August 18, 2014

You need a little good news this Monday, right? Here it is: The Taney Dragons pulled it out in the very last second of last night's game against Pearland, Texas to win, 7-6. And what a cardiac event this game was! From The Good Phight:

It was the bottom of the sixth in Williamsport, in a taut second round matchup between two of the first-round winners, Philadelphia's own Taney and the team from Pearland, Texas, representing the Southwest.

Pearland led, 6-5, but the magic, multicultural local preteens showed no quit. Taney's Scott Bandura led off with a bunt single, but a Jahli Hendricks strikeout and a Jared Sprague-Lott fly out to center left the kids one out away from a loss that would have meant a game tomorrow and a complicated pitching lineup that would have kept star pitcher Mo'ne Davis off the mound.

But Zion Spearman followed with a scorching ground ball past the shortstop that rolled all the way to the wall, and with Bandura running on contact, the game tied, and Spearman wound up on third, just beating the throw from the cutoff man.

With Spearman on third, Tai Shanahan followed with a groundball to shortstop that Texas shortstop Aaron Matthews fielded, but threw over the head of his first baseman as Spearman scored, and Taney walked off.

The game was played in perfect conditions in Williamsport, and a bus-trip aided throng of over 30,000 fans crammed every seat, nook, and hillside to watch the game, many of whom chanted "Let's Go Taney!" throughout the game

If you skipped watching because Mo'Ne wasn't pitching, you missed two-and-a-half hours of great edge-of-the-seat baseball. Jared Sprague-Lott (who I predict now as the series MVP) pitched a great four innings before giving up a three-run homer. But the pitchers who followed were solid, too.

I can't imagine what it was like for young kids to play with that much pressure on them, with that many screaming fans. Williamsport is a four-hour trip from Philly, and there were so many Philadelphia fans who made the trip, Little League officials decided they had to hand out tickets.

And the Dragons are the ultimate Philly sports heroes: They never, ever, ever give up. They go for every opportunity to score. You can never count them out.

That's what Mo'Ne Davis tried to tell us: It was never about her, it's about the team.

Now, I want to remind you that this team (and Chicago's Jackie Robinson team) still get taunted and judged on the basis of race (and gender). The upper echelons of Little League are far too frequently populated with comfortably privileged upper-class suburban teams, and some of them are really resentful of the upstart Dragons. (On Twitter last night, Texas fans complained that the team "fit the multicultural narrative" and accused the officials of allowing them to win.)

Our Dragons don't have a lot of the things those other teams take for granted. They play on crappy practice fields filled with ruts and holes. Until they won the Mid-Atlantic title, they didn't even have real uniforms. Their parents aren't rich (now that they're deeper into the series, this presents a real hardship for their families. Don't even bring up how ESPN pays Little League $83 million for the broadcast rights, while Taney families are trying to raise enough money to cover the hotel expenses. YOU CAN DONATE HERE.)

But they're winners anyway. It just makes it so much better that they're such nice, smart kids.

I shouldn't have doubted them for a minute. Now it's not just about Mo'Ne. Now I believe in Dragons. Do you?

Next game is Wednesday night vs. Las Vegas at 7:30 p.m. The winner of that game plays in the U.S. championship game.

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