Friday, April 25, 2008

EDITORIAL >>How Hillary can still win

When does victory spell defeat? When you need a miracle rather than a mere good win. That was Sen. Hillary Clinton’s dilemma before the Pennsylvania primary last week, and it remains her obstacle with eight diminishing contests to go.

With the Democratic Party’s superdemocratic system of apportioning convention delegates according to everyone’s proportion of popular votes, she has no realistic chance of overtaking Sen. Barack Obama’s narrow lead in elected delegates. She will be fortunate to win, by any margin, half of the remaining state elections, only one of which — North Carolina — has a rich delegate prize. Her best hope there is to hold Obama to a close victory.

What her 10-point triumph in Pennsylvania on Tuesday did was keep on life support her single strategy, persuading the undecided superdelegates that Obama, despite his big margin in states won, cannot win in the big industrial states that the Democrat must win in November. Of the 10 largest states, Obama has won only two — Georgia and his home state of Illinois — and he is expected to win the 10th, North Carolina.

She has, in fact, won the big states by significant margins. If the Democrats apportioned delegates the way Republicans do in most states — the leading vote-getter by the slightest margin gets all the delegates — she and not Obama would be leading in delegates today and there would be calls for him to leave the race for the good of the party. And if the Republicans used the purer democratic system of the Democrats, John McCain today would be far short of nomination and fighting for his political life, against Mike Huckabee and probably Mitt Romney.

Now, Clinton must win the two remaining heartland states, Indiana and Kentucky, to keep plausible the theory that she is better suited to carry a region that is central to a Democratic victory. But it does not end there. She then must do better than split the remaining states and territories, all of which favor Obama except Puerto Rico. She could claim then to lead in total popular votes and in voting power in key states, though not quite in elected delegates. (The unuttered argument is that she also can get the votes of white men who will not vote for a black man, a cohort that polls suggest may be as high as 15 percent.) All of that would produce a powerful incentive for wavering superdelegates to embrace her.

That is an electoral strategy that seems improbable but not impossible. And it entails a daunting risk: What kind of campaign must she wage to do it, and how much harm does she do to the eventual nominee, whether it be she or he?

TOP STORY > >Golf course suit placed on hold

Leader staff writer

The federal lawsuit that the owners of the North Hills Country Club filed against Sherwood for stopping the sale of the 106-acre green space, and Ron Campbell and Roy Marple, who didn’t follow through with the $5.1 million purchase, has been stayed, or put on hold.

Federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele decided recently to stay any ruling until a lower court has ruled on Sherwood’s condemnation of the property.

Sherwood, using eminent domain, condemned the property earlier this year and has filed the condemnation order, but the court must decide the fair market price of the land that the Sherwood will have to pay Club Properties, the golf course owners.

That issue will be heard in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s court at the end of July.

Fox is the same judge who heard the lawsuit over electric rates between Sherwood, North Little Rock and First Electric. He issued a ruling earlier this year, but all three parties asked him for further clarification. He has not done so yet.

Sherwood City Attorney Stephen Cobb said Eisele’s stay doesn’t dismiss the lawsuit. It just means he’ll wait until the lower court determines the cost and other issues in the condemnation.

Club Properties filed the suit last year saying Sherwood’s moratorium and other actions by the city undermined its efforts to sell the property at a fair price. Club Properties included Campbell and Marple in the suit because they want the pair to stand by its $5.1 million offer on the property.

Campbell and Marple had offered early last year to buy the property for $5.1 million and develop it into a high-end gated residential community, but they say the six-month building moratorium that the city council slapped on the property killed the deal.

After the six-month moratorium expired in October, Club Properties went before the Sherwood Planning Commission with its own residential development plan for the property. The commission has delayed any action on those plans because the city is currently without a city engineer.

In the meantime, the city council voted to use its eminent domain powers and condemned the property. Under this type of condemnation, the city takes over the property and a judge decides at a later date what the fair market price for the property is. City figures showed the property to be worth as little as $1.5 million, while Club Properties has an appraisal showing the property is worth $5.5 million.

Club Properties, in its suit, has asked the court to grant “specific performance of the real estate sales contract, as amended, on which the buyers defaulted and require the buyers to fully perform under such contract by paying the plaintiffs the sum of $5.1 million, plus interest from April 27, 2007, or the contractual costs for the delay in closing plus an award of their attorney fees and costs incurred,” according to court filings.

