Catchers give insight on Mo'ne Davis' demeanor

Taney's catcher #27, Scott Bandura, left, runs up to embrace teammate Mo'ne Davis, right, after the final out was registered and Taney beat the Newark Nationals 8-0 to claim the Eastern Division Championship and a trip to the Little League World Series. Philadlephia's Taney Little League plays against Newark National Little League, for the Eastern Regional Championship, and a trip to the Little league World Series, on August 10, 2014. 08/10/2014 ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Taney's catcher #27, Scott Bandura, left, runs up to embrace teammate Mo'ne Davis, right, after the final out was registered and Taney beat the Newark Nationals 8-0 to claim the Eastern Division Championship and a trip to the Little League World Series. Philadlephia's Taney Little League plays against Newark National Little League, for the Eastern Regional Championship, and a trip to the Little league World Series, on August 10, 2014. 08/10/2014 ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Posted: August 21, 2014

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Each time Tai Shanahan's Taney Little League team played this spring, the opposing team would ask him the same question: Is Mo'ne Davis pitching?

"If I said no, they'd say, 'phew,' " Shanahan said as he wiped imaginary sweat from his brow.

"If I said yes, it would be 'oh,' " he said, pounding his heart.

The two players - now teammates on Taney's Little League World Series squad - were battery mates for the Wizards, the champions of Taney's league that feeds into its all-star team.

Davis built a name in that league the same way she did in Williamsport: by dominating. The 13-year-old from South Philadelphia is the star attraction at the Series after turning in the first shutout thrown by a girl. She will make her second start of the tournament Wednesday night against Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas.

"Everyone knew who she was and were scared of her. She made an impression," Shanahan said after the Center City-based team practiced Tuesday for its third-round game.

He said Davis did not throw her hardest because she did not want to get hurt and league games did not mean as much. But "she had a dirty curveball," he said.

Shanahan will be in the outfield Wednesday night and Taney's Scott Bandura will be behind the plate. Of all the Dragons, Bandura has known Davis the longest. The two met when they were 7 years old. Bandura's father, Steve, saw Davis throwing a football at an Anderson Monarchs youth baseball practice. He asked her to play baseball.

The winner of Wednesday's game will move to the U.S. championship. And Taney's opposition Wednesday is the tournament's best-hitting team. The combination makes this the stiffest test of Davis' young career. But she said she is looking forward to it because it will make her better.

"She never seems rattled at all," Bandura said. "She always keeps the same face. She's just going out there. She's like a machine out there."

Eli Simon, an outfielder, said Bandura has the "highest baseball IQ on the team." The catcher said that comes from growing up watching his father, who has coached the Anderson Monarchs for two decades. Most of the Taney team plays with the Monarchs, which is based at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center at Graduate Hospital.

Bandura's son sounds like a seasoned coach. He critiqued Davis' first start by saying the pitcher "had good velocity" and "pounded the strike zone." During the game, Bandura relays the pitching calls to Davis from manager Alex Rice. He also joins Rice for mound visits. If there's ever a miscommunication, Bandura said they work on it right away. Davis said the two are "like a major-league team."

mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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