WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Mo'ne Davis took the mound Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 34,128 as if she'd done it hundreds of times before.
The 13-year-old pitcher for Philadelphia's Taney Dragons showed her age earlier in the day when she seemed genuinely excited to trade pins with other players, a Little League World Series tradition. But Davis donned her game face shortly after Asia-Pacific outlasted Japan in the early game.
We saw this first hand as we made our way from the media room to the photo well, which is situated next to the home team's dugout. We passed Davis and her teammates as they waited in the bowels of the Lamade Stadium, watching ESPN highlights of -- you guessed it -- Davis leading her team to this very point. She was equal parts focused on the task in front of her and unfazed by the media scrutiny. At one point, there was an ESPN camera locked in on Davis watching highlights of herself.
This is the age we live in, of course, where you can never cover a story too much. And, yes, we realize that we're part of the problem. A week ago, we had never heard of Mo'ne Davis. By Monday, we had called our editor, pitched the idea to drive three hours to Williamsport and cover her in person. But unlike the media-manufactured melodrama surrounding, say, Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow before him, Davis is a great story worth our attention.
Yes, part of it is that she's an African-American girl pitching on Little League's biggest stage. And, yes, part of that story is that she became the first female to to toss a LLWS shutout in a regional matchup. But she's also an honor-roll student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, who also happens to be really, really, really good at baseball.
The notion of Davis serving as a role model is a weird thing to write -- and even weirder to read aloud -- which hasn't been lost on her.
"It's very unreal," she earlier this week. "I never thought that at the age of 13 I would be a role model, but now it's real. I always wanted to be a basketball role model; being a baseball role model is really cool."
On Wednesday, Davis appeared to have her fastball early, but she was facing one of the best hitting teams in the tournament, Mountain Ridge Little League out of Las Vegas. She gave up three runs -- including an RBI triple and two-run home run to Dallan Cave -- in 2 1/3 innings of work.
All told, Davis threw 55 pitches and struck out six batters.
Taney cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth but Mountain Ridge blew the game open late and cruised to an 8-1 victory and handing Davis her first LLWS loss in the process.
Next up: Taney faces Jackie Robinson West of Chicago in the loser's bracket. And that means we'll all have one more chance to see Davis.