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Mo’ne Davis returns to the Little League World Series diamond tonight

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Mo’ne Davis is good at being first. The 13-year-old Taney Dragons phenom became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series last week, and this week she’s the first Little Leaguer of any gender to land the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s safe to say things are going well for the Philadelphia honor student, who by the way, doesn’t even consider baseball her primary sport. (Davis dreams of shooting hoops in the WNBA one day.)

Things could take a turn tonight, however, when she and her team face their biggest challenge yet — the Las Vegas Mountain Ridge squad. The odds — quite literally — are in the western team’s favor at minus-600, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But don’t let that stop you from betting on Davis, at least not metaphorically. Although the spotlight will be squarely on Davis as she is slated to be the starting pitcher in tonight’s game, Davis has shown pressure isn’t a problem. In fact, she’s proven to be one of the most even-keeled, focused people not just in Little League, but perhaps in all of sports. Perhaps it’s the trait of the next generation, but the media has not fazed Davis or pulled her away from why she and the Taney Dragons are there — to win. She outlined her strategy in an interview with ESPN:

“First and second inning, I got to get to know the umpire strike zone so then I know where to throw. And when I get through their order, I know where kids don’t like [pitches thrown]. …Some people don’t like it low and outside, so I throw it low and outside. Some people swing at curveballs, some people swing at first pitch, so I know when to throw the right pitch at the right time.”

The Las Vegas boys are known for their strong hitting, so this match-up should be a good one.

The winner of the game will move on to the U.S. finals on Saturday, while the loser will get a chance to come back in the double-elimination format by going against Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West squad on Thursday and winning. (That will also be a challenge, however, as the Midwestern team has also been great.)

The ultimate U.S. winner will face the winner of the International bracket on Sunday in the World Series Championship game.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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