Lady Bulldogs and Coach Sockey looking to close out another great season with a deep playoff run

Lady Bulldogs and Coach Sockey looking to close out another great season with a deep playoff run

The Greenwood Lady Bulldogs softball team ended their regular season schedule this past Monday on the road at Bentonville-West, a final tune-up before the start of the 2022 Class 5A state tournament. Lakeside High School is sponsoring this year’s event with all games being played at either Hank Aaron or Jackie Robinson fields at Majestic Park in Hot Springs.

The tournament begins on Thursday and continues through Saturday. Greenwood’s opening round opponent on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. is Little Rock Christian, the #3 seed from the 5A Central. Greenwood is the #2 seed from the West. Should the Lady Bulldogs advance to the second round their opponent will be the winner of the Greene County Tech – Hot Springs Lakeside contest. GCT is the #1 seed from the East and will likely win over #4 seed Lakeside from the South. Greenwood’s second-round game would be Friday at 2:30 p.m. with the state semifinals set for Saturday at the same time.

To reach the finals, the two teams must win all three of their games in the state tournament. The championship game will be played the following weekend at Benton High School, home to the defending 5A state champion Lady Panthers, who remain unbeaten for the second straight year and have won 58 consecutive games.

According to GHS Head Coach Ronnie Sockey, Benton remains the overwhelming favorite to repeat as state champs, but his Lady Bulldogs would love another crack at the Lady Panthers, who defeated Greenwood last season in the finals, 8-1. After Monday’s loss at Bentonville-West, the GHS girls enter state tournament play with a 18-8 overall record, having won 13 of their last 14 games. Earlier this season Benton defeated Greenwood, 5-0.

“They’ve had some closer games this year,” said the coach of Benton. “But they are definitely the top team in Arkansas in all classes. I think they’re even ranked nationally right now. They’re on a 50-plus game winning streak, and the state finals will be on their home field again. But winning 20 games and getting back to the state finals have been our goals,” he added.

This year’s state tournament has also taken on special significance with the recent resignation of Coach Sockey, who is leaving Greenwood to return to his native Oklahoma. He will become the head boys basketball coach for the Poteau Pirates and possibly serve as a softball assistant coach. Mindy Sockey, the coach’s wife, has commuted to Poteau for work the past 10 years and they both have family in Oklahoma. Her husband was also the girls golf coach at Greenwood.

Greenwood Athletic Director Dr. Dustin Smith is currently seeking a replacement for Sockey, who has led his Lady Bulldogs to several state finals and a fast-pitch state championship in 2015. Whoever eventually gets the job will inherit a strong program and a very good team returning a solid core of talented players next season. The 2022 Lady Bulldogs have only two seniors on their roster, Kylie Lawson and Macey Cutsinger. Unfortunately, Lawson suffered a season-ending injury.

This past Monday at Bentonville, the Lady Bulldogs played from behind the entire game. The Lady War Eagles scored a solo run in the bottom of the first inning, three more in the third, and another in the fourth. Trailing 5-0, the GHS girls plated their only run in the sixth inning on just one hit by Mady Cartwright, taking advantage of a Bentonville-West error.

Greenwood had only five hits in the game, with Cartwright and Macey Cutsinger getting two knocks each. Tori Howard and Haley McAdams split the pitching duties in their postseason tune-up. McAdams went four innings, giving up all four runs and was charged with the loss. Howard pitched two scoreless frames in relief.

Prior to Monday’s game at Bentonville, Coach Sockey talked about the recent 13-game winning streak as his Lady Bulldogs head into postseason play. “We’re 18-7 overall and 11-3 in conference play,” said the coach at the time. “We tied as co-champions of the 5A West, but Van Buren beat us twice early in the year.” That fact gave the Lady Pointers the edge in the tiebreaker and the #1 seed from the West.

According to the GHS head coach, that scenario is evidence the 5A West needs to change its scheduling and do away with the weekly doubleheaders. “We hate the conference doubleheaders we have to play in baseball and softball,” said Sockey, adding that GHS head baseball coach Chad Mercado feels the same way.

“There’s just so many things wrong with that,” he continued. “It’s not fair to our [varsity] kids or our JV kids. If you have one bad day you can lose two games to the same team. It’s got to get changed. It’s not fair to our two sports. The coaches did not have a vote. You lose 14 JV games for those kids you’ve got to evaluate, and we’re the only two sports that have to do it.” Sockey further said that he has never understood why the schedule is structured that way.

His issues with the schedule notwithstanding, Coach Sockey has enjoyed a long and successful run as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs, and his departure is driven by what’s best for his family and future. “I’m leaving voluntarily,” he assured everyone. “I’m taking a coaching job in Poteau. I’m going to coach boys basketball. I’m just ready for a change and I’ve been wanting to get back into basketball. I was an assistant varsity [basketball] coach and head ninth grade coach in the past. I’m probably going to be a fall assistant in softball and have the spring off.

“Our families are in Oklahoma, and I’ve lived there for over 30 years,” said the coach. “My brother lives in Poteau and my family lives in Pocola, so they are close by. Aiden is excited. He has friends in Poteau and he’s going to play football and basketball again. It’s so much easier to do that over there than [in Greenwood].” Most recently son Aiden was a pitcher and position player for the Bulldogs baseball team.

Asked about his replacement, Sockey said his input has been limited. “I haven’t recommended anybody, but they asked me what kind of person we need. They will get the right guy or girl. It could be a lady. But it will be a highly sought-after job. There’s a lot of talent here and a lot of players who will put in the time and work hard.”

Asked about the timing of his decision and how he broke the news to his team, Sockey said, “A few weeks ago, but I waited until we knew we were going to play in the state tournament. After we swept Alma, I talked to them and let them know so they could hear it from me and not from anybody else. They understood, but they hate to see me go. But they know we are 100% committed to this season. There may be more reaction at the end of the [season]. Right now we’re just focused on finishing the year out. We want to represent Greenwood well and get back to the state finals.”

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