The Greenwood Bulldogs hit the pause button last month for spring break, but are back on the diamond in search of their first post-season berth under the guidance of Chad Mercado. Hired in June of 2019, the former Beebe High School assistant coach began his head coaching career in 2020, but the season was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far in 2021 the Bulldogs are 12-7 overall and 6-4 in 5A West conference play, with games this past week at Siloam Springs (Tuesday) and Fort Smith Southside (Thursday). The Bulldogs and Panthers played a conference doubleheader, while the Southside Mavericks hosted Greenwood for a non-conference varsity/junior varsity double dip.
Greenwood will host Mountain Home next Tuesday for a pair of varsity games before traveling to Rogers-Heritage next Thursday and to Gravette on Friday, both non-conference games. The Bulldogs’ final conference doubleheader will be at Alma on the 27th with their season finale at Springdale on the 30th.
Coach Mercado recently offered his assessment of the season so far. “Overall, we're 12-7 and 6-4 in conference, which puts us in a four-way tie for second place. The conference is as competitive as ever, which is a great environment for our boys to thrive. It's definitely a playoff atmosphere every Tuesday night,” he said.
“We've actually done pretty [well] with our schedule,” he continued. “The biggest change so far was the Little Rock tournament, which only got us three games instead of four, due to weather. But every game was quality competition from Greene County Tech, Little Rock Catholic, and Sylvan Hills.
“We had a good trip going 3-0 while still being able to get [opportunities] to see who could help us going forward for the conference stretch run. We've continued to have tough positional competition throughout the season, which is always a good thing, especially for our younger guys who haven't had that type of experience yet,” said the coach.
“I think the biggest disappointment is that the season is so fast and not having our guys longer. With last year being what it was, every team has been impacted, whether it be pitching, playing experience, hitting, fielding, or a combination of everything. We've all felt it. But our boys have grown from the experience and have really bought into owning what we can control and making sure our focus is on getting better every pitch.
“Player-wise, I couldn't ask for a better group of seniors. Some are hitting over .400. Some are just absolutely chunking it on the mound, and a bunch of guys are plugging spots in-between and giving us the glue we need to be a successful club. Considering they missed their entire junior year, which is just a huge steppingstone in baseball, they've gone above and beyond, and we really appreciate those guys,” concluded Mercado.
The first one-third of the schedule ended on a somewhat sour note the week before spring break with a doubleheader loss to Russellville, 4-2 and 3-1. Both games were dominated by pitching on both sides. GHS starting hurler Landry Jurecka breezed through the first two innings before giving up single runs in the third and fourth.
After the Bulldogs tied the score with two unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth, Jurecka gave up five singles and two runs in the top of the fifth, putting Russellville on top to stay, 4-2. Senior lefty Chance Eoff relieved in the sixth and retired all six batters he faced.
Jurecka fanned four Cyclones’ hitters, walked none, gave up two earned runs, and took the loss. Greenwood had just four hits in the game, two by Bryce Morgan. Caden Brown had a two-run double for the biggest GHS highlight.
In game two, the Bulldogs had their chances against Russellville pitching, whacking eight hits, including leadoff singles in the bottom of the seventh inning, but scored just one run, unable to get clutch hits when needed. Both teams scored in the opening frame, with the Cyclones taking a 2-1 lead which they never relinquished.
GHS starter Reed Carroll gave up both first inning runs and took the loss. He was relieved by Matt Munday, who gave up one run in just over three innings. Munday also stroked a homerun for Greenwood’s only tally.
Greene County Tech
The Bulldogs traveled to Central Arkansas for a spring break tournament and notched three wins, starting with the Golden Eagles of Greene County Tech in Paragould. A trio of hurlers toed the rubber for Greenwood. Jake Baxley started the game and worked into the third inning before being relieved by Reed Carroll, who was credited with the 11-6 victory. Reliever Austin Mitchell closed out the game in the seventh.
Both teams scored six runs by the end of three innings, but the good relief work of Carroll and Mitchell kept the Golden Eagles in check, while the GHS offense continued scoring, adding five more runs, two in the sixth and three more in the seventh. The Bulldogs banged out eight hits but benefitted from half-a-dozen walks and a hit batsman.
Senior Caden Brown had a pair of singles and scored twice in the game, while fellow senior Chance Eoff had a double and two RBIs in a four-run third inning rally. Dylan Strozier and Bryce Morgan also had two hits each, while Matt Munday added an RBI double in the seventh.
Little Rock Catholic
In game two the Bulldogs narrowly defeated the Rockets, 7-6, behind the combined mound efforts of starter Landry Jurecka, Chance Eoff, and Austin Mitchell. Jurecka went four innings for the win, giving up just one run, a solo homer in the fourth. Eoff entered in the fifth with a 5-1 lead, but Catholic rallied, trimming the score to 5-4. After Greenwood made the score 7-4, the Rockets added two more runs in the seventh with the help of an error to account for the final score.
