With conference championship hopes being thin, Greenwood and Southside turned their attention to playoff berths, seedings, and bragging rights.
The Rebels picked up a big dose of all three on Thursday with a 12-1 run-rule win against the Bulldogs.
Thursday’s game was the final 7A/6A-Central game between the two Sebastian County foes with Southside heading to the 7A-West next season.
Southside (13-9, 5-4) picked up valuable playoff points for the 7A State Tournament after entering the game as the fifth seed. Only six teams from each of the two 7A conferences earn berths in the state tournament in North Little Rock in May.
“You never know, there’s always a chance, but the points are big,” Greenwood head coach Craig Jones said. “We want to win one game at a time and go from there. We talk about we want to put a win streak together, but we have to win that first one, and then the next one, and hopefully put a long one together and get hot at the right time.”
Greenwood (7-13, 4-5) won five consecutive conference championships coming into this season and was the top seed in the 6A State Tournament just a month ago after opening conference play 3-0. The Bulldogs, though, have lost five of the last six conference games and have dropped all the way to the fifth seed.
Thursday, Southside rapped out 12 hits in 26 at-bats and took advantage of three hit batsmen and four walks.
The Rebels cracked open a 1-1 tie with five runs in the third inning, including two bunt singles.
“We’ve tried to get them to buy into some small ball,” Jones said. “The new bats have changed the game so much.”
Tanner Wiley, Mark Clark, Kory Pollard, Jordan Lawrence and Brennan Dooly reached to open the inning. After Wiley walked, Clark doubled and Pollard rifled a single to center that scored courtesy runner Mason Gilsinger. Lawrence reached on a bunt single, which scored courtesy runner Jace McCrea. Dooly bunted his way on as well before Pollard scampered home on a passed ball. Aaron Henry’s grounder scored Lawrence,and Dooly scored on a wild pitch for a 6-1 lead.
“We’re capable, and that’s what I hope they understand,” Jones said. “We’re capable of doing that a lot of times. We’ve had trouble putting all three phases together; the pitching, the fielding, the hitting. Today, we did. That was good.”
That was more than enough for Wiley, who mowed down the Bulldogs most of the night and retired the final seven batters.
Greenwood — which beat Little Rock Parkview on Wednesday, 3-2, in eight innings — managed just a single run off Wiley. Max Higgins led off the home half of the second inning with a hard single. After a walk by Jake Freeman and a single by Jake Harrel, Higgins scored on and scored on Michael Nelson’s single. But Wiley escaped further damage after Greenwood loaded the bases with nobody out with a strikeout and a ground-ball double play.
“We had a chance,” Greenwood head coach Randy Gardner said. “We had the bases loaded and got one run. When they got out of that jam without giving up another run, they had the momentum. They did a good job of playing off that momentum. We never could get it back. We went right back out and gave up some more runs. We never could stop the bleeding.”
Wiley went the distance, striking out four and walking just one. He allowed six hits, all singles and retired the Bulldogs three up, three down in three innings.