'Captain Courageous' guides Black Sox to win
Outgoing Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase hailed his "Captain Courageous", Hutt Valley's Rhys Casley, after his three-run homer delivered New Zealand a record sixth world softball championship yesterday.
"He shouldn't even be there with that shoulder injury," Kohlhase said after New Zealand's 4-1 win over Venezuela in the grand final at Auckland's Rosedale Park. "What an outstanding play."
Casley required surgery after badly injuring his throwing shoulder last year and was still doubtful as recently as two weeks ago.
Casley said it was "a little surreal" to captain the winning team and added that he didn't go out to intentionally hit a home run.
"I was just looking to make solid contact after striking out with my first [at-bat]. I was just happy to get good wood on the bat and put one out."
Kohlhase became the first New Zealander to win the title as a player (in 1984) and as a coach.
"I wasn't aware of that. To win it as a player was great, but to win it as a coach . . . I'm just honoured," Kohlhase said.
"I've been involved with this team now for 30 years as a player and a coach and it's probably time to move on."
Kohlhase said the victory was a tribute to the hard work the team had put in since finishing second to Australia at the 2009 championships in Canada.
Softball New Zealand general manager Dane Dougan hoped their triumph would attract continued funding and said "one of the first of many" congratulatory texts came from High Performance Sport chief executive Alex Baumann.
"That was the important one!"
The Black Sox planned a big party with whanau and friends last night while Venezuelan catcher Rafael Flores said the team had been moved by the death of President Hugo Chavez.
"He was in our heart," Flores said.
"He was a supporter of our team."