Greenwood baseball is back again, and Head Coach Trey Holloway is looking to lead his team to another state championship.
Last season the Bulldogs blew through their competition, finishing 32-3 on the season, winning the Class 6A state title with a 4-0 victory over the Benton Panthers.
In 2018 Greenwood was led by current Arkansas Razorbacks’ two-sport star Connor Noland, who is pitching for the Diamond Hogs this spring and will compete for the starting quarterback job next fall.
But the Bulldogs also lost several other seniors who were key pieces in their championship run, including catcher Jake Smith and infielders Cooper Passmore and Brandon Woolsey. Yet despite that loss of talent, they are returning a group of skilled players.
Greenwood has four returning starters this season, including Louisiana-Lafayette commit Peyton Holt, Landry Jurecka, Colton Sagely, and Chance Eoff.
Like Noland, Holt played quarterback for the Bulldogs and won a state football championship last December. He’s also made all-state for the Diamond ‘Dogs three seasons in a row, and Coach Holloway expects nothing different this spring out of his starting shortstop.
Jurecka is a sophomore and is coming off a very impressive freshman campaign. As a starting pitcher in 2018 he earned all-state honors while posting a 1.75 ERA.
Sagely also returns after a good sophomore season last year, and is expected to produce a lot both at the plate and in the outfield for the Bulldogs.
Along with those three players, Coach Holloway says Chance Eoff and Caden Brown will contribute in the outfield along with Preston Jureka, Landon Karnes, and Nick Phelps.
According to Holloway, he will be moving players around at the start of the season to find the best fit for them. Third base is one of those open positions.
The coach has already used Landry Jurecka, Reed Carroll, and Cade Lynch at the hot corner, and he expects to try out Hayden Weaver this week.
Holt will be at shortstop for the ‘Dogs, unless he comes in to pitch. Reed Carroll, Chance Sneathern, and Ethan Williams will compete for playing time at second base, while Matthew Monday and Timothy Earnhart are manning first base. Texarkana move-in Nick Vaughn and junior returnee Jace Presley with be at catcher for the Bulldogs.
Holloway sees Landry Jurecka, Jace Presley, Nick Phelps, and Peyton Holt as getting most of the innings on the mound this season. But the coach knows that other pitchers will need to contribute.
“Hopefully, some of the other guys will be able to step up and get some innings – Matthew Monday and Chance Eoff – just trying to help us out as much as they can,” said Holloway.
A bit troubling, the GHS defense has struggled at the start of this season, averaging two to three errors a game to this point. But the Head Coach understands the importance of making plays and is still working through the process of putting players in a position to succeed defensively.
“We’re looking to have a game where we are pretty solid from the first inning to the last inning defensively,” he said. “[We’re] trying to find the right guys in the right situations. We’ve tried guys at different spots. We’ve been moving guys around, and for us to be a championship team we have to play really good defense.”
On the bright side, Coach Holloway has been proud of his team’s pitching and baserunning so far this season. “We have not walked a lot of people,” he said. “We’ve gotten plenty of strikeouts, and we have made teams put the ball in play,” referring to the Bulldogs’ mound work.
Traditionally, Greenwood has always played a tough schedule, including several larger area schools. Holloway says he doesn’t care who the Bulldogs are playing, he just wants his team to come out and take care of themselves.
“We have to take care of our business, and one pitch at a time make sure we are focused and ready to go,” he said. “There are some great teams in our conference, so every game we have to play [well], and the biggest thing for us is to be committed to the process without being emotionally attached to results.”
Like all the other non-football sports teams, the Diamond ‘Dogs will compete this season in the newly-formed 5A West against league foes Siloam Springs, Russellville, Little Rock Christian, Vilonia, Greenbrier, Beebe, and Alma.
“I don’t care if we win or we lose,” he added. “I don’t care who we are playing. It is just getting after it every day and making sure we are getting better, and we come to play every single day.”
The Bulldogs believe they can make it back to Fayetteville’s Baum Stadium for another championship game this season, but Holloway knows it will be difficult.
“It takes great chemistry; it takes great players; it takes timely hitting; good defense; all of those different things; [and] keeping guys healthy,” said the coach.
“We must get better one percent every single day, playing as hard as we can play. We just have to keep toiling every day and work our tails off.”
Under Holloway’s able leadership, the ‘Dogs will no doubt do exactly that, and don’t be surprised if they make another strong run at returning to the state championship game in May.