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Black Sox skipper Nathan Nukunuku takes year off and pitcher Kurt Schollum dropped

April 5, 2016

Wellington, NZ - Black Sox skipper Nathan Nukunuku takes year off and pitcher Kurt Schollum dropped


                                                                                      Phil Walter

Nathan Nukunuku has been playing for the Black Sox for 16 years but he is set to take a break for the rest of the year



Black Sox captain Nathan Nukunuku is taking a softball sabbatical and pitcher Kurt Schollum has been dropped.

Head coach Mark Sorenson said Nukunuku was being given a year off to focus on his job.

"Nathan's got an opportunity to further his career so we're giving him a sabbatical for the rest of the year."
Marlborough pitcher Kurt Schollum has been cut from the Black Sox squad with coach Mark Sorenson looking for more commitment.

Marlborough pitcher Kurt Schollum has been cut from the Black Sox squad with coach Mark Sorenson looking for more commitment.

Nukunuku, 35, has played in five world championships since 2000, winning three gold medals, and is keen to turn out again in 2016.

* Husband and wife captain national softball teams
* Skipper encourages young Black Sox to step up
* Schollum called up by Black Sox

But Sorenson said the Auckland infielder would not tour with the Black Sox to Venezuela in November.

"Nathan's had a big workload and he's taken the captaincy on with all the passion he brings to the game. He coaches Ramblers and he's the player-coach of Auckland in the NFC [national championships].

"He's got to the stage of his career where it's time for him to have a break, spend some time with the family and focus on his job, and come stronger for next year.

"It's a good opportunity for us to develop other leaders within the group without Nathan there. We are still consulting with him, he knows what's going on and is very closely linked."

It will still be a big softball year for the Nukunuku family. Katrina Nukunuku, Nathan's wife, will be attending her fourth world championships in July with the New Zealand White Sox.

Sorenson said Schollum, one of the Black Sox's three pitchers at the 2015 world championships in Saskatoon, was omitted from the squad.

"We are just not seeing the commitment from him that we need," Sorenson said. "We want to see more from him."

Schollum was first called up by the Black Sox in 2012 as an 18-year-old. He has chosen to remain in Marlborough in recent seasons, although he has guest starred for Canterbury champions Albion at the last two national club tournaments.

Wellington pitcher Josh Pettet has replaced Schollum for a training camp in Auckland this weekend.

Pettet toured North America two years ago as an injury replacement, but missed most of last year with a hand and shoulder injury. He returned to the mound mid-season and threw well at the national interclub tournament in Nelson last month.

"He's a big, strong kid who throws the ball hard and likes a workload," Sorenson said.

Pettet has stepped up from the extended squad.

Outfielder Josh Thomson, who missed the club nationals through injury, pitcher Ethan Johnston and infielder Isaac Fletcher have been omitted from the last training camp squad.

Auckland infielder Cole Evans, who made a promising debut at the last world championships, is also missing because he is in Canada playing baseball.

Meanwhile, Sorenson has confirmed former Black Sox hurler Jim Wana as his new pitching coach.

The pair first played together as a pitcher-catcher battery at the world under-19 championships in 1985, winning a gold medal. Wana was on the mound and Sorenson behind the plate when the Black Sox won the 2004 world championships crown in Christchurch.

Wana was the pitching coach when the Black Sox finished second at the 2009 world championships in Canada, but has more recently been busy with business commitments.

"We've had a lot of history, including years of battling against each other," Sorenson said. "It's great to have someone of Jim's experience on the staff. He's a proven performer and he's pretty passionate about the Black Sox."

Wana would mentor the Black Sox pitchers and help a lot "with the mental side of the game".

Sorenson is close friends with both Wana and assistant-coach Daryl Marino, but he believes that is an asset rather than a potential problem.

"They are comfortable with me, and they are comfortable about challenging me too.'

Sorenson insisted Wana's appointment followed a "robust" process by a panel including Softball New Zealand high performance director Darren Smith and a High Performance Sport New Zealand representative.

The Black Sox squad for the Auckland training camp is:

Pitchers: Bayley Pearson-Hoani, Eruera Drage (Auckland), Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), Penese Iosefo (Canterbury), Josh Pettet (Wellington). Catchers: Cory Timu (Hutt Valley), Connor Peden, Kallan Compain, Matt Oxley, Zane van Lieshout (Auckland). Infielders: Jerome Raemaki (Wellington), Joel Evans, Tyson Byrne (Hutt Valley), Josh Harbrow (Canterbury), Thomas Enoka (Auckland). Outfielders-utilities: Alfons Oveinikovas, Ben Enoka, Campbell Enoka (Auckland), Hohepa Monk (North Harbour), Wayne Laulu, Jovaan Hanley (Wellington).

- Stuff