Mark Sorenson's softball gold medal an ideal way to honour his famous father Dave
Mark Sorenson has honoured his ailing father with a world softball championships gold medal but says it is too early to say if he will continue as the Black Sox's head coach.
The former Black Sox catcher became only the second New Zealander to win world softball titles as a player and a coach when he guided his young team to a 6-4 grand final win over Australia in Canada on Monday (NZ Time).
But few New Zealand coaches, in any code, have been under as much personal pressure as Sorenson this week.
His father Dave who captained New Zealand to the first of seven gold medals in 1976 when Mark was an eight-year-old bat boy.
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The Sorensons are a highly respected New Zealand softball family with Dave and Mark the only father-and-son in world softball's Hall of Fame and Mark's mother Maureen a longtime Hutt Valley Softball Association president.
So Sorenson's immediate plans were in doubt after the Black Sox arrived in Whitehorse last week to discover his dad was seriously ill at home in Lower Hutt.
"Earlier in the week, I thought I would have to, potentially, go home, and we had contingency plans in place," Sorenson told Stuff.
"But Dad's a softballer and he would have wanted me to stay."
Stay he did, with the Sorenson's family's backing, and he also had a lot of support from New Zealand Softball and the Black Sox camp.
"The boys really focused in for him," said captain Nathan Nukunuku, who played alongside his coach on two world series winning squads.
"We know that Dave will be really proud [of the Black Sox's win].
Sorenson won four gold medals as a player - two as Black Sox captain - but said it was "pretty satisfying" to watch the team he has rebuilt win a gold medal after a close-run silver in 2015.
"It's just been a phenomenal week ... it showed that all pieces of the puzzles fitted together pretty well."
Sorenson has been in charge of the Black Sox for two world tournaments since replacing Eddie Kohlhase, the only other dual champion as a player (1984) and a coach (2013).
He has a busy business career and said it was too early to say if he would seek to lead the team to the next tournament in Prague in 2019.
"I'm just going to enjoy the night celebrating and then go home and look at things later on.
"It's emotionally draining, coaching. But the great thing was we had a good management group with everyone knowing their role. We had great communication between us."
"We're leaving on a 6am flight, and we're still at the ballpark. Looking at some of the guys around me, I don't think there will be much sleep had tonight."
Sorenson hailed his side's resilience after losing star outfielder and leadoff hitter Ben Enoka to a leg injury on the third day of the tournament.
"You need all 17 players, and everyone stepped up.
"Campbell Enoka had fantastic tournament in Ben's roles, and Joel Evans really benefited from Ben going down hurt. We moved Nathan to first base, and brought Joel in at second, and he hit a grand slam in the final."
Sorenson said young pitcher Josh Pettett made his mark during the tournament and he praised reliever Nik Hayes' composure in the final, coming in to close down Australia after they had gone ahead 3-1.
He said catcher Kallan Compain, who had missed selection for the Black Sox's Challenge Cup tournament squad in February, had forced his way into the starting lineup in Whitehorse after earlier understudying Zane van Lieshout.
"We had to have his bat in the lineup," Sorenson said of Compain, who hit four home runs. "We took care of the [pitch] calling in the game to take the pressure off, but neither Canada or Australia tried to steal against him because they respected Kallan's arm."
Established Black Sox stars Nukunuku and Thomas Enoka had great tournaments with the bat.
Sorenson said utility Josh Harbrow had played three games in the outfield after Ben Enoka's injury and "came into the final as a pinch hitter and got a hit to rightfield to set Joel up [for his home run]."
The Black Sox coach also praised third baseman Tyron Bartorillo for a "great diving catch" and a throw, off the ground, for the final out of the match.
"Barty had a great tournament after coming back from the disappointment of missing out in 2015.
"But everyone did their job all week."