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Services pending for 'Bad News Bears' actress Sammi Kane Kraft

October 11, 2012 |  8:48 am

Sammi Kane Kraft, left, with Billy Bob Thornton and Tanner Boyle.

Services were pending Thursday for Sammi Kane Kraft, whose real-life baseball skills landed her the role of the pitching ace in the only film she ever made, 2005's "Bad News Bears."

Kraft, 20, died early Tuesday in a car accident on the 10 Freeway near Crenshaw Boulevard.

She was a passenger in an Audi that was speeding on the westbound freeway about 1:30 a.m. when it rear-ended a big rig and was then struck by another car, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Kraft was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said her brother Frankie Kraft.

Molly Kate Adams, the 21-year-old driver of the Audi, was treated for moderate injuries and arrested on suspicion of felony drunk driving, the CHP said. The two other drivers escaped without major injury.

As a 13-year-old, Kraft was chosen to play pitcher Amanda Whurlitzer in "Bad News Bears," the remake of the 1976 hit comedy about a coach of a hapless Little League baseball team. The role had been made famous by Academy Award-winning actress Tatum O'Neal. O'Neal played opposite Walter Matthau in the original while Billy Bob Thornton starred in the role of the gruff, hard-living coach Morris Buttermaker in the remake.

Kraft, who heard about the role from a friend, had never acted professionally before "Bad News Bears” but knew a lot about sports, having played baseball and basketball where she was often the only girl on the team.

"I throw a knuckleball, a knuckleball curve, a curveball, a changeup, a 70-mph fastball, a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball -- the whole thing," Kraft told Times staff writer Susan King in a 2005 interview.

Kraft was discovered on a baseball diamond in Los Angeles, where her family had moved from New York so she and another brother could play ball year-round.

She secured the part of Whurlitzer after throwing a 75-mph fastball during a casting call in Encino, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported in 2005.

"Amanda is such a character that you can't 'out-Tatum' Tatum O'Neal, so we wanted to get a real girl who could do it," "Bad News Bears" director Richard Linklater said in the 2005 interview. "I didn't want to keep cutting to some boy with a wig on who could throw."

Only 13 years old when the film was released, Kraft portrayed the sole girl on a misfit baseball team coached by Thornton's character.

After graduating high school in 2010, she studied at San Francisco State and started a folk-country-rock band called Scary Girls. After returning to Los Angeles this year, Kraft enrolled at Santa Monica College and often performed as a solo singer-guitarist at small venues.

On the last night of her life, she attended a show and was trying to network with bands, her brother said. For the last year, Kraft had collaborated with her brother on a musical called "Funerals" that was inspired by their grandmother's death. She had spent a week in January in New York work-shopping the production with actors.


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-- Andrew Blankstein and Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Sammi Kane Kraft, left, with Billy Bob Thornton and Tanner Boyle. Credit: Deanna Newcomb / Paramount Pictures