By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Neville “Sheep” Smith ended a 42 year career on Friday night in the Terrance ‘Chino’ Softball League Championships Series, first by leading the Pirates to a sweep of defending champions Power Outage during a domineering 11-1 victory. Smith then coached defending champions Synergy on which his daughter Bria plays, to a back to back sweep of former champs That’s Ya Problem, in an 18-8 triumph.
In retrospect, Smith said he doesn’t recall anyone sweeping champions and having a back to back sweep of a champion—playing on one team and coaching the other.
“All the men’s games haven’t gone four innings,” he noted of earlier 12-0 and 12-2 victories. “This is something I’ll cherish—being the only player with a daughter on the team I coached to win back to back titles all in sweeps—and I can say I did it. There are so many things I did in this league this year that really seals me going out on top. I’ve been playing softball since I was 16 years old. I’m now 58—do the math on that, that’s a long time. I don’t have anything more to prove.”
While he’s no longer at the top of his game, Smith said he and his Pirates teammates were confident they’d sweep Power Outage, but he still had enough to go through good batting. “Most of all, the Pirates bats woke up and that made it even better for me, because the fact that they were hitting the ball, I didn’t really have to pitch as hard and as much and it gave me the strength to go back to back games,” he explained. “The team had discipline, at no time gave up, and I think everybody was hungry for it because the Seventh and Eight Districts wanted it, I wanted it for the Seventh and the Eight Districts and I also wanted it for Terry Chinnery and for myself as well, seeing that his is my last year.”
Power Outage Manager Roy Barry, said falling behind a pitcher as tough as Smith, was a problem for his team moving forward, although they were able to hold them to 3-1, through the third inning. “Then it all just got away from us in the fourth inning,” he noted. “We came to play but we weren’t as hungry as the other team, hence were unable to defeat them.”
Power Outage’s Jamal “Lefty” Allen, told Island Sun Sports one has to give Jack his jacket. “Sheep came in and pitched us smart, kept the dominant hitters—the more deadly hitters—he just kept us down. He came, did his job and executed,” Allen noted. “As players, we have the discipline to adjust and his Sheep the way we’re accustomed to. I guess we’re just eager so he got the better half of us.”
As Coach, Smith said he was very pleased with Synergy’s performance even when they trailed That’s Ya Problem 5-0, he was confident they’d come back. “We had strategies on how we would play teams—based on where players fielded, who couldn’t throw the ball and we needed to bunt—and they listened,” Smith said. “This is one of the most disciplined teams I’ve coached in a long time and I must take my hat off to them—especially the pitcher (Thea Cooke)—she pitched every game in the championships like I did, so I’m very happy with them as well.”
Smith said when they tied the game at 8-8, That’s Ya Problem had too much pressure to maintain the lead and they decided to apply additional pressure and ‘push it to the limit.’ “I was looking at how some of the players were playing and you know when someone’s sleeping you can easily steal on them or if you realize someone is playing back you bunt the ball, what I did with the team was to use every possible strategy and they listened—that was the key.”
Allen, who Coached That’s Ya Problem, said he’s not sure if after an outfield collision between two of his players, the team got down spirited and thereafter, played flat and they weren’t as hungry as they started the game. “They knew it was win or go home and they came out the gate fighting and we scored five runs out the gate even though Synergy came back with three. As the game progressed, they kept losing the fight and the urge to want to win the game. I don’t know if it’s because they had a couple errors, or a couple calls didn’t go their way, I guess they fought until they could go anymore. But they put up a better fight this year than they did last year. I wanted them to win the game, but I saw an improvement in the championships.”
As he closes his career, Smith who began playing with the Roots, has won the most softball titles than any player, plans to work with players on the art of pitching and will include former teammate Bert ‘Bigman’ Henley and other pitchers passing on their knowledge.