College Sports

Family, faith, fundamentals drive longtime softball coach Monte Sherrill

Pfeiffer first-year softball coach Monte Sherrill, right, shown in 2014 while the coach at Alexander Central High School, where daughters Vada, left, and Bailey were standout players. They’ve since joined their father at Pfeiffer.
Pfeiffer first-year softball coach Monte Sherrill, right, shown in 2014 while the coach at Alexander Central High School, where daughters Vada, left, and Bailey were standout players. They’ve since joined their father at Pfeiffer. jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com

Mixed with the hitting, fielding and base-running drills for Pfeiffer’s women’s softball team is a field trip.

Early this season, coach Monte Sherrill took his team 20 miles up the road to the Salisbury National Cemetery.

“After that trip, our players understand a little better why we stand in respect during the National Anthem,” says Sherrill, 51. “To me, that’s part of the education that a coach should provide.”

In two dimensions, Sherrill is a legendary softball coach who compiled a 753-60 record in 22 seasons at Alexander Central High and four more at Central Cabarrus. His teams won 10 4A state championships and were in the state’s final four almost annually the past 20 years.

After a 23-1 season in 2015 that ended with a heartbreaking 4A quarterfinals loss to North Davidson, Sherrill tackled the coaching job at his alma mater, Pfeiffer.

The three-dimensional Monte Sherrill has a love – in no specific order – of softball and baseball, family, his country, God, tradition and coaching innovations.

And this spring, Sherrill proved his coaching approach works at the college level, too. After only three winning seasons in the past 15, Pfeiffer took a 33-15 record into this weekend’s Conference Carolinas tournament in Burlington. The Falcons are ranked eighth in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region and stand a solid chance of gaining a berth in next month’s regional tournament.

Pfeiffer was 18-13 in late March before finishing with 15 victories in its last 17 regular-season games, setting a single-season record for wins.

“His coaching style provided a learning curve for many of us,” says sophomore infielder Emma Tuttle.

“We hit a lot more in practice, and the practices are fast-paced,” adds fifth-year senior pitcher Sam Jarmusch.

Sherrill says his coaching style is traditional: “I think it’s ’50s and ’60s ball. After each game, our uniforms will be very dirty.”

Adds Jarmusch: “He wants us to know what to do in every situation.”

That has proved important on a team that has played 10 one-run games this season.

“We have the innate ability to win close games,” Sherrill says.

Two of his daughters – sophomore Bailey and freshman Vada – are members of the squad. They say their father’s teams are close-knit and learn the nuances of the game.

“It’s softball IQ,” says Vada, a shortstop who is among the few Division II softball players this season with 50-plus hits, 50-plus runs and 45-plus stolen bases.

“We learn a lot of the details that other teams brush off,” adds Bailey, a first baseman.

Monte Sherrill was a standout baseball player at Pfeiffer and served in the U.S. Marines before becoming a teacher and coach. He says family – his wife and children, his team, the Pfeiffer community – and a faith in God guide his life.

He says today’s social media has helped create a “me” society that doesn’t translate well to the playing field.

“So much of social media focuses on the individual,” he says. “That’s not my style, and it’s probably hard to adapt to what I teach.”

Yet Sherrill embraces technology, whether in scouting opponents or using the smartphone that is never far from his side.

Tuttle played at Hibriten High and faced Sherrill-coached teams every season.

“When I first saw him as a freshman, I told my teammates that I’d never want to play for someone that intense,” she recalls. “But he’s great to have as a coach.”

The trick, Sherrill says, is “being able to adapt to today’s players while trying to adhere to what’s been important in the past.”

One recent afternoon, Sherrill sat in a dugout and looked out at the Pfeiffer softball facility – much of which got a makeover in the past year, courtesy of Sherrill and friends.

“I love this,” Sherrill says. “I bleed this. It’s like I tell the players: If you have a passion for something, you can’t help but succeed.”

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