The Greenwood Bulldogs’ baseball team started the 2020 season with high expectations under new head coach Chad Mercado, and with good reason. The team returned a ton of talent and experience from last year. They were conference contenders for sure with a good chance to make a run at the 5A state title.
Only their hope for a season to remember has taken an unforeseen and bizarre turn with the spread of the coronavirus to the United States as the pandemic sweeps the globe, closing schools, churches, restaurants, theaters, and businesses all across the Natural State and the country at large.
As a result, the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA), acting in concert with the Governor’s office and the state health department, halted all high school spring sports, including most of the basketball state championship games in Hot Springs just two days before the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs were to face Nettleton for the 5A crown.
Like the girls’ varsity basketball team, the Diamond ‘Dogs have already played their last game of this suddenly abbreviated season on March 9th against Fort Smith Southside, a 6-3 victory.
Matthew Munday toed the rubber for the Bulldogs and turned in a stellar seven-inning complete game performance for the win. He surrendered just six hits, issued two walks, and fanned six batters while giving up three earned runs. The GHS defense was perfect behind him.
Greenwood scored early and often to take a 5-0 lead after two frames, pushing across two runs in the first and three more in the second inning. Their final run came in the sixth.
The Mavericks scored solo tallies in the fourth, sixth, and seventh, while the Southside defense committed four errors in the game. The Diamond ‘Dogs also benefitted from six bases on balls.
Despite the porous Mavs’ defense, five of Greenwood’s six runs were earned on seven total hits. Dylan Strozier and Reed Carroll led the way offensively with two hits each, while Caden Brown drew three walks.
Nick Phelps had a hit and scored twice with an RBI. Jace Presley and Colton Sagely also drove home a run each. All three players are seniors.
Three walks, a wild pitch, a single by Sagely, and a sacrifice fly by Presley led to a pair of first inning runs for the Bulldogs, leaving one runner stranded.
In the second inning a nearly identical scenario unfolded with a leadoff walk to Dylan Strozier followed by a single off the bat of Reed Carroll. Another walk followed to load the bases with no outs, bringing up Nick Phelps, who singled and drove home a run.
A wild pitch allowed another runner to score with the third driven home by Colton Sagely’s sac fly, making the score 5-0, more than enough for Munday to pitch his team to a victory.
Greenwood’s final run in the sixth inning came without the benefit of a hit on a walk and a comedy of errors by the Southside defense.
The Bulldogs were slated to play Fort Smith Northside and Shiloh Christian later that same week, but those games never happened, nor did they get a chance to start their conference season the following week against Alma and Little Rock Christian.
Even more disheartening, Coach Mercado couldn’t take his team to the Gulf Shores Classic in Alabama this week for a spring break tournament. It would have been a nice reward for his players and an enduring memory for his seven seniors. But life can be cruel at times, a lesson everyone must learn at some point.
The Diamond ‘Dogs and all the other spring sports student-athletes can only hope the current crisis passes soon and the AAA devises some formula for their seasons to resume, even if just for a few more games and maybe some version of a post-season. But that seems unlikely at the moment.