More power to Moriah
There isn’t a more feared home-run hitter in the South Lake Tahoe National Little League than the No. 3 batter for the Pirates.
No. 14 collects intentional walks like Barry Bonds. When the batter connects the ping can be clearly heard around Fred Rightmier Field.
The power hitter with the brown shoulder-length hair brings back memories of Kelly Leak of the “Bad News Bears.”
Actually, 12-year-old Moriah Lane is one-of-a-kind. Where else in the country does a female lead a Little League in home runs?
“She’s really good,” said Rylan Tepper, who wasn’t far behind Lane with four roundtrippers. “She’s probably one of the best hitters in the league right now. It means girls can play sports just as well as guys.”
Moriah Lane launched six home runs out of Fred Rightmier Field this spring to capture the regular-season home-run title. She would have had more, but teams decided early in the season that they’d let some other player beat them.
“It’s been really, really hard because no one would give me anything to hit,” said Moriah, the only girl in the majors.
Hardly anyone noticed when she stepped up to the majors two seasons ago, but now everyone knows her. Moriah has developed quite a following, ranging from 7-year-old girls to mothers of opposing players.
“A lot of little girls come up to me and say they want to be just like me,” Moriah said.
Fewer chances to hit probably cut Moriah’s home-run total in half. She has walked 13 times, including five intentional passes, in 17 games. Opposing managers have either given up trying to get her out or resorted to slower pitchers to throw her off balance.
“It surprised me a lot because the talk before the season was that the regular season was the regular season. People get serious in the playoffs,” said Lou Lane, Moriah’s father and a coach with the Pirates. “The walks are an indication that there is a respect level there. Heck, what more can you ask for?”
Managers have even changed pitchers in the middle of her at-bat.
“She just has a great swing. That’s it. There’s nobody in the league who can swing as well,” said John Dalton, manager of the Reds, explaining why managers don’t want to pitch to her.
Cubs’ ace Jess Latta has been one of the few pitchers around the league to continually challenge her.
“I just wanted to throw strikes against her and hope she didn’t hit it,” Jess said. “She’s scary and looks like she has a big barrel. She’s just a power hit and hits it dead on.”
Winning the home run title wasn’t Moriah’s primary objective this spring. She aspired to break the all-time SLTNLL record of 13 jacks for a season. But she settled for being the in 2006.
“I feel very good because last year I got very close, but I didn’t get it,” said Moriah, who finished a couple of home runs behind Wade Norberg.
Moriah also hit six home runs a year ago, but her biggest and most talked about one was her mammoth blast during an all-star game in Reno. It flew over the double fences and landed in someone’s front yard.
Of course, there was some inspiration for the tape-measure shot.
“Someone from the other team said, ‘Is that the best you an do, bring a girl?’ And then right after that I hit the home run and they shut up,” Moriah recalled.
Despite her lofty batting average and clean fielding at first base, boys still treat her differently. Because most of the boys haven’t encountered girls in other sports, gender bias comes into play when they compete with Moriah on the diamond.
“They treat me with a little bit more respect (than when I first came to the majors). Just because I’m a girl, they mess with me a lot. They tease me,” Moriah said.
Her dad has an explanation.
“Through her whole career, every at-bat and every time she pitches, the boys try a little bit harder,” Lou said. “You can see it in anything they do. From the very beginning she’s had to face the best they could do. They really try to get her out.”
Moriah has worked many extra hours with her dad, honing her swing and learning to stay back in her stance against slower pitchers. Still, her love of hitting has been genuine.
“She seems to like the game and enjoys being here,” Dalton said. “There’s a tough balance there – to push your kid and get them to perform and love it. She seems to love it, which is good because there are so many kids out here who are pushed that don’t want to be here.”
The success Moriah has enjoyed on the diamond has given her something she was lacking, according to her mother Joan-Marie.
“It’s built her confidence a little bit. She’s really not as confident as you would think,” Joan-Marie said.
A baseball player since she started school, Moriah has been considering a switch to softball next season.
“A lot of people tell me I should go to Babe Ruth. I think I might go to softball,” she said. “I kind of want to play with girls now; boys are kind of icky to me now.”
On Thursday night, Moriah went 2 for 4 with a four-pitch walk as her Pirates pounded the Diamondbacks 22-4 to advance to the league championship on Sunday at 1 p.m. The finals will cap her local Little League career, but Moriah still has an opportunity to continue bashing down gender walls in Reno during the upcoming all-star tournament.
The Biggest Little City has no idea what’s about to hit them.