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Diamond Dogs show signs of improvement as season nears home stretch
Greenwood’s Tanner Chapple watches the ball approach the plate in this diamond action against Fort Smith Southside. (Photo courtesy of thegreenwooddogpound.com)

Diamond Dogs show signs of improvement as season nears home stretch

By Richard White
The Greenwood High School baseball team has been inconsistent through the first two-thirds of the 2014 spring season, and find themselves in the middle of the pack in the 7A/6A Central conference standings. Likewise, they are several games back of Russellville in the 6A East standings that will determine their seeding in the 6A state tournament in Benton in mid-May. But head coach Randy Gardner has not given up on his team and remains hopeful that they may be coming around soon.

“We have shown flashes of putting it all together,” he said, “but [we] have struggled to be consistent enough to be at the top of the conference. Hopefully we can get all three aspects of the game [pitching, hitting, fielding] clicking for the last third of the season heading into the state tournament.”

 

At LR Catholic

On Friday, April 4th, the Bulldogs traveled to Little Rock to take on the league’s top team in the Catholic Rockets, but limped home after being shutout in a 5-0 loss. Greenwood managed just five singles against Catholic pitching over seven innings. Michael Rhea was the only GHS player to have two hits in the game.

Tanner Cooper started for Greenwood and pitched six innings, giving up 12 hits and four walks. The Bulldogs made two errors behind Cooper, but all five Catholic runs were earned. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth when the Rockets scored all five of their runs.

 

Lake Hamilton

The next day the Bulldogs hosted Lake Hamilton in an offensive shootout and managed to pull out a 13-12 victory, scoring five times in their last at bat to rally from a 12-8 deficit. The visitors scored seven times in their first at bat off GHS pitching and the first two of what would be seven defensive errors committed by the Bulldogs in the game. Only two of Lake Hamilton’s 12 runs were earned.

The Bulldogs responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first, then added four more in the bottom of the third to trail 9-8 after three frames. Neither team scored in the fourth, but Lake Hamilton added a single run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a 12-8 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh Michael Nelson led off the frame with a single and Jake Freeman took a walk before Jake Herrel grounded out. That was followed by an RBI single off the bat of Jonathan Clemons, a walk to Tyler Cox, and a double by Ethan Cagle, driving home two more runs. A walk followed to Tanner Cooper before Michael Rhea flied out to center, driving home the tying run. Max Higgins then ended the game with a walk-off single for victory. At the plate, Cagle, Higgins, Nelson, and Clemons all had two hits each for the Bulldogs.

Greenwood employed five pitchers in the game, including Ethan Cagle, Michael Nelson, Jake Herrel, Michael Rhea, and Ty Wyckoff. Only Nelson and Cagle worked multiple innings and Wyckoff earned the victory with a perfect seventh inning, striking out the last two hitters he faced.

 

Russellville

On Thursday, April 10th, the Bulldogs hosted the top 6A team in the conference in the Russellville Cyclones, but came up on the losing end of a pitching duel, 2-1. The GHS starter and losing pitcher was Tanner Cooper, who worked six solid innings, surrendering eight hits and two earned runs.

Greenwood scored first in the fourth inning and led 1-0 going into the top of the seventh. But Cooper gave up a leadoff homerun, then walked the next two hitters and was relieved by Jake Herrel. But Herrel also walked the first hitter he faced to load the bases. A single then scored the go-ahead run for the Cyclones, though Herrel was able to work out of the jam without further damage.

Greenwood got a one out single from Ty Wyckoff in the bottom of the frame, but advanced no farther as Tanner Cooper fanned and Jonathan Clemons popped out. The Bulldogs played perfect defense while mustering seven hits in the game, but left seven runners stranded. Cooper was the only GHS player with two hits.

 

At Conway

The following day the Bulldogs traveled down I-40 to Conway to take on the Class 7A Wampus Cats in a conference game. Greenwood scored first and held the lead for most of the game before a sixth inning rally by the home team earned them an 11-7 victory.

The ‘Dogs had leads of 4-0 and 7-6, but were shutout in their final two at bats. They had only five hits in the game, but took advantage of three Conway errors. The Wampus Cats touched up GHS pitching for 12 hits, including four in the sixth inning after the only GHS error of the game. There were also two walks and a hit batsman in the frame. Pitcher Jake Herrel relieved and took the loss for Greenwood. Michael Rhea and Joe Clark also pitched in the game.

Offensively, Michael Rhea, Jake Freeman, Max Higgins, Michael Nelson, and Ethan Cagle had hits for Greenwood, and Freeman drove home three runs while Higgins added two RBIs.

 

At Parkview

Last Wednesday, April 16th, the Bulldogs returned to Central Arkansas and defeated Little Rock Parkview in an extra-inning squeaker, 3-2. Both teams had seven hits in the game and Jake Herrel got the win in relief for the Bulldogs, who scored the winning run in the top of the eighth inning. The game was scoreless through five innings, but both teams scored twice in the sixth inning.

Tanner Cooper started the game on the mound for Greenwood and pitched into the sixth inning before giving way to Herrel. Both Parkview runs were charged to Cooper. Jake Freeman and Ty Wyckoff had two hits each for the Bulldogs, while pitchers Cooper and Herrel each drove home a run. The Bulldogs had no extra base hits in the game.

In the top of the eighth, Freeman led off with a single and then stole second base. A single by Michael Rhea followed, but Freeman couldn’t score. A walk to Max Higgins then loaded the bases, and another walk to Herrel forced home the go-ahead and winning run.

 

Fort Smith Southside

Last Thursday the Bulldogs hosted the Rebels of Fort Smith Southside and proved to be accommodating hosts, losing to their Sebastian County rivals in lopsided fashion, 12-1. The Rebels scored early and often, while the Bulldogs managed just six hits and a single run in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1.

Southside added five runs in the third, solo tallies in the fourth and fifth innings, and four more for good measure in the sixth. The Bulldogs committed four errors and GHS pitching allowed 12 Southside hits. Chris Sunde took the loss for the Bulldogs, giving up six earned runs in just over two innings of work. Other GHS hurlers included Michael Rhea, Michael Nelson, and Joe Clark.

 

This Week

After a rainout last Monday afternoon at home against non-conference foe Van Buren, the Bulldogs will resume varsity action on Friday at Little Rock Hall in a league rematch. The Bulldogs clobbered the hapless Warriors in their earlier meeting this season.

Next week could be a big one for the Bulldogs, who play three games at home against Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and conference foes Fort Smith Northside and Little Rock Catholic. The game against Sallisaw is set for Monday, with Northside and Catholic slated for Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

 

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