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Diamond ‘Dogs preparing for state tournament
Greenwood junior Jake Freeman (22) heads home in this action against Fort Smith Southside from earlier this season. The Bulldogs will play in the 6A state tournament next week in Benton, hoping to return to the state title game and avenge last year’s loss. (Photo courtesy of

Diamond ‘Dogs preparing for state tournament

By Richard White

With the announcement that head coach Randy Gardner is stepping down after this season, the Greenwood Bulldogs now have additional incentive to get ready for the 6A state tournament next week in Benton. Not only do they want to prove they are a better team than their sub .500 record indicates, but they want to avenge last season’s loss in the title game and win it all for Coach Gardner.

The Bulldogs have battled a lack of experience and inconsistent play all season, but are still positioned for a decent seeding in the 6A East standings with a week remaining in the regular season. Greenwood has games this week against league foes Russellville and Conway and a non-conference game at Fayetteville. Greenwood’s lone remaining home game is this Friday against Conway.

On April 28th the Bulldogs defeated Sallisaw, Oklahoma in a slugfest, 10-9. After scoring in each of the first three innings and getting four more runs in the bottom of the fifth, Greenwood led 10-6. But the Black Diamonds didn’t quit, scoring three times in the top of the sixth to keep things interesting.

Chris Sunde started on the hill for Greenwood and pitched two innings, giving up three earned runs. He was replaced by Michael Rhea, who pitched three frames and was credited with the victory, despite surrendering four runs on five hits and giving three walks. Jake Herrel pitched the last two innings and gave up a single run in preserving the win.

Batting stars for Greenwood included Jake Freeman, Tanner Cooper, and Ty Wyckoff with three hits each. Cooper and Jake Herrel also drove home two runs each and each player had a double. The ‘Dogs scored three times in the first, once in the second and twice more in the third inning.

However, the bats cooled off considerably two days later against the strong pitching of Fort Smith Northside. Greenwood starting pitcher Tanner Cooper was almost as good. Trailing 2-0, he retired his 10th consecutive batter before a two-out Northside rally in the seventh that started with an error. The next batter fanned but reached first base on the wild pitch. Northside’s Grant Hood then doubled to deep left-center field to give the visitors a three-run advantage.

“Those two runs – 2-1 is a lot different than 4-1,” said Coach Gardner after the game. “If you get one guy on, you’re in business.” But Northside pitching retired the last nine GHS hitters in order to close out the game. Greenwood also left the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings but came up empty, scoring their lone run in the fifth on a pair of singles and a Northside error.

“All four of their runs were due to a misplay or error,” Gardner said. “We left the bases loaded twice and runners on second and third once. If we make two of those plays and get two of those hits, we probably win by four instead of getting beat by three.”

Cooper was sharp in taking the loss for the Bulldogs, allowing seven hits and just an unearned run with three strikeouts. Offensively, Greenwood was led by Jake Freeman with three hits and Chris Sunde with two.

Last Friday the Bulldogs hosted Little Rock Catholic and pulled out a narrow 5-4 conference win, coming from behind with four runs in their final two at bats, overcoming a 4-1 deficit. Jake Herrel earned the win, pitching all seven innings, giving up just six hits and two earned runs, despite walking four Catholic hitters. He also had six strikeouts in the game.

Trailing 4-1 after four innings, the Bulldogs got three runs in the home half of the fifth and took the lead for good with a single tally in the sixth. Tanner Cooper and Ty Wyckoff had two hits each for Greenwood and Wyckoff had a pair of RBIs, including the game-winner in the sixth inning.

This past Monday afternoon the Bulldogs hosted Springdale Har-Ber and spanked the visitors from Northwest Arkansas 9-3. Har-Ber scored once in the second inning and twice in the fifth off GHS starting pitcher Ethan Cagle, who went the distance for the victory. The Bulldogs scored single tallies in the second, third, fifth, and sixth innings, but pushed across five runs in the fourth inning for the easy win.

Greenwood out hit Har-Ber nine to five and both teams committed two errors. At the plate, the Bulldogs were led by the trio of Freeman, Cooper, and Rhea, all with two hits each. Rhea, Chris Sunde, Max Higgins, Jake Herrel, and Michael Nelson all had solo RBIs in the contest.


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