Offensively, the Bulldogs scored twice in the third inning, three times in the fourth, then added solo runs in the fifth and seventh to eke out the victory. Chance Eoff and Caden Brown had two hits each, while Hayden Weaver added a pair of singles, driving in two runs in the fourth inning.
A quartet of Bulldogs’ pitchers allowed the Bears just three runs in a 7-3 victory in Greenwood’s tournament finale. Sophomore Aiden Kennon started the game, followed by Jay Wright, Hunter Houston, and Coleton Payton. Of the four, Wright went three innings and earned the win.
Greenwood scored four times in the first inning, sparked by a pair of walks and singles by Chance Eoff and Andrew Elliott, who drove in a run. Dylan Strozier added a sac fly to drove home another. A wild pitch and a balk accounted for the other two tallies. The ‘Dogs scored once in the fourth on an RBI hit by Landry Jurecka and twice more in the sixth, again driven home by Jurecka.
With the end of spring break and the return of classes, the Bulldogs traveled to Van Buren on March 30th and split the conference doubleheader, losing the first game, 2-0, and winning the nightcap in extra innings, 4-2. The Pointers are new to the 5A West this season after dropping down from Class 6A, and are currently leading the conference.
Van Buren pitching completely shut down the GHS bats in game one, retiring the first 15 Bulldogs in succession before Dylan Strozier’s leadoff single in the sixth, Greenwood’s only hit of the game. Landry Jurecka was almost as good for the Bulldogs, going all six innings, allowing just one earned run in the first, and an unearned run in the third after an error.
In game two, Chance Eoff started on the hill for Greenwood and lasted six effective frames, giving up just one run. But with the game tied at 1-1, Austin Mitchell took over the pitching chores for the Bulldogs and went two frames for the win, followed by Reed Carroll, who earned the save.
Greenwood scored in the top of the eighth, but Van Buren tied the score in the bottom half of the frame before the Bulldogs won it with two runs in the ninth. Caden Brown drove home the game’s first run with a hit in the first for Greenwood. Bryce Morgan and Chance Eoff both singled in the eighth inning, which led to an unearned run.
The top of the ninth started in odd fashion for Greenwood, with the first three batters all hit by pitch to load the bases with no outs. Landry Jurecka and Matt Munday were both credited with RBIs later in the inning, Jurecka on a fielder’s choice and Munday on a single. Reed Carroll retired the Pointers in order in the bottom half of the frame to close out the victory.
“Van Buren leads the conference [and] our split with them on the road was huge and kept us in contention,” said Coach Mercado. “Our pitching was outstanding. Between Landry Jurecka, Chance Eoff, Austin Mitchell, and Reed Carroll, we only allowed two earned runs and four overall. They were awesome. Game two was a total team win with about 15 different guys getting in and contributing to the extra-inning victory.
Two days later, on April Fool’s Day, the Bulldogs hosted the War Eagles in non-conference action, but came up on the short end of an 8-6 score in 11 innings. GHS starter Matt Munday was rocked in the first inning when the visitors scored five of their eight runs. Relievers Reed Carroll, Aiden Kennon, and Austin Mitchell followed Munday to the mound and were largely effective. Carroll went 4.1 innings, allowing just one run, followed by Kennon’s four scoreless frames. Heritage didn’t score again until the top of the 11th, saddling Mitchell with the hard-luck loss.
A two-out walk started the War Eagles’ winning rally, followed by a single and triple to plate the deciding runs. Greenwood put a runner on base in the bottom half of the frame, but failed to score.
At the dish, the Bulldogs got all their runs in the middle innings, three each in the fourth and fifth. Singles by Dylan Strozier, Luke Brewer, Bryce Morgan, and Dawson Holt keyed the fourth inning rally, with Morgan and Holt driving in runs. A leadoff double by Matt Munday led to a two-out rally in the fifth, with a Bryce Morgan single driving home two runs after an error extended the inning.
On April 6th the Bulldogs hosted the Eagles and swept a conference twinbill, winning 2-0 and 6-2. The home team had excellent pitching and defense in both games. At the plate, the Diamond ‘Dogs had just seven hits combined, but made them count, including a pair of homeruns.
In the opener, Jurecka was magnificent, going the distance for the shutout, giving up just two hits and two walks. Aiden Kennon scored on a wild pitch in the third inning for Greenwood’s first run and Luke Brewer stroked a fifth inning solo homerun for run number two, and Jurecka made it stand up. Brewer and Caden Brown had two hits each.
