Tagged hard in face, Taney infielder Rice is OK

Taney's Tai Shanahan warms up during practice Monday. Taney plays Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Taney's Tai Shanahan warms up during practice Monday. Taney plays Las Vegas on Wednesday. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 20, 2014

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Jahli Hendricks' batting-practice hit drifted into shallow center field on Monday afternoon, sending Jack Rice a few steps inward. Rice dove headfirst and snared the ball in his glove before it hit the grass.

If anyone was worried that Taney's third baseman would be affected by the blow to the face he took early in Sunday's win over Pearland, Texas, that catch put those concerns to rest. Manager Alex Rice said his son was fine.

Rice is expected to be in the starting lineup Wednesday when Taney plays in the third round of the Little League World Series against Mountain Ridge (Las Vegas). He was removed from Sunday's game after being tagged in the face by the Pearland pitcher to end a rundown play. His father said he had a cut in his mouth.

"He didn't hit his head on the ground or anything," Rice said. "So I knew in my heart of hearts that he was fine."

Popular team

Judging by attendance, merchandise sales, and a jar of corn kernels, Taney is the tournament's most popular team. The store outside the first-base gate at Lamade Stadium was sold out of Mid-Atlantic shirts and hats. It had shirts and hats for the other 15 teams. In the tournament's family zone, a sponsor set up a table with a glass jar representing each team. Fans are asked to drop a corn kernel in their favorite team's jar. Taney is by far the leader there, too.

Love for Mayberry

Taney's Eli Simon created a buzz on social media before Sunday's game. The outfielder from West Philadelphia introduced himself on the TV coverage and said his favorite player was Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. The Little League players usually pick a star player. Mayberry's name soon trended on Twitter.

"This is the first time I have heard about it," Mayberry said. "That is awesome. Eli is my man right now."

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