Diamond ‘Dogs grab league title, headed to playoffs

Diamond ‘Dogs grab league title, headed to playoffs

You can’t do it any better than first-year Head Coach Brandon Brewer, who returned to his alma mater last summer to take over the GHS baseball program and put it back on the right track after the Covid-19 pandemic and the brief tenure of former head coach Chad Mercado. After missing the playoffs last season, the Diamond ‘Dogs put together a terrific run through the 5A West conference to claim the league’s #1 seed in the upcoming state playoffs.

The youngest head coach on the GHS campus, in his early 30s, Brewer managed his team to a 13-1 conference record, 19-6 overall before this week’s final non-conference game against Rogers Heritage on Friday. The Diamond ‘Dogs will make the long trip across the state to Northeast Arkansas and open play next Thursday against the fourth seed from the 5A East, the Marion Patriots, who are hosting the state tournament and are the defending champs.

Since April 1st the Bulldogs have been almost unbeatable, winning 11 of 13 games, going 12-0 in conference play before finally dropping a league contest to second place Greenbrier earlier this week. Greenwood swept six of seven 5A West doubleheaders, including four road twin bills, getting solid pitching and strong hitting along the way.

Harrison

After notching a pair of doubleheader sweeps in March over conference foes Russellville and Van Buren, the Bulldogs opened April with a twin bill sweep at Harrison, winning big, 15-0 and 13-2. GHS pitchers Aiden Kennon and
Grant Karnes got the wins, respectively, both hurling five frames of shutout baseball. Kennon had eight strikeouts and gave up just one hit in a five-inning complete game effort. Karnes gave up five hits with eight Ks before being relieved by Mason Moore.

In the opener the GHS offense pushed across seven runs in the second inning, one more in the third, two more in the fourth, and five more in the fifth inning. The visitors collected 16 hits and took advantage of three Harrison errors. Brady Pettigrew led the hit parade with three knocks, followed by Braden Skaggs, Austin Bercher, and Austin Mitchell with two hits each. Skaggs, Bercher, and Pettigrew all had doubles among their hits.

Also, Hunter Houston blasted a homerun and collected a pair of RBIs while teammate Baylor Hossley added a triple and two RBIs. Skaggs also drove home two runs while Harrison Adams, Grant Karnes, Brady Pettigrew, Austin Bercher, and Austin Mitchell all had solo RBIs. Also, Adams and Pettigrew each had a stolen base.

In game two, another big second inning at the plate was the ticket for the Diamond ‘Dogs, scoring six runs, followed by three more tallies in the fourth, one in the sixth inning, and three more in the seventh. Harrison’s two runs came in the sixth inning off reliever Mason Moore in the 13-2 GHS win. Greenwood had 17 knocks in the contest and were aided by four Goblins’ fielding errors.

At the dish, Braden Skaggs and Hunter Houston were the dugout leaders with three hits each. Skaggs had a double while Houston had an RBI. Harrison Adams and Grant Karnes had two hits each with Karnes getting a triple and earning an RBI. Dawson Holt added a homerun and two RBIs and Everson Adams had two runs driven home. Brady Pettigrew had a hit and two RBIs while Weston Pschier had a hit and RBI.

Fort Smith Northside

Later that same week the Bulldogs traveled to the River City to take on the 6A Northside Grizzlies in non-conference play, losing 7-4 after a three-run sixth inning for the Bears broke up a 4-4 tie. Oddly enough, the home team earned just three hits against a trio of GHS pitchers, but took advantage of 10 free passes issued by the Bulldogs.

Austin Mitchell (3 innings), Hunter Houston (2.1), and Brady Pettigrew (0.2) toed the rubber for Greenwood with Houston absorbing the loss. Both he and Mitchell issued five walks each, but only gave up one hit between them. Northside got to Mitchell in the third inning for four runs before the Bulldogs scored once in the top of third and three more times in the top of the fourth to knot the game at 4-4. After the Grizzlies took the lead at 7-4, Northside pitching shutout the ‘Dogs over the final three frames.

