It happened all the time. When Sarah Montei was compiling strikeouts and driving in runs in Summerville youth baseball leagues, younger girls were inspired. Parents sought her out and offered thanks.
Montei can only imagine the impact Mo'ne Davis is having as the 13-year-old pitcher from Philadelphia defies gender gravity and hogs the spotlight at the Little League World Series. Davis struck out 13 batters in a shutout victory over Nashville on Friday and is scheduled to pitch against Las Vegas in prime-time Wednesday night (7:30 on ESPN).
"I love watching her pitch. It brings back good memories, that's for sure," said Montei, The Post and Courier's 2012 Lowcountry High School Softball Player of the Year who just started her junior year at USC Aiken. "It doesn't surprise me. I just think it surprises other people. It's awesome what she has been able to do."
Montei at 13 was spotted by the softball coaches at Summerville High School. Despite faring well against boys in a prestigious national baseball tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., the daughter of Citadel career pitching wins leader Mike Montei eventually switched to underhand pitching. It worked out. She hit .283 last season as a sophomore outfielder for a USC Aiken team that went 34-16.
It will be interesting to follow Davis' baseball path. At 5-4, 111 pounds, she already throws 71 mph - admirable for any new teen. Boys will get bigger and stronger. Faster, too. But there is no reason why Davis, or other ambitious girls on the mound, can't advance as crafty pitchers emphasizing location, arm angles and off-speed stuff.
All the way into high school.
Softball vs. baseball
"Oh, yeah," Montei said. "I don't think speed is as important as location. I even heard Mo'ne Davis say it's all about location. If you can pinpoint where you want the ball, you can pitch at any level."
But there are two problems with projecting a girl with college aspirations into a high school baseball rotation:
Though NCAA Division I programs offer only 12 softball scholarships (Division II programs have 7.2 softball scholarships) that are chopped up just like the 11.7 available baseball scholarships, it's obviously much easier for a high school senior girl to get softball aid than to compete against boys for baseball money.
And baseball pitchers get hurt a lot. Softball pitchers are known for their stamina. USC Aiken used only two pitchers to split 341.2 innings last season, not unusual for a college softball program.
West Ashley example
Tyson Azevedo knows a little something about pitching, and about females moving into the typically male-dominated world of baseball. He is preparing for his first season as West Ashley High School head coach after helping Wando High School pitchers maintain stubbornly low earned run averages. Azevedo was a closer at Newberry College. His wife, Melissa McCants Azevedo, has been a staple in the Charleston RiverDogs' front office.
"Boys do have a better chance of developing into something a little more ideal for high school baseball," Azevedo said. "But a girl pitching is definitely a possibility."
Azevedo pointed to Caroline Cashion, the senior place-kicker on the West Ashley football team last season.
"Who would have thought there would be a girl on the football field with that ability?" Azevedo said. "There are possibilities and circumstances where it could work out in baseball, especially looking at Mo'ne doing things that the world of baseball has never seen."
To make a good high school baseball team or get college attention, a girl would have to do well against the best competition.
Davis presently is pitching from a mound 46 feet away from the plate, four feet closer than pitchers deal with in most competitive leagues at her age level.
But Mo'ne Davis has already proven herself as a formidable exception.
If she doesn't pitch in high school or college, she's been inspiring to girls and fun to watch for everyone.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
Mo'ne Davis slides into third base during a Little League World Series game Sunday. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Elizabeth Frantz)×
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