Lady Bulldogs earn rematch in state title game on Saturday
By Richard White
The Greenwood Lady Bulldogs (25-6) and the Sheridan Lady Yellowjackets (30-4-1) are at it again. The teams have split their two tournament games this season and both have won state titles recently, Greenwood in 2015 and Sheridan in 2016. They will also meet on Saturday to determine the 2017 state champion in Class 6A.
That contest will take place at Bogle Park, home of the Lady Razorbacks on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Game time is set for 12:30 p.m. Greenwood defeated Sheridan in the 2015 title game, and the Lady ‘Jackets elimnated Greenwood in the semi-finals last spring.
The GHS girls, led by Head Coach Ronnie Sockey and assistant coach Jason Gill, earned the right to play for the championship by finishing second in the 6A West conference tournament behind Sheridan, getting a first-round bye in the state playoffs, then winning two games in the state tournament over Searcy and Jonesboro.
“I think the girls are hungry,” said Coach Sockey after his team’s semi-final victory. “They’re ready to get back [to Bogle Park]. This is going to be a new experience for most every girl on the team, so this is their turn,” he added. The team motto all spring has been “Back to Bogle”.
This past Monday the state semi-finals at Benton featured Greenwood winning 8-2 over Jonesboro and Sheridan topping Benton 4-1. The semi-finals were pushed back two days because of bad weather last Friday.
Junior hurler Kaila Cartwright got the win for the Lady Bulldogs, holding the Lady Hurricane to just four hits and two earned runs, both in the first inning. Cartwright walked two and struck out seven opposing batters.
Greenwood got the ball rolling offensively in the top of the first inning with a pair of singles by Paxtyn Hayes and Ericka Calderon, followed by Miriah Hamilton’s eighth homerun of the season for a 3-0 lead. The long ball came on a two-strike pitch and cleared the wall in right center field.
Then in the bottom of the frame the Lady Hurricane responded with two runs of their own after a hit, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a two-out two-run double. But Jonesboro had only two hits the rest of the way.
The Lady Bulldogs added to their lead in the second stanza with a single run after Rheding Wagoner was hit by a pitch and scored on an RBI triple by Hayes.
Pitching dominated the next three innings until Greenwood broke the game open with four runs in the top of the sixth on the strength of four hits, a walk, an error, and a sac bunt.
Extra hitter Karter Langston started the rally with a leadoff single, followed by Wagoner and Sidney Bieker, both of whom also singled to load the bases. With one out, Paxtyn Hayes then got her third hit of the game, driving home two runners. The other two runs later scored on a defensive error.
Hayes had three hits and three RBIs. Miriah Hamilton had three RBIs on her first inning homer, and Ericka Calerdon had two hits and a run driven home.
Last Friday’s state tournament opener for Greenwood lasted less than four innings, with the score tied at 2-all before the game was halted due to inclement weather. The two squads resumed play at that point on Saturday and completed the game, with Greenwood winning a squeaker, 3-2.
Kaila Cartwright pitched all seven innings for Greenwood, despite the weather interruption. She fanned 12 batters and held the Lady Lions to just two hits and two runs, both earned and both scored in the opening frame. A leadoff walk was followed by a single and a one-out double, giving Searcy an early 2-0 lead.
But the GHS hurler settled down after that, essentially tossing a no-hitter over the last six frames. The only Searcy runners to reach base the rest of the way did so by walks. Cartwright issued six free passes in the game.
Greenwood tied the score with a third inning rally started by a one-out double off the bat of Paxtyn Hayes, who then stole third base. Ericka Calderon took a walk and both runners moved up on a ground ball out by Sydney Parker, who got credit for an RBI. Calderon later scored on a passed ball to knot the game at 2-2.
Neither team scored in the fourth or fifth innings as the game stretched across two days. But the Lady Bulldogs plated the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs and Karter Langston at first after a fielder’s choice groundout, a passed ball allowed her to advance to second base. From there she came home on an RBI double by Rheding Wagoner.
After fanning the last three hitters and stranding a runner in the sixth inning, Cartwright retired the side in order in the top of the seventh for the win, getting a strikeout and a pair of groundouts. The GHS defense was flawless in the game.
To keep the competitive juices flowing before the start of the state tournament, Coach Sockey added a game to the schedule last Tuesday, taking the Lady Bulldogs north on I-549 to Bentonville. The Lady Tigers (28-1) are the top-ranked team in the state and were also awaiting the start of the Class 7A playoffs.
But after tying the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning, the Lady Bulldogs gave up the winning run on an error in the bottom of the seventh, losing a close one, 5-4. Half of Greenwood’s six total losses have been to Bentonville this season and pitcher Madison Prough.
Greenwood’s Kaila Cartwright and Prough both started the game, but Cartwright pitched just one inning, allowing an earned run despite not giving up a hit. She did walk three, however.
Senior Madison Lawler relieved Cartwright and pitched four innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. Freshman hurler Abbi Clem then relieved Lawler and suffered the loss, giving up a hit and an unearned run in the seventh inning due to a defensive error.
Offensively, both teams had plenty of hits, nine for Bentonville and 10 for Greenwood, which scored twice in the first inning to take a brief 2-0 lead. The Lady Tigers tied the score with two runs in the second and added two more in the third for a 4-2 lead.
Sydney Parker and Paxtyn Hayes each had two hits for Greenwood, and Parker drove home two runs. Hayes had a pair of doubles, one RBI, and scored twice. Karter Langston, Kaila Cartwright, and Sidney Bieker also each had a double in the contest.
6A West tournament
The Lady Bulldogs played three games in the 6A West conference tournament, hosting all three opponents and going 2-1 for their effort. After handily defeating Siloam Springs 10-0 in the tournament opener on May 1st, the GHS girls defeated Lake Hamilton before losing to Sheridan in the finals of the winner’s bracket.
Kaila Cartwright threw a complete game seven-inning shutout against the Lady Wolves of Lake Hamilton on May 4th, yielding just one hit, one walk, and fanning 12 batters. Greenwood won the game, 6-0, scoring three times in the third inning, once in the fourth, and twice more in the sixth.
The GHS lineup banged out 11 hits, led by Sydney Parker and Miriah Hamilton with three each. Hamilton’s three RBI’s all came in the first inning on her seventh homerun of the season, a blast that sailed over the left field wall, aided somewhat by a stiff wind. Two of Parker’s hits were doubles and she had an RBI as well.
In the tournament finals, Greenwood managed just two hits in the game off Sheridan starting pitcher Reagan Martin, generously listed on the Max Preps roster as standing 5’4” tall. The diminutive senior kept the Lady Bulldogs off-stride with an effective changeup throughout the game.
For her part, Greenwood’s Kaila Cartwright was brilliant as well, recording all 21 outs. She gave up a scratch run in the top of the third inning and a solo homerun in the fifth, but held the powerful Sheridan lineup in check, allowing just six total hits. She walked only one hitter and recorded 16 of 21 outs by strikeout.
At the plate the Lady Bulldogs had just two hits, one by Paxtyn Hayes to lead off the bottom of the first inning, and one by Karter Langston in the second. Paxtyn was erased on a double play and Langston was stranded.
The Lady Bulldogs went down in order in the third through the sixth innings before Miriah Hamilton reached on a one-out error in the seventh before a strikeout and fly out ended the game.
With the win, Sheridan earned the conference tournament championship, but both teams qualified for a first round bye in the state playoffs on opposite sides of the bracket, and both squads fully expected to meet again in the state tournament with the overall 6A title on the line.