By NEMS Daily Journal
James Shell is going out a winner.
The veteran coach of the Verona Black Sox baseball team is retiring after 20 seasons, he said earlier this week, after guiding the team to a successful defense of its Tombigbee Waterway semi-pro baseball league championship.
Verona, playing on its home field, defeated the Poplar Vikings 10-9 two weekends ago for the title.
Jake Long hit a walkoff home run in the ninth for the Black Sox (23-4), who also won the league title in 2011. It made a winner of pitcher Kennard Springer, a 2002 major league draftee by the Kansas City Royals out of Nettleton.
Shell was quite tickled by the way the game ended. The father of one of his players, Nathan White, came to the fence and yelled out “Why don’t one of you end it now? End it now!” before the Black Sox came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the scored tied at 9.
Owner Charles Williams approached Long and told him to get on base, so that one of his teammates could end it.
“I’m going to end it right now,” Long said, according to Shell, who added that, “before Mr. Williams could get back to the dugout, Long hit the game-winner.”
Poplar’s Jake Scott hit three homers in the final game.
Verona defeated Tupelo in two games to reach the finals, while Poplar got past Snowtown in its semifinal.
Shell has been the Black Sox head coach for 20 seasons. This marks the second time he’s led the team to back-to-back Tombigbee titles.