SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania – Ella Bruning is the person everyone wants to talk to in South Williamsport this week.
The all-star receiver for the Abilene, Texas team is the 20th girl to play in the Little League World Series and the only one in this year’s edition.
Bruning, who is in the Wylie League, can pitch, steal bases and take a foul ball to one knee.
On Friday, in a 6-0 Texas win over Washington, he stole second base, scored the first run and led his team with two hits and one RBI. She was thus the first girl to hit more than one hit in a Little League World Series game.
“He is a role model for my daughter and several of her little sisters in this organization,” said Texas manager Reggie Regala. “It has always been that way, and now that she is on the main stage, she will be an example to all the other girls as well.”
Baseball is a family tradition in the Brunning home. Bryan, Ella’s father, has coached her children for over 10 years, and serves as an assistant on Abilene’s team.
Dillon, Ella’s younger brother, is the team’s outfielder and second baseman. Older brother Collin sits in the stands and admits he is somewhat envious that his teams missed out on the Little League World Series a few years ago.
Ella’s history in baseball began at age 7, when she was chasing some balls during batting practice for Collin’s team.
“I think one day he caught a line. Some kids jokingly told her that she might be on the team, ”recalled Ella’s mother Lindi. “From then on, we always joked that he would play, but eventually he did.”
His resistance behind the plate has been documented in the week. After taking the foul ball to the knee Monday in a 6-5 loss to Michigan, he stayed in the game and blocked the next three low pitches with his chest, showing perfect form.
“He’s always done everything very naturally, and he likes the competition this league represents,” Lindi said.
Ella’s success is not limited to baseball. He also excels in softball.
However, he left softball over the summer to join Abilene’s team with the intention of playing in the Little League World Series.