Harrison Adams was a huge part of the GHS offense with three hits, including a double and an RBI. Weston Pschier added two hits, a double, and two RBIs. Hunter Houston also had an RBI on a sacrifice fly. The speedy Grant Karnes added a stolen base and the Bulldogs left six runners stranded on the bases.

Siloam Springs

The trip to Siloam Springs on April 11th resulted in a pair of shutouts against the Panthers, 12-0 and 2-0, with two excellent pitching efforts by Aiden Kennon and Grant Karnes, respectively. Each hurler gave up just four hits in their complete game performances, helping to keep the Bulldogs unbeaten in league play at 8-0.

Kennon did walk four batters but fanned five enemy hitters and had perfect defense behind him in six frames of work. Karnes went seven innings, gave up just one walk, pitched around an error, and struck out 10 Panthers’ hitters. It was the kind of stellar work you expect and need from two of your best pitchers in conference play.

In the opener, the game was scoreless through three frames until Greenwood plated two runs in the top of the fourth inning, followed by five-run outbursts in both the fifth and sixth innings. With Greenwood leading 12-0, the game was called in the middle of the seventh inning. The Bulldogs had 13 hits in the win.

The top half of the GHS order did most of the damage, led by Grant Karnes with three hits, a walk, a stolen base, three runs scored, and an RBI. Brady Pettigrew also had a hit with two RBIs and two runs scored. Weston Pschier added a double and three RBIs while Braden Skaggs plated two runs without the benefit of a hit. Dawson Holt and Harrison Adams also had two hits and one RBI each. Aiden Kennon also helped his own cause with a pair of hits and two runs batted in. Austin Mitchell also had two knocks and scored two runs.

Game two was a much different story with both teams getting solid pitching performances. Greenwood scored single runs in the second and fifth innings on just four hits in the game. They did get four walks from Panthers’ pitching and the home team made three errors, though both GHS runs were earned.

Dawson Holt, Harrison Adams, Grant Karnes, and Weston Pschier all had singles, with Adams picking up the only RBI. Holt and Brady Pettigrew scored the two Greenwood runs. Karnes, Pettigrew, and Austin Bercher all stole a base, but the Bulldogs left nine baserunners stranded in the game.

Charleston

Greenwood just hired away from Charleston its head varsity boys basketball coach, B. J. Ross, but a couple weeks before that news broke the Bulldogs hosted the Class 3A Tigers in non-conference baseball action on April 13th. The result was not unexpected, a dominant 11-1 victory by the Diamond ‘Dogs behind the combined pitching efforts of starter Hunter Houston and reliever Austin Mitchell over five innings.

The Bulldogs scored early with two runs in the first and five more in the second inning to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Four more runs in the fifth invoked the 10-run mercy rule, bringing the contest to a premature close. Houston pitched four frames, giving up just one hit and one run with three walks and one strikeout. Mitchell pitched one inning with one K and allowed no baserunners.

With the sticks, the Bulldogs had seven hits and benefitted from six Charleston walks, three hit batsmen, and two errors. Only five of Greenwood’s 11 runs were earned. Harrison Adams and Weston Pschier had two hits each and Pschier had two RBIs, along with teammate Brady Skaggs. Both players doubled in the game. Adams and Grant Karnes also had solo RBIs. The Bulldogs also had five stolen bases in the contest.

Mountain Home

The next conference opponents for the Bulldogs on April 18th were the Bombers of Mountain Home, currently tied with Van Buren for third place in the conference standings. In the battle of two playoff-bound teams, the Diamond ‘Dogs proved to be the better team with a doubleheader sweep at home, winning handily in game one, 11-5, before slipping by the visitors in game two, 6-5. Aiden Kennon and Grant Karnes were the winning pitchers, respectively.

