You remember Mo’ne Davis, right?
Back in 2014, when she was just 13-years-old, she captured the attention of every sports fan in the nation when she dominated at the Little League World Series. On those fields in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Davis became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the tournament. She was also the first African American girl to play in the LLWS.
With an icy stare and her long braids swinging behind her, Davis dominated a team from Nashville for her Philadelphia squad. In six innings of work, she struck out eight batters and allowed just two hits. She threw a 70-mph fastball – and remember, she was just 13 – and a variety of off-speed pitches that froze batters and had them swinging wildly at nothing but air.
Davis landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was a hot topic on TV and radio shows. Suddenly, everyone knew the name of a preteen from Philadelphia. She won an ESPY. She was invited to the White House by President Obama. And she put an end to the negativity surrounding the “throwing like a girl” cliché.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Davis is a college freshman at Hampton University, a historically black college in Virginia’s Tidewater region. And Davis is still playing, though she’s traded in one diamond for another.
Davis made her NCAA Division I softball debut on Saturday for Hampton in a 15-4 season-opening win over North Carolina A&T. Starting at second base and batting ninth, Davis finished 1-for-3 with a run scored and two driven in.
As the early season continues, here’s everything you need to know about the former LLWS sensation.
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She’s not pitching anymore
Davis garnered fame at the Little League World Series for her prowess on the mound, but she won’t be pitching in college. Davis is slated to be a middle infielder for the Hampton Pirates, so expect to see her at shortstop or second base throughout the season. In the LLWS, she played first base when she wasn’t pitching.
Pitching in softball and baseball are two very different things. The balls are different sizes, the delivery comes out at different angles and the motions aren’t similar at all.
Davis told ESPN’s Outside the Lines about her switch to the infield in August 2019 saying, “It’s completely different. I tried (softball) pitching in sixth grade and I just wasn’t a fan of it. Pitching in baseball is completely different. Tenth grade, when I decided to play for high school, I was like, I want to try just being a fielder and hitting to help my team win. My coach put me at shortstop and I’ve been playing there ever since.”
She told the New York Times about softball pitching, “I know the mechanics, but for some reason the ball just doesn’t reach home plate.”
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Basketball was her first love
When Davis was gaining fame for her accomplishments in the Little League World Series, she let anyone who asked know that playing college basketball — specifically at UConn — was her dream. She looked up to Maya Moore and received a congratulatory phone call from Geno Auriemma after the LLWS.
But once she got into high school, her thinking, interests and goals changed.
“I think once I started AAU and I saw the different level of basketball players and the height you had to be at UConn, I figured I’m not growing anymore so that’s not in my future,” Davis told SLAM Magazine. “But I’ve been a big fan of UConn… And I’ve wanted to go there for the longest. It’s one of my favorite schools, but I didn’t have the height to do it.”
Davis is listed on Hampton’s softball roster at 5-4, but according to SLAM, she still garnered basketball interest from the likes of Fordham, Quinnipiac and Longwood. A story about Mo’Ne on Bleacher Report mentions that she’s an aficionado of basketball sneakers and owns more than 70 pairs.
In a time where many young athletes are being pushed to specialize in sports, Davis never did. In high school, she excelled in basketball and softball, and won state championships in soccer.
When asked why she committed to playing softball at Hampton, she told Sports Illustrated, “I wanted to do something for the next four years… To have fun, and softball was it. Nowadays, sports are a little too serious... I just try to have as much fun as possible."
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New challenge at Hampton
Hampton is not exactly a powerhouse in college softball. The Pirates have had just three winning seasons out of their past seven and haven’t won a conference championship since 1996. The Pirates have never appeared in the women’s college World Series.
Angie Nicholson is in her fourth season at the helm of the program, which went 23-25 (7-17) in its first season in the Big South Conference.
So, why did Davis want to go to Hampton?
“From second grade all the way through graduation I’ve been at a predominantly white school. Just to be able to go to an HBCU and to get that experience, just to follow the path that a lot of African-Americans went through, I think it would be pretty cool,” Davis told Outside the Lines. “I feel like a lot of black athletes should look into HBCU’s, and it’s one of those decisions I’ll be able to say I won’t regret and I made the right decision.”
Davis is majoring in communications at Hampton and will attend the university’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.
And maybe between now and graduation, she’ll create a few more highlights too.