In the nightcap, the Bulldogs had even fewer hits against Vilonia pitching, three in total, but somehow scored in four of the sixth innings in which they hit. Greenwood scored solo runs in the first and fourth frames, and two runs in both the third and fifth innings.
Aiden Kennon started on the hill for the ‘Dogs and lasted into the third innings, allowing both Vilonia runs on three hits and five walks. He was followed to the mound by Reed Carroll who recorded the final 14 outs, allowing three hits, two walks, and no runs with seven strikeouts.
With the sticks, the Bulldogs got multiple hits from Matthew Munday, who had a two-run homer in the third inning and a single in the fifth. The only other GHS hit came off the bat of leadoff hitter Bryce Moran, a sixth-inning single followed by a stolen base. Vilonia pitching issued six walks in the game, providing Greenwood with plenty of extra baserunners. Besides Munday’s two RBIs, additional runs were driven home by Reed Carroll, Dawson Holt, and Andrew Elliott (2).
On Thursday, April 8th the Bulldogs traveled north to Class 6A Fayetteville for a non-conference tilt, falling to the Purple Dogs in a pitching duel, 3-2. Unfortunately, stats for the game were not available.
Greenwood has three more non-conference opponents on their remaining schedule, including games against Rogers-Heritage, Gravette, and Springdale. All will be varsity/junior varsity doubleheaders. The Bulldogs have just two 5A West doubleheaders left this month at home against Mountain Home and on the road at Alma.
The schedule also shows a conference tournament slated for the week of May 4-7, but now that may not occur, according to Coach Mercado. “The conference tournament was really just a placeholder in case we were overly affected by Covid,” he explained recently. “I don't think [the tournament] is going to happen now since we're getting the games in. So more likely than not, our conference records will dictate seeding [in the state tournament].”
Last Tuesday the Diamond ‘Dogs trekked north to face the Panthers in a league doubleheader, taking both games by substantial margins, winning 9-0 and 19-3. The nightcap lasted just five innings due to the mercy rule. The dual wins improved Greenwood’s conference mark to 6-4, good enough for a second-place tie in the standings.
Landry Jurecka and Hunter Houston combined for the seven-inning shutout in the opener, allowing just two hits and two walks in the contest. Jurecka went four innings for the win. A five-run outburst in the second inning produced all the runs Greenwood would need for the win, though the Bulldogs added four more runs in the fourth.
Leadoff hitter Chance Eoff had a single, double, and an RBI in the game, scoring twice. Caden Brown added two singles and an RBI while Hunter Houston had two hits and four RBIs, accounting for most of Greenwood’s offense. Panthers’ pitching also issued nine walks and hit a batter.
In the second game the GHS offense exploded for big innings in the first, third, and fourth frames, also scoring a single run in the second. Greenwood led 5-0 after one inning, 6-0 after two, and 12-3 after three frames before scoring seven more times in the fourth. Siloam Springs loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, but failed to score.
Reed Carroll started the game on the mound for Greenwood and worked three innings for the win. He was followed by relievers Coleton Payton and Sam Forbus, who pitched one inning each in a mop-up role.
The top GHS hitters in the game included Chance Eoff with a single, double, homerun, and three RBIs, while Caden Brown had a single, double, and four runs scored. Andrew Elliott had a pair of hits, an RBI, and scored two runs, and teammate Bryce Morgan added two singles, an RBI, and two runs scored.
This past Thursday at Fort Smith Southside, the Bulldogs touched up Mavericks’ pitching for five early runs, while a trio of GHS hurlers held Southside in check, allowing four runs over seven frames of work. Both teams managed eight hits, but three Southside errors contributed to the 8-4 GHS win. Only three of Greenwood’s runs were earned.
The visiting Bulldogs scored three times in the top of the first inning, twice more in the second, and once in the third. Leading 6-3 after four frames, Greenwood added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the fifth. Southside scored its final run in the sixth.
Southside’s starting pitcher was wild in the first inning, hitting four batters while giving up just one hit. An error also contributed to Greenwood’s three runs. Two walks, a pair of hits by Chance Eoff and Caden Brown, and a couple stolen bases sparked the second-inning rally. Eoff, Brown, and Andrew Elliott all had two hits in the game. Eoff had two RBIs while Brown, Dylan Strozier, and Reed Carroll also had single runs driven in.
On the mound, Aiden Kennon, Coleton Payton, and Austin Mitchell split the pitching duties almost evenly. Kennon started and went 2.1 innings for the win, allowing one run on one hit, but issued five walks. Payton followed him with 2.2 frames of work, giving up two runs on five hits with one walk. Mitchell got the save pitching the final two innings, yielding one run on two hits.