Kennon went six innings in the opener, allowing four hits, two runs, one earned, with three walks and five strikeouts. He was relieved in the seventh inning by Hunter Houston who allowed three runs on three hits and a walk. In game two, Karnes went the distance, hurling seven frames of six-hit ball, with one walk and nine Ks, allowing five total runs, only two of which were earned because of three GHS errors.

In game one the Bulldogs had 12 knocks, including doubles by Jaxon Cole, Weston Pschier, Dawson Holt, and Brady Pettigrew. Grant Karnes led the hit parade with three singles, two RBIs, and three runs scored. Braden Skaggs added two hits and three RBIs while Brady Pettigrew also had two hits. Holt, Pschier, and Austin Mitchell had one RBI each. The home team scored four times in the first inning, adding four more runs in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth. The Bombers scored solo runs in the third and fifth innings before plating three in the seventh.

In the nightcap, Mountain Home took the early lead at 2-0 after one frame until Greenwood scored three times in the bottom of the fourth. But the Bombers responded with three runs in the top of the fifth, with the help of some sloppy GHS defense. Undeterred, Bulldogs’ batters went back to work and scored twice in the sixth inning to tie the game at 5-5. Greenwood then pushed across the winning run with one out in the bottom of the seventh for the 6-5 win, rewarding Grant Karnes for his good work on the mound and at the plate.

Karnes added two more hits in game two, giving him five on the day, including a double and another RBI. Shortstop Harrison Adams and third baseman Weston Pschier were the team leaders with three knocks each. Adams had a double and triple and scored two runs while Pschier had two RBIs. Aiden Kennon also drove home two runs. Brady Pettigrew also had a hit, an RBI, and a stolen base.

Bentonville

On April 21st the Bulldogs traveled to Bentonville for a non-conference contest against the Class 6A Tigers, in what turned out to be a well-played and well-pitched game. Neither team made a defensive error in a pitching duel that went Greenwood’s way, 3-1. Austin Mitchell went the distance for the Bulldogs, allowing just one run on three hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. The Tigers scored their lone run in their final at bat in the seventh inning.

The visitors scored once in the top of the first inning, then added a pair of runs in the fourth on seven total hits while Mitchell put up zeros against Bentonville for the first six frames. Grant Karnes and Brady Pettigrew had two hits each for the Bulldogs, with Pettigrew plating two runners. Aiden Kennon got the other RBI with a double. Pettigrew also had a double. The win was Greenwood’s six consecutive victory in a streak that eventually reached eight straight.

Alma Airedales

On April 25th the red-hot Bulldogs made the short trek to Crawford County to take on their longtime rivals, the Alma Airedales, winning both games by similar scores, 13-5 and 11-5. Starter Aiden Kennon and reliever Hunter Houston did the pitching in the opener for Greenwood, while Grant Karnes started game two before also being relieved by Houston. Kennon went 5.2 innings and Karnes labored for five frames.

Kennon allowed 10 hits and five runs, two earned, while giving up a walk and fanning seven Alma hitters. Houston was perfect in recording the last four outs. Karnes struck out six batters and issued two walks, giving up four runs, but only two earned. The GHS defense committed three errors behind him. Houston’s two innings of relief in game two were largely effective, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts.

In game one the Bulldogs scored early and never looked back, leading 2-0 after one inning, 3-0 after two, 7-1 after five frames, and 8-5 after six innings before scoring five times in the top of the seventh. In a 15-hit attack, seven Bulldogs had two hits each, including Dawson Holt, Harrison Adams, Grant Karnes, Brady Pettigrew, Braden Skaggs, Weston Pschier, and Austin Bercher. Pettigrew and Skaggs had two RBIs while Holt, Adams, Karnes, Bercher, and Scott Holland all had solo RBIs. Holt had a double while Pettigrew and Adams both had triples.

In game two Alma plated three runs in the bottom of the first, but that lead was short-lived. The Bulldogs tied the game immediately with three runs in the top of the next frame. After Alma went back on top, 4-3, in the bottom of the second, Greenwood exploded for eight runs in the fifth to take charge of the game. The Airedales added a single tally in the sixth to account for the 11-5 final score.