TOP STORY > >Troutman refuses to drop agent

Leader senior staff writer

Using seldom-exercised executive branch powers, Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman on Thursday used his judgment to supersede that of the quorum court and overturned its decision to award the county’s United HealthCare contract to a new agent.

In its regular meeting, the quorum court voted to accept a bid to provide health care to county employees from United, its current provider, but had expressed dissatisfaction with Lisa Jacobs Burgess and the Legacy Capital Group, the county’s current insurance agent.

By a 7-4 vote, the quorum court last week accepted United’s bid but specified Cindy Dixon of the Sellers Group as its agent.
Sellers can provide United HealthCare, but submitted BlueCross/Blue Shield bids for the contract.

The county’s health insurance group plan expires at midnight April 30. Troutman saw no need to change agents.

Some members of the quorum court said they thought Burgess and Legacy Group weren’t very hands-on with helping the county after the contract was awarded. They said they wanted an agent who would be available and check in with the county regularly.

Dixon came highly recommended by White County officials, JPs said.

On Wednesday morning, however, Troutman convened the county court, an infrequently used judicial branch of county government over which he presides. Troutman also presides over the quorum court, which is the county’s legislative branch of government.

Troutman summoned Dixon, who later said she felt attacked and overwhelmed by Troutman’s questions, and also heard from Sharon Moss, the deputy county clerk who works with the chosen health insurer.

“I have just been told that a county court order has been issued naming my firm as the consultant of record,” Burgess emailed

The Leader Thursday morning. “Lonoke County will remain with Legacy Capital Group for the next 12 months.”

No county court order had been issued, Troutman said, but he confirmed that he had made his decision to reinstate her as agent and would file an order as early as Friday.

“I asked myself to have the hearing,” Troutman said.

“A (quorum court) motion to change insurance agents doesn’t compel the executive (Troutman) to do anything,” county attorney Jeff Sikes said Thursday. “I don’t think the quorum court can choose the actual agent. That smacks of an executive branch function.”

As for the judge convening county court without notification and on his own initiative, Sikes said, “That’s the way it usually happens.”

“I informed the Legacy Group that I made a decision (to give them the contract),” Troutman confirmed Thursday morning.

“Next week, someone has to represent Lonoke County employees. At some point the elected county judge has to make a decision. He’s allowed to overturn the quorum court.”

His decision could be appealed to the Lonoke County Circuit Court, but Mark Edwards, a quorum court member and member of its insurance committee, said such an appeal was unlikely.

He said if Sikes thought Troutman had the power, then there was nothing to appeal.

“I do wonder if part of this (is) based on threats Burgess made to various people,” Edwards said. “(Troutman) kind of sprung (county court) on everyone. No one but Alexis Malham was there from the insurance committee.”

“Friday, everyone gets threatening phone calls from Lisa Burgess,” said Malham, head of the county insurance committee.

Malham said she found out by accident and less than 24 hours-notice before Troutman held court. Unlike quorum court meetings, there is no freedom of information requirement to notify the press and interested parties when county court convenes.

Troutman said he made his ruling in county court, rather than vetoing the quorum court’s decision so they could appeal if they wanted to. Had he exercised his veto power, the quorum court’s earliest opportunity to override his veto would be at the regular May meeting, after the contract expiration.

TOP STORY > >FEMA still assessing amount of damages

Leader staff writer

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says the city’s ongoing cost for cleaning up and repairing the damage from the April 3 tornado could be as high as $300,000, much of which will be reimbursed by the federal and state governments at a rate of 75 percent federal and 12.5 percent state.

In the meantime, Williams said Karen Davis, his operations director, is keeping up with all the city’s out-of-pocket expenses, including overtime for the city employees who have worked to clean up the mess the tornado left behind.

“We had over 200 truckloads of storm debris,” the mayor said. “Everything we’ve done will have to be verified, but the city – well Karen – is keeping meticulous records.”

FEMA has announced that both the uninsured public and individual losses in Lonoke County met the threshold of $3.11 per resident, but no total damage estimate has been released.

This week, representatives from The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were in Cabot, going door to door to speak to residents who had losses from the storm.

Davis said FEMA sent three representatives initially, but then two more were called in. Residents and business owners who incurred damages from the tornado are encouraged to register with FEMA to receive assistance, she said.

