Taney players keep it loose at workout

With practice ending late in the afternoon, the Taney Dragons carry their equipment from the field Thursday, August 14, 2014. Their Little League World Series opener is on Friday in Williamsport. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
With practice ending late in the afternoon, the Taney Dragons carry their equipment from the field Thursday, August 14, 2014. Their Little League World Series opener is on Friday in Williamsport. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 16, 2014

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - The Taney players walked onto practice field No. 5 just before 6 p.m. Thursday, less than 24 hours before their first-round game in the Little League World Series.

It was the Dragons' first time on a field since Sunday and the final day of four consecutive days off after a wild three weeks of qualifying. The Dragons were limited to using the facility's batting cages the previous two days because of rainstorms.

If Taney is feeling any pressure from being Philadelphia's first entry in the Little League World Series, it did not show in the hour-long workout.

Infielder Jordan Sprague-Lott played long toss with first baseman Joe Richardson. They tested each other by throwing curveballs, comparing pitches. Richardson admitted that Sprague-Lott's offering broke harder. But Richardson said he threw a quicker fastball.

"Your curveball is as fast as your fastball," he shouted.

"At least my fastball doesn't get rocked," Sprague-Lott offered back.

Manager Alex Rice said he was glad his team was keeping it loose as the game crept closer. He planned to hold one last practice before the game. He said he would ask his players Thursday night how they felt about the game.

"See if they're anxious or getting nervous," Rice said. "The crowd tomorrow is going to be two or three more times bigger than what it was today."

Taney will meet South Nashville (Tenn.) on Friday at 3 p.m. The Southeast Regional champions are making their second straight trip to the World Series after falling in last year's U.S. quarterfinals. The team is led by power-hitting catcher Sam Slaughter.

Friday is shaping up to be the perfect storm at the Little League complex. The first Friday is historically one of the best for attendance. The surrounding area adopts the Mid-Atlantic team, and this year that team is from Pennsylvania, the state's third team in 10 years to play in Williamsport. That, combined with the Philadelphia fans who will make the trek, is expected to generate overflow crowds.

"We're just finally getting to play baseball after being here for so long," outfielder Kai Cummings said.

Rice said he knew who his starting pitcher would be, but the manager declined to reveal it until he hands in his lineup card Friday morning. All signs at practice pointed to Mo'ne Davis, the 13-year-old girl who pitched a shutout in the team's regional final win.

Davis stood on the mound during the team's simulated game at the end of practice. She fired imaginary fastballs as Rice slapped balls around the field. Davis - the tournament's most popular player - likely will be doing it for real Friday. Taney's wait will be over.


How the Tournament Works

Here are the scenarios for the Taney Dragons as they play in the Little League World Series beginning Friday at 3 p.m. against South Nashville (ESPN):

IF TANEY WINS FRIDAY:

The Dragons will play the winner of Friday's game between Pearland East (Texas) and Cumberland American (R.I.) at 7 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2).

IF TANEY LOSES FRIDAY:

The Dragons will play the loser of the Pearland-

Cumberland game at 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).

IF TANEY WINS FRIDAY AND SUNDAY:

Dragons will play the other U.S. team with two wins Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

IF TANEY LOSES FRIDAY, THEN WINS SATURDAY:

The Dragons will play Monday at 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

IF TANEY WINS FRIDAY, THEN LOSES SUNDAY:

The Dragons will play Monday at 3 p.m. (ESPN)

IF TANEY WINS FRIDAY AND SUNDAY, THEN LOSES WEDNESDAY:

The Dragons will play Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

IF TANEY WINS FRIDAY AND SUNDAY, THEN WINS WEDNESDAY OR THURSDAY:

The Dragons will play for the U.S. championship next Aug. 23 at 3:30 p.m. (6ABC)

IF TANEY LOSES FRIDAY AND SATURDAY:

The Dragons are eliminated from the tourament, but would play a final game Tuesday at noon against the eliminated team from the international tournament.

IF TANEY WINS THE U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP:

The Dragons will play the international tournament winner Aug. 24 at 3 p.m. for the Little League World Series championship (6ABC).

Region   Team   City

Great Lakes   Jackie Robinson West    Chicago

Mid-Atlantic   Taney Youth    Philadelphia

Midwest    Canyon Lake    Rapid City, S.D.

New England    Cumberland American    Cumberland, R.I.

Northwest    Lynnwood Pacific    Lynnwood, Wash.

Southeast    South Nashville    Nashville

Southwest    Pearland East    Pearland, Texas

West    Mountain Ridge    Las Vegas

Asia-Pacific    Seoul LL    Seoul, South Korea

Australia    Perth Metro North    Perth, Australia

Canada    South Vancouver    Vancouver, B.C.

Caribbean    Miguel Luzunaris    Humacao, Puerto Rico

Europe-Africa    South Moravia    Brno, Czech Republic

Japan    Tokyo Kitasuna    Tokyo

Latin America    Coquivacoa    Maracaibo, Venezuela

Mexico    Guadalupe Linda Vista    Guadalupe, Nuevo León

SOURCE: LLBWS.org


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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