While it’s never fun to lose a big game, with the passage of time the totality of a season’s work and success becomes clearer. Though saddened by the team’s 4-3 loss in the 5A state championship game last Friday, GHS Head Coach Ronnie Sockey and his players are already optimistic about next season.
And for good reason. The Lady Bulldogs will return a talented and experienced nucleus of players that finished this season 25-6. They lose only one starter to graduation and two seniors in total.
Among the key returning players are shortstop Ally Sockey, Angela Price at second base, Paxtyn Hayes behind the plate, and both of the team’s pitchers, Haven Clements and Rheding Wagoner.
Clements finished the season with a 13-5 record and an earned-run average of 1.84, striking out 47 batters in 95 innings. Wagoner was equally impressive at 12-1 with a 1.90 ERA, recording 43 strikeouts in 70 innings. Both hurlers pitch to contact and let their defense work behind them.
Sockey, the coach’s daughter and a University of Arkansas commit since junior high school, batted .456 this season, while University of Kansas commit Price hit .434. Hayes also batted .434 and the trio combined to drive in 92 runs.
Sockey will be a junior next season while Price and Hayes will be seniors. Rheding will also be a senior while Clements will be a junior.
The Lady Bulldogs lost only one position player to graduation, but it’s a big loss. Senior Mariah Hamilton was a fixture at the hot corner and the team’s leading run producer.
An Arkansas Tech signee, she led the squad in nearly every offensive category, including average (.522), on-base percentage (.560), slugging percentage (1.067), hits (47), home runs (10) and RBIs (56).
Hamilton’s bat will be hard to replace, but the continued growth and improvement of her teammates will help to mitigate the loss, and there will be some new faces on the varsity squad next season as well with the arrival of younger reinforcements.
Next spring will be no different than the last five seasons under Coach Sockey. Greenwood will be a factor not only in conference play, but on the state level. He has established one of the best programs in Arkansas and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.