“What they told me is that it is very important that you register,” she said. “They told me ‘don’t let anyone disqualify themselves without talking to us.’”

Although there was no damage to public property in Ward, Mayor Art Brooke said he thinks the losses to individuals in his city are about $300,000.

“There was a lot of roof damage, including mine,” Brooke said, adding that on Hwy. 38, the grandson of former Lonoke County Judge Dude Spence lost his entire roof, including his rafters, decking and shingles.

But most of the damage was to mobile homes. Two on Margie Lane were completely destroyed, the mayor said, adding that he has not seen any representatives from FEMA or ADEM.

Although Cabot sustained the most damage of any area in Lonoke County, since the total of uninsured damage exceeded the $164,295 threshold, all county residents who sustained damage are potentially eligible for disaster-relief assistance.

Register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily or online at Information also is available at Cabot City Hall at 501-843-3566.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville plant closing

Leader senior staff writer

About 65 area workers will be out of work by the end of May, when Gate Precast closes the doors of its production plant on Cory Drive in Jacksonville.

The plant, which manufactures precast concrete construction panels, will continue to operate a 12- to 15-person design department in the area, according to Andy Cameron, Gate vice president of operations for Arkansas and Texas, and about 15 more employees are expected to transfer to one of the nine other plants in Texas or in the eastern third of the U.S.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gate Petroleum bought Arkansas Precast’s two plants—the other is in Hillsboro, Texas—and its erection company for an undisclosed amount of money last November from Cameron and two partners.

Arkansas Precast, which was started in 1968 by the late Tom Cory, supplied cast concrete panels mostly within a 300-mile radius, including Memphis, Tulsa and St. Louis areas, and can be seen locally in the Alltel Headquarters, Clinton Library Archive Building and the Acxiom building in downtown Little Rock, according to Cameron, a Cabot resident.

“We put the dome on the Oklahoma State Capitol,” Cameron said. “We clad outside of the Razorback Stadium.”

Memphis was among the main markets for the Jacksonville plant, and business there had “been slow for a while,” said Cameron.

“Gate has higher requirements from some of their facilities,” he said. “They need to see bigger numbers than (Arkansas Precast) needed to see.”

“I will continue on at least through the end of the year,” Cameron said.

“Production will trickle into early June,” he said. “We’ve got to wrap up some things.”

Cameron said a lot of workers with 20 or 30 years experience had been unable or unwilling to accept work at the other facilities. “They were born and raised families here,” he said.

He said employees would receive accrued vacation.

The employees were notified of the closure April 17, he said, and morale was “not good.”

“That was not my best day,” Cameron said.

“We’ve had 40 years of success and support,” he said. “It’s been appreciated.”

Gate will sell the plant and the design center will operate out of office space, probably in the Jacksonville, Sherwood or Cabot area.

Gate Precast Company is the largest producer of architectural precast concrete in the country with eight architectural precast manufacturing facilities and two structural/prestressed manufacturing facilities that operate under the name of Gate Concrete Products Company.

TOP STORY > >PR firm hired to promote city

Leader staff writer

Only one agency submitted an application to be Jacksonville’s marketing and advertising firm, and the city has decided to award that agency the contract.

Sells/Clark, which has offices in Little Rock and Fayetteville, will have an initial contract of three years and must, according to Jacksonville advertising and promotion commission’s requirements, “develop an image campaign that will allow the commission to promote Jacksonville as a destination for visitors, business travelers, sports events as well as a site for meeting and convention groups.”

Sells/Clark’s president Brian Clark is very familiar with Jacksonville and Little Rock Air Force Base.

“My dad was a C-130 pilot out at the base for years, and that’s what brought our family to the area, and we loved it and stayed,” he said.

“We are excited about representing a city in central Arkansas with so much potential. It’s a huge opportunity,” he added.

The city’s advertising and promotion commission made the decision to hire Sells/Clark at a special meeting Thursday afternoon. “We are now negotiating the fees with the company,” said Paul Mushrush, the city’s finance director.

The commission had initially budgeted about $170,000 this year from the two-cent hamburger tax to pay for a professional marketing campaign.

“A real campaign will run hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mayor Tommy Swaim has said at previous commission meetings.

According to their promotional packet, Sells/Clark has managed and supervised accounts in the travel and tourism industry over the years in Arkansas and Louisiana with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $8 million.