The visitors reached double digits in hits once again in game two with 12 knocks to go along with six walks and an Airedales’ error, supplying plenty of scoring opportunities for the Bulldogs. Among those 12 hits were five doubles by Brady Pettigrew, Aiden Kennon, Austin Mitchell, Grant Karnes, and Braden Skaggs. Kennon had three hits and two RBIs while Karnes had two hits and a run driven home. Dawson Holt, Harrison Adams, Pettigrew, Bercher, and Mitchell all had solo RBIs.

Greenbrier

After two months of baseball, it all came down to this past Tuesday’s doubleheader showdown between the league’s top two teams, first-place Greenwood and second-place Greenbrier, just one game back of the Bulldogs. Greenwood needed at least a split of the two games to win the conference title, but a doubleheader loss by the home team would propel the Panthers to the league championship.

It was also senior day for the Bulldogs, who have six 12th graders listed on their roster, including Hunter Houston, Dawson Holt, Baylor Hossley, Harrison Adams, Aiden Kennon, and Weston Pschier. Those players and their families were honored before game one.

Adding to the drama, Greenbrier won the opener, 5-3, temporarily tying them with Greenwood at 12-1 in 5A West play. Both teams also had identical 18-6 records at the time. But the Bulldogs flipped that score in game two, winning 5-3 to earn the league title and the #1 seed from the West heading into the playoffs.

In game one, Aiden Kennon took to the mound for the Bulldogs, hoping to pitch his teammates to a conference championship, and he turned in a nice effort against a quality team. The senior hurler went 6.2 innings, giving up seven hits and three runs with two walks and nine strikeouts. The game was tied at 1-1 going into the seventh inning, when both teams scored twice, forcing extra innings. Austin Mitchell relieved Kennon in the seventh, then took the tough loss, giving up a pair of runs in the top of the eighth.

The Panthers scored first in the game with a run in their initial at bat, a run that held up until the bottom of the fifth when the Bulldogs tied the game. The Panthers out-hit the Bulldogs 11 to 9 and Greenwood made the game’s only error. The visitors also had four extra-base hits, all doubles, while the home team had one extra-base hit, a triple by Hunter Houston. Brady Pettigrew and Austin Bercher had two hits each, while Houston and Dawson Holt had the team’s two RBIs.

With the two squads now tied for the league lead, game two of last Tuesday’s doubleheader was for all the marbles, and Coach Brewer turned to sophomore Grant Karnes as his starting pitcher, and a wise choice it proved to be. Karnes when 6.2 innings before giving way to Austin Mitchell who got the one batter he faced and walked off the mound as a conference champion. Karnes gave up four hits, four walks, three runs, one earned, with five strikeouts for the win.

Offensively, Greenwood broke the tension with two runs in the bottom of the second inning before both teams scored once in the third for a 3-1 GHS lead. Greenbrier also scored in the fourth, cutting its deficit to 3-2. But the Bulldogs were determined and scored solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings, taking a 5-2 lead into the decisive seventh inning. The Panthers tried to mount a late rally, but could only score once, settling for second place in the conference.

With the bats, the Bulldogs had eight hits in the game, two by Harrison Adams with six others getting one hit each. Brady Pettigrew, Braden Skaggs, Aiden Kennon, and Austin Mitchell (2) accounted for Greenwood’s RBI total. Austin Bercher had a double and Dawson Holt had a triple.

After Tuesday’s games, Coach Brewer said, “I am so proud of these players and coaches. Our kids and [their] families deserve to be celebrated, and especially on senior night. It’s such a special moment. We’re going to take 24 hours to enjoy this, but we know that there is work still to do next week in the state tournament. Our draw for state is really tough, but it's that way for everybody once you get to the final week. Everybody's good at this point. We play Marion, the defending state champs, at their home field. But we wouldn't have it any other way.”

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