When Maddy Freking takes her spot at second base or steps up to bat for the Coon Rapids-Andover Little League team Thursday, she’ll become just the 19th girl to play in the Little League World Series.
Freking has been selected to play with the all-star group of Little Leaguers for the past three years, starting when she was 10 years old. During her time playing, though, she said she hasn’t bumped into many girls on the field, if any.
Freking, 12, is the second Minnesota girl to make it this far in Little League, joining former Gophers hockey player and U.S. national team captain Krissy Wendell, who was named the top hockey player in the first quarter-century of the girls' state tournament earlier this year. She’s also the first girl in the LLWS since Mo’ne Davis made headlines (including a Sports Illustrated cover) and history as a pitcher in 2014, becoming the first girl to win a game and pitch a shutout.
But Freking, an infielder, said she doesn’t think about it all too much.
“It’s cool that there are only a few other girls in Little League and I’m one of them who have made it this far,” Freking said.
Coon Rapids-Andover made it to the tournament after winning the Midwest Region tournament last weekend in Westfield, Ind. It will play the Great Lakes representative from Bowling Green, Ky., at 6 p.m. tonight on ESPN2.
“We told her if [the attention]gets to be too much, just let us know, us coaches, and we’ll try to tell people to take a break,” manager Greg Bloom said. “But I’ve warned her to expect to get a lot of attention. This doesn’t happen very often.”
In the team’s qualifying game, it made a furious comeback in an 8-6 victory over Iowa. Trailing 5-1, the Minnesotans scored seven runs in the final two innings. The highlight was Jameson Kuznia’s three-run homer in the top of the sixth when the score was tied 5-5.
Kuznia’s joyful celebration rounding the based went viral after he hit the ball to straightaway center.
“I just kind of knew that we were going to win at that point,” Kuznia said. “So I was just really happy we were going to make it.”
Players compete through their regular season in the Coon Rapids/Andover American Little League, Bloom said. The coaches then vote on which 14 players should make the final squad for their age-12 all-star team.
While there’s turnover year to year, Bloom said, most of the Little Leaguers play with the same teammates and are familiar with each other.
“It’s really awesome to show that Minnesota has good players,” Kuznia said.
It’s the first time since 2010 that a Minnesota team made it to the grand stage of the international tournament.
This year, the Minnesotans have put a team-first motto in rallying around their success, according to Bloom. While different players get varying amounts of playing time, they rely on their team motto: “We is greater than me.”
“That’s kind of what we’ve gone with, and it’s worked,” Bloom said, pointing to their just two losses in 16 games. “They’ve all bought into it.”
The team took a bus from Indiana to Pennsylvania following its win. Between the travel and other aspects, they set up a GoFundMe to aid the players’ families on the financial side.
Coon Rapids-Andover won the third Midwest championship for a Minnesota team, joining Coon Rapids in 2007 and Plymouth-New Hope in 2010. Four other Minnesota teams went to the Little League World Series as Central champions between 1963-1995.
“They’re all happy and clammy,” Bloom said. “They’re just soaking it all in right now. It’s been all smiles on their faces, and now we’re practicing and getting back to work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.