The 2022 softball season came to a bittersweet end for the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs last week with their loss in the second round of the 5A state tournament at Hot Springs. Losing was bad enough for a team that reached the state finals in 2021, but it was especially poignant for these Lady Bulldogs and their coach, Ronnie Sockey, who is leaving Greenwood and returning to his native Oklahoma. This season ends Sockey’s very successful 10-year run as Greenwood’s head coach.
Recently, the coach satisfied a desire for change in his career by accepting a new job at Poteau, OK, taking over the boys’ varsity basketball program, while also coaching softball in the fall as an assistant. He leaves behind a Greenwood program in great shape that will return most of its key players next season for a new coach.
Sockey went 200-72 in his nine full seasons at Greenwood for an impressive .735 winning percentage, excluding the 2020 (Covid) season. He took his team to the state tournament all nine years and appeared in the state finals five times, winning a state championship in 2015. Due to his leadership and guidance, the Lady Bulldogs are now among the top softball programs in the state.
The GHS girls finished their regular season with an 18-8 record, after having several games cancelled, mostly due to bad weather. But they also entered postseason play on a high note, winning 13 of their last 14 games, including 10 straight league wins to finish tied for first place with Van Buren in the 5A West conference. Both teams ended the season at 11-3 in league play. However, Van Buren owned the tiebreaker and earned the #1 seed for the playoffs. Greenwood was #2 and opened play last Thursday.
Greenwood vs. Little Rock Christian
Pitcher Tori Howard started in the circle for the Lady Bulldogs and earned the win with five innings of no-hit work. She was relieved in the sixth by Haley McAdams, who gave up a pair of hits and finished the game. The two GHS hurlers gave no walks and pitched around two defensive errors in an 8-0 victory over the Lady Warriors to advance to round two of the tournament. Howard (52) and McAdams (27) needed just 79 pitches to complete the game, 61 of them for strikes.
The first inning was scoreless for both teams. Greenwood put two runners on with a walk and an error with one out, but a pair of strikeouts ended the threat. The bottom of the GHS batting order then got things started in the second inning, taking advantage of a leadoff walk, a base hit, a pair of stolen bases, a fielder’s choice, and two more hits to drive home four runs.
The Lady Bulldogs added on over the next two innings, pushing across a solo run in the third and three more in the fourth. Overall, Greenwood had seven hits in the game to go along with seven walks and three Little Rock Christian errors, although all eight GHS runs were earned. The Lady Warriors used two pitchers in the contest with starter Kadence Armstrong taking the loss, though she struck out nine GHS hitters in just four innings of work.
At the plate, Greenwood got two hits from both Mady Cartwright and Paige Pugh, among them a pair of doubles by Cartwright and one two-bagger by Pugh. Both players also had two RBIs. Brianna Taylor had a single and two RBIs and Charlize Taylor added a single and a run driven home. Macey Cutsinger also had a hit and scored a run. Unfortunately, Greenwood’s Natalie Horn was injured during the contest and was not available for the next game.
Greenwood vs. Greene County Tech
Three Greenwood errors proved too much to overcome last Thursday in a 7-3 loss to the Lady Eagles from Paragould in Northeast Arkansas. The GCT girls were the top seed from the 5A East and got a solid pitching performance from starter Karley Burrow, who went all seven innings for the victory. The Lady Eagles went on to defeat Sheridan last Saturday and will face the defending state champion Lady Panthers of Benton later this week for the 5A state title.
Burrow gave up two runs to Greenwood in the top of the first inning after Macey Cutsinger singled to lead off the frame then stole second base, later scoring on a base hit by Charlize Taylor. Mady Cartwright, who reached on an error, also came around to score on a groundout for a 2-0 GHS lead. But Tech responded with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning and before leaving two runners stranded.
Greenwood’s starting pitcher was Tori Howard, who went three innings, allowing five hits, two walks, and two runs, one earned. The Lady Eagles scored their second run off Howard in the third to tie the score at 2-2, where it remained until the decisive sixth inning. The GHS starter was replaced in the fourth by Haley McAdams, who finished the game and took the hard luck loss. She also allowed five hits, walked one, and gave up five runs, but only two were earned.
Innings four and five were scoreless for both teams before Greenwood broke the scoring ice in the top of the sixth with a solo run to take a 3-2 lead. A leadoff double by Mady Cartwright was followed by an RBI single by Tori Howard with one out. Howard advanced to third base but was left stranded when the inning ended.
Needing six outs to win and move on to the semi-finals, McAdams and her Greenwood teammates took the field in the bottom of the sixth. She fanned the first GCT hitter, but then the wheels came off as the next five Lady Eagles reached base on three hits, a fielder’s choice, and an error. All five of those runners eventually scored, and when the dust settled the Lady Bulldogs found themselves in a 7-3 hole with only one inning remaining. With their post-season hopes fading quickly, the GHS girls went down in order in the top of the seventh.
Offensively, Greenwood had seven hits in the contest, two by Macey Cutsinger, playing her last game with the Lady Bulldogs. The senior centerfielder has signed to play at Oklahoma Baptist University next season. Both hits were singles and she scored one run. Tori Howard had two RBIs on one hit while Ireland Cooper, Mady Cartwright, Lilly Williams, and Charlize Taylor had the other GHS hits.
With their season complete, the Lady Bulldogs (19-9) returned home and will celebrate with their departing head coach on Tuesday, May 24th at 7 p.m. in the Student Union on campus. All former players are invited to attend to honor Coach Sockey and former assistant softball coach Jason Gill. All GHS fans wish Coach Sockey and his family well on their return to Oklahoma, and we all await news regarding his replacement. One thing is certain, the program remains strong and will stay near the top of the 5A rankings for years to come due to the foundation laid by Coach Sockey.