PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — It would have been nice if the fairytale continued a few more days. The Taney Dragons’ lure had grown so strong that it formed a communal bond of fans from varied backgrounds, all drawn to a bunch of kids doing something not many thought they could do.
The Dragons defied odds and the country embraced them for it. They didn’t fit neatly into the conventional norm. They were a team from the inner-city northeast handicapped against kids from the south and west that play baseball year round, and, for the most part, in far better facilities. They were the team with the girl.
None of that mattered to Taney. The Dragons proved that they belonged.
For a week in August, the Delaware Valley got a chance to enjoy meaningful baseball—provided by a special group and an electric talent that we’ll hear from again (Mo’ne Davis is one of the nation’s best basketball players in her age group at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy).
When you think back on the summer of 2014, chances are you may think of Taney before the listless last-place Phillies. That’s what this group did. They made baseball fun again, for however passing it was.
Chicago ended Taney’s Little League World Series magical run with a 6-5 defeat Thursday night. The final result wasn’t a foregone conclusion, despite the fatigued Dragons playing on consecutive days, without their star pitcher, Davis, on the mound against a loaded—and rested—Chicago team, which is a great story in itself.
Chicago, or Jackie Robinson West, will advance to the United States Championship game on Saturday against Mountain Ridge of Las Vegas, the team that owns victories over both Taney and Chicago.
For a time, Taney’s success made us forget that they were kids just reaching puberty. Afterward, the Dragons’ tears reminded us again who they were. Their universes, much larger now than when they left for Williamsport, were momentarily crushed.
It’s a pain that will be assuaged by an appreciative groundswell that they’re bound to receive when they come home. The city will no doubt hold something for them. Their legion of fans will shower them with standing ovations when they’re honored by the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Think of their starry-eyed reaction when they meet their favorite players in person, and the luxury suites they’ll bounce around in over the next few months.
Taney fell to a team many believed a juggernaut from Chicago’s south side comprised entirely of inner-city kids.
The Dragons started well, scoring two runs in the first. Chicago responded with six unanswered runs over the next two innings, producing four unearned runs thanks to three uncharacteristic Dragon errors. Taney threatened to tie the score with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the third. But Chicago starter Marquis Jackson struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Again in the fourth, Taney loaded the bases with one out. This time, Zion Spearman poked a two-run single up the middle, pulling Taney to within 6-4. But Chicago closed that inning with a strike out.
In the fifth, Taney’s Kai Cummings blasted a solo homer to centerfield, which drew the Dragons to 6-5. And that was it. With the tying run on third in the sixth, Taney’s season ended on a fly out to right.
It was a tough way to end. But through time, the Taney players will realize what a wonderful journey of memories it was, one that they’ll never forget. It’s the way it should be when you’re 11, 12 and 13 years old playing a game you love.
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