It's not particularly unusual for a Little League squad to be led by a single dominant player, even among teams that reach the World Series (Danny Almonte anyone?). What is more surprising is when that standout star is a girl.
That's precisely what is unfolding this week at the Junior Little League World Series in Michigan, where a 15-year-old girl from Long Island has played a major role in pitching and batting her squad to the pinnacle of their Little League classification; the Junior Little League World Series is competed between teams of 13 and 14-year-olds, one age group older than the 11 and 12-year-olds who play in the more traditional and historic Williamsport, Pa. World Series.
As reported by Newsday and CBS New York, 15-year-old Kristen Moldovan has piloted the Massapequa Junior Little League squad to the World Series behind power pitching and some serious punch in her bat. The Massapequa team earned a spot in the Junior Little League World Series by winning the East Regional in New Jersey, an accomplishment that made Moldovan the first ever girl to win an East Region title.
Her involvement in the victories was hardly academic. Moldovan is one of the team's primary pitchers and finished the East Regional with a key relief appearance in which she struck out three of four batters and a 6 2/3 inning performance in which she allowed two runs in a 9-4 win. Perhaps more impressively, the teen drove in four runs herself.
"It's actually kind of fun when the guys strike out while I'm on the mound and get mad," Moldovan told Newsday. "Sometimes I'm underestimated and guys just want to kill the ball. …
"I don't mind [when people doubt me] because I know that I can prove them wrong. But for the most part, everyone pretty much accepts me, anyway."
According to CBS New York, the rising sophomore at Massapequa High is one of just six girls to reach at the Junior Little League World Series, and one of two girls who are competing in 2012; the Canadian representative also features a female, named Samantha Day.
What makes Moldovan stand out is her sheer importance to her team's fortunes, as well as the team's nonchalance about her involvement. The 15-year-old began sports by signing up for T-ball at age 5 and a switch to softball at age 8 never stuck. It's baseball or nothing for Moldovan, and her teammates have grown so accustomed to having her around that they don't even think about the fact that they've always been the only team with a girl.
Moldovan is basically just "one of the guys," catcher Matt Pinto said.
"It's not really a big deal because we've known her for a long time and have played with her," he said. "I've played with girls on my team since T-ball, so it's not a big deal."