo'ne Davis is safe at second as the ball falls out of the glove of Pearland second baseman Bryce Laird during the third inning of a baseball game in United States pool play at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. –AP

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — They filled the grassy embankment beyond the outfield walls until there was no green left showing. Then fans pushed farther up into the darker recesses of the hill, beyond the scoreboard, craning their necks around the grandstand, all to see what Mo’ne Davis could do even when it was not her turn to pitch.

Organizers at the Little League World Series gave away free tickets Sunday for crowd control, so strong was the push to see Davis and her team, the Taney Youth Baseball Association of Philadelphia, face Pearland East, from Texas.

If it was something to watch her pitch — hurling a shutout Friday night to become the first girl to do so in the 67-year history of the event — consider the spectacle on Sunday, when the crowd at Howard J. Lamade Stadium was announced at more than 32,000 on a night when Davis was asked only to play third base, and hit, and run the bases, and do the other things requested of a Little Leaguer on the sport’s biggest stage.

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The gift shop on site sold out of the powder blue T-shirts replicating the jerseys worn by Davis’ mid-Atlantic team by the middle of the fourth inning, and the stadium erupted when she singled in the game’s first run with a blooper to right field in the bottom of the first.

But it was Davis’ teammates who mainly helped Philadelphia advance with a two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth, scoring the winning run off an error by shortstop Matthew Adams to sneak past Texas, 7-6.

“We just had a feeling,’’ Alex Rice, Philadelphia’s manager, said. “There was no one on our team that didn’t think we were coming back.’’

Philadelphia’s next game will be Wednesday against Las Vegas, which defeated Chicago’s Jackie Robinson team earlier in the day. Rice said he expected Davis to be on the mound.

On Sunday, she showed her versatility, playing third, shortstop and first, and she went 1 for 2 at the plate. But a three-run homer by Cole Smajstrla in the top of the fifth put Texas ahead, 5-3, and for a while that looked to be enough to banish Philadelphia to the elimination round.

But trailing, 6-5, in the bottom of the sixth, Zion Spearman hit a game-tying triple into the gap in left center field, and scored the winning run after Adams airmailed his throw to first base on a ground ball by Tai Shanahan.

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“He feels bad,’’ said Don Smith, the Texas manager. “But that was just the ending of the game. There were several plays leading up to that. The blame doesn’t fall on Matthew at all.’’

Philadelphia scored two runs in the first inning to jump out to a quick lead against Texas starter Clayton Broeder and went ahead 3-1 before a solo home run by Texas’ Layne Roblyer in the fourth.

Reliever Jonathan Newman worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth to keep Texas within one entering the fifth. Three batters into the inning, Smajstrla sent a pitch to nearly dead center, giving Texas its first lead of the game.

Down, 6-3, in the fifth, Spearman and Kai Cummings each delivered run-scoring hits to put Philadelphia within a run. And the team had one last chance in the bottom of the sixth against reliever Landon Donley.

A bunt base hit by Scott Bandura put the tying run aboard with nobody out. Bandura flew around the bags on the triple by Spearman.

“When I saw coach waving me home, I ran faster than I probably ever have,’’ he said.

A batter later, Davis could storm out of the dugout, arms agape, as she and her teammates victoriously piled onto Shanahan beyond first base.

“Everyone has nerves,’’ Shanahan said. “But it all worked out.’’

In earlier action, Mexico and Japan played to a 5-5 tie before Japan broke through with a two-run single by Shozo Kamata in the bottom of the fifth, paving the way for an eventual four-run inning and a 9-5 win.

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And South Korea sneaked past Puerto Rico with an 8-5 win after pinch-runner Jun Hyeok Yun stole home to score the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth.