The Greenwood Lady Bulldogs varsity girls softball team had to delay the start of their season, waiting for the conclusion of basketball, but that decision paid off this week with a doubleheader sweep over Russellville on Tuesday. The two victories over Russellville by identical 12-2 scores came in 5A West conference play, their first league action this season.
The roster is now at 100% after the arrival of the basketball players, most notably pitcher Haven Clements and shortstop Ally Sockey, both seniors, along with senior Kinley Fisher and sophomore Mady Cartwright, among others. Head Coach Ronnie Sockey, with his staff and players, can now focus on winning another conference championship and returning to the state finals, just as they did in 2019. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.
But the team’s many junior varsity players were hard at work for a couple of weeks before the varsity roster reached full strength. The JV girls, mostly freshmen and sophomores, did a stellar job, going 6-3 in nine games, gaining valuable experience that will pay dividends later this spring and in seasons to come.
Greenwood vs. Greenwood
Greenwood opened its season with a pair of intersquad games a week apart. The Lady Bulldogs’ roster is large enough to field two junior varsity teams, and they squared off against each other on February 24th in what turned out to be a slugfest. Both teams whacked 12 hits and team #1 eventually won 10-9, but not before a remarkable comeback by team #2 and a winning walk-off two-run homer by sophomore Charlize Taylor, who had three hits and four RBIs in the game.
Greenwood #1 led 8-1 through six innings before two errors and a walk opened the flood gates for Greenwood #2, which took advantage of those gifts with five hits to score eight runs and take a 9-8 lead. But in the bottom half of the frame Natalie Thomas led off with a double before Taylor clubbed the first pitch she saw for a homer to left-center to steal the victory for her team. Full disclosure – Thomas and Taylor are both projected as starting varsity players.
To build experience, Coach Sockey used three different pitchers for the winning team. Claire Chapple, Paige Pugh, and Madelynn Cassat all toed the rubber for Greenwood #1. Cassat went four innings, Pugh two frames, and Chapple recorded three outs. Tori Howard hurled three innings for GHS #2, along with Haley McAdams, who also recorded nine outs.
Offensively, besides Taylor’s stellar performance, four other Lady Bulldogs notched multiple hits in the contest, including Macey Cutsinger, Chelsi Possage, Natalie Thomas, and Paige Pugh, all with two knocks each. Junior Kylie Lawson had one hit and two runs driven home.
A week later, on March 3rd, the two teams faced off again with Greenwood #1 taking an 8-4 victory, outhitting their opposing teammates 11 to 5. But the game was close throughout until a three-run rally in the top of the seventh by GHS #1. The contest was tied at 3-all through four innings.
Lillyanna Gigerich, Chelsi Possage, and Natalie Thomas all had two hits each for the winners. Coach Sockey also employed four pitchers in the game. Madelynn Cassat (two innings), Hailey McAdams (2), Tori Howard (2), and Lillyanna Gigerich (1), who all pitched for both sides in the contest.
Fort Smith Southside
On March 5th the JV Lady Bulldogs traveled to Fort Smith Southside and came home with a blowout 14-1 five-inning victory. Greenwood led 2-1 after three innings, but a close game was broken open in the fourth inning when the GHS girls pushed across five runs to take a 7-1 advantage. As if that wasn’t enough, the visitors then scored seven more times in the fifth. The game was called after five frames due to the mercy rule.
Haley McAdams and Madelynn Cassat handled the pitching duties for Greenwood. McAdams started and threw three innings of one-hit ball, followed by Cassat’s two frames in relief, giving up just two hits. Neither pitcher allowed an earned run and each fanned three Lady Mavericks’ hitters.
Greenwood’s hitters were a terror against Southside’s only pitcher, whacking 17 hits, including four of the extra-base variety. Sophomore Rylee Cowart led the way with three knocks, all singles, with two RBIs and two runs scored. Freshman Taylor Nichols and sophomores Charlize Taylor and Paige Pugh all recorded two hits in the contest and freshman Natalee Horn’s double drove home a pair of runs.
Three days later, on March 8th, the GHS girls lost game one of a doubleheader at Bentonville-West, 13-12, after once holding a 6-0 lead in the middle of the second inning. But after Greenwood’s six-spot in the top of the frame, the Lady Wolverines responded with two runs of their own, then four more in the third, two more in the fourth, and four runs in the fifth to take the lead at 12-6.
Greenwood then rallied in the top of the sixth inning, scoring four runs to narrow the deficit to 12-10. After holding the home team scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Bulldogs tied the score at 12-all with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh before giving up the winning tally in the bottom half of the frame.
The two teams combined for 25 hits in the game, but Greenwood had three fielding errors to help the opposition score four unearned runs. Tori Howard pitched four innings for the Lady Bulldogs, along with Madelynn Cassat (1.1 innings) and Haley McAdams (1). Cassat took the loss in relief, giving up the winning run in the seventh.
At the plate the GHS girls had a pair of doubles and nine singles to account for their 11 hits. Senior Chelsi Possage and freshman Myia Mcoy had the two-baggers and both players drove home three runs, as did Macey Cutsinger, who had two hits in the game. Possage, a varsity starter who has signed to play for the Lady Razorbacks in college, led the team with three hits. Rylee Cowart also had two hits for Greenwood.
Game two was called after four innings with the Lady Wolverines on top, 14-5, having out-hit Greenwood 12 to seven. The game was tied at 4-all in the middle of the third inning before Bentonville-West broke the game open with four runs in the bottom of the third and six more in the fourth.
Haley McAdams started in the circle for the Lady Bulldogs, completing two frames and giving up four runs. She was followed by Lillyanna Gigerich, who did not record and out, and Madelyn Cassat, who finished the game and was saddled with the loss after giving up four earned runs over two frames.
Greenwood’s offense was anemic with all seven hits being singles. Carley Sexton’s bases-loaded single drove home two runs in the third inning and Brianna Taylor also had an RBI. Both girls are ninth graders.
Fort Smith Northside
On March 11th the Lady Bulldogs hosted the Northside Lady Grizzlies and claimed a pair of shutouts behind the strong pitching efforts of Tori Howard, Madelynn Cassat, and Haley McAdams. Howard struck out nine batters, pitching a one-hit six-inning complete game victory (1-0) in the opener, while Cassat and McAdams combined for an 8-0 win in the nightcap.
Northside’s pitching in game one was good too, and Greenwood had just two hits, but the second one came in the bottom of the sixth inning at a critical time. Paige Pugh’s single to left drove home Taylor Nichols, who had reached base without the benefit of a hit, then stole a base to put herself in scoring position.
In game two the GHS bats came back to life with 16 hits, scoring four times in the first inning, twice more in the second and twice in the fourth. Among the Lady Bulldogs’ many hits were three doubles by Lillyanna Gigerich, Natalee Norne, and Brianna Taylor. Madelynn Cassat had two singles and three RBIs, while Horne drove home two runs. Lillyanna Gigerich, Carley Sexton, and Laney Coryell also had two hits apiece.
Paris Lady Eagles
Last Saturday, March 13th, the Lady Bulldogs hosted the Class 4A Paris girls in an afternoon doubleheader and posted a pair of wins, 5-3 and 10-8. Haley McAdams started gamed one for Greenwood and went two scoreless frames for the win, backed up by Cassat and Howard in relief. Reliever Paige Pugh was among several GHS pitchers in game two and was credited with the victory.
In the opener, the Lady Bulldogs scored early, pushing across a single run in the first and two more in the second. Leading 3-1 after 3½ innings, Greenwood scored its final two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Paris plated two harmless runs in the top of the fifth before the game was called after Greenwood batted in the bottom of the frame.
Following McAdams to the circle, Tori Howard and Madelynn Cassat pitched well in relief, each striking out three Paris hitters, allowing just two hits and one earned run between them. Greenwood did make two defensive misplays, allowing an unearned run to score in the fifth when an error was followed by a homerun.
Greenwood had nine hits in the game, eight of which were singles. Junior Kylie Lawson had the lone extra-base hit, a double that also drove home a run. Taylor Nichols and Charlize Taylor also had solo RBIs and Nichols joined Brianna Taylor as the only Lady Bulldogs with two hits in the game.
Lillyanna Gigerich started for Greenwood in game two, but couldn’t find the plate, walking eight hitters while giving up a hit and five earned runs, six in total. Paris led 6-0 after two innings before Greenwood mounted its big comeback, scoring ten runs over the last two innings for the win. Paris had only three hits in the game against all GHS pitchers.
With the sticks, Greenwood managed just five hits, but took advantage of four Paris errors and 10 walks to score their 10 runs, nine of which were earned. Freshman Laci Cox was the only GHS player to notch two hits, both singles, while scoring a pair of runs. Senior Gracie Been, Laney Coryell and junior Abby Summit all had solo RBIs. Coryell’s hit was a triple.
Following starter Lillyanna Gigerich to the circle was Claire Chapple and Paige Pugh, with Pugh getting the win in relief. All eight runs were charged to Gigerich, who did have five strikeouts in the game. Chapple and Pugh had two Ks each. The second game lasted five innings as well.
Last Monday’s (March 15th) road contest against the Lady Tigers came down to one inning, an eight-run outburst by the home team that broke open a 2-0 game and ended with an 11-0 victory in 4½ innings. Haley McAdams was the starter for Greenwood and took the loss, giving up all 11 runs on nine Bentonville hits, though only seven of those runs were earned.
The Lady Bulldogs made two errors in the decisive third inning that prolonged the frame and helped the Lady Tigers score eight runs. Bentonville also banged out six hits, including a homerun, drew a pair of walks, and had a hit batsman. McAdams issued five base-on-balls and had four strikeouts in the contest for the Lady Bulldogs, while Greenwood was no-hit at the plate on offense.
The Greenwood junior varsity girls will continue to see a lot of action throughout the remainder of the season, some of it in varsity games as reserve players. With two JV teams, Coach Sockey will have plenty of opportunities to evaluate talent and skill levels and get a good idea what kind of players are in the GHS pipeline for the future.
Now in his ninth season at Greenwood, Sockey has built a vibrant program with a winning tradition, contending every year for the conference and state titles, and his junior varsity teams are a big part of that winning formula.