The company has done promotional work for the city of Fayetteville, Riverfest, Arvest Bank, J.B. Hunt, Acxiom and Mercy Health Systems of Northwest Arkansas.

Clark said that his company was recently recognized by the financial rater Dun and Bradstreet as being in the top 5 percent of credit worthiness in the advertising agency category.

“With advertising agencies coming and going these days for various reasons, the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Com-mission can rest assured we will manage your business as we manage our own,” Clark said.

Mushrush said it would take the company about six months to develop a marketing campaign for Jacksonville.

The advertising agency will give an update at the next commission meeting, set for 7 p.m. May 19.

TOP STORY > >Impact fees needed to fund Cabot programs

Leader staff writer

When the Cabot City Council voted earlier this week to rescind the impact fee on new construction it took away the only revenue source in place — more than $1,000 per home — to build the fire station needed to keep insurance premiums down in some of the newest subdivisions on Hwy. 5.

Now, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says reinstating the impact fee for the fire department only is one solution to the problem that will be discussed when the council’s fire and police committee meets May 1.

Alderman Eddie Cook suggested during the Mon-day night council meeting that it would be prudent to keep that one part of the fee, which collected $75,000 of the total of $208,000 in the year it was in place. The balance of the fee went to the library, parks, streets and wastewater.

But Cook was among the seven council members who voted to rescind the 2006 ordinance that established the impact fee on both commercial and residential construction.

Only Alderman Teri Miessner voted against rescinding the impact fee.

City officials learned in 2006 that the city had outgrown its fire protection and that the insurance premiums for several hundred residents in Greystone and Magness Creek could double or triple as a result.

Former Alderman Odis Waymack learned from talking to the Insurance Service Office (ISO), which rates cities’ fire protection for insurance purposes, that simply parking an un-staffed fire engine within five highway- miles of the affected area would be a temporary fix for the problem.

So the city rented a bay at the Mountain Springs Volunteer Fire Department for $200 a month and then early in 2007 paid $259,600 for three acres and buildings on the corner of Hwy. 5 and Mountain Springs and moved an un-staffed engine to that location.

The plan was never actually to build a permanent station there. The council said the city could get its money back by selling the property for commercial use.

But eventually, the city will have to build another fire station. And that, the mayor says, will cost $1.5 million for the building, $1 million for equipment and $500,000 a year for the firefighters who will staff it.

Because the city council acted quickly with its Band-aid fix for the fire department problem, the city’s fire rating is currently a Class 3. But after the ISO inspection of the city’s fire suppression system in the summer of 2006, the rating was set to drop to Class 3 / 9. With ISO ratings, the lower the number, the higher the rating and the less insurance is likely to cost.

A letter from ISO to Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh dated Sept. 27, 2006, told the mayor that the rating had dropped for property more than five road-miles from the nearest responding fire station or within five road-miles of the nearest responding fire station but more than 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant. The former is now a Class 10, the lowest possible, and the latter is a Class 9.

Fire Chief Phil Robinson said after the city received the letter from ISO that all houses beyond 903 Greystone Blvd. would be Class 10. That included the subdivisions of Mystery Lake, Southern Hills, Georgetown, Signature and Kensington.

In Magness Creek North subdivision, the 11 streets beyond 61 Lakeland would have been downgraded to Class 10 if the council had not taken action.

When the council Monday night passed the ordinance repealing the impact fee, the mayor said there was nothing in the new ordinance that would prevent the council from imposing the fee again at a later date if necessary.

He said the city’s finances have improved since the council passed the impact fee. Voters passed a one-cent sales tax that built a much-needed wastewater treatment plant, helped pay for the animal shelter, the community center and the railroad overpass now under construction.

Layoffs last year in all city departments have kept salaries down.

He said in a later interview that the city is now requiring developers to improve existing streets where they build. The city also has successfully partnered with the county and state to make needed street improvements, so the impact fee for streets is not needed as much as it once was.

But even though the city is saving $5,000 a month to buy firefighting equipment, there is no money for another fire station that must be built in the near future, he said.

TOP STORY > >Base gets 16th C-130J

Leader staff writer

Brig. Gen. Rowayne A Schatz, Jr., commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, on Thursday flew the newest C-130J from the Lockheed Martin assembly plant in Marietta, Ga., to the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base. This C-130J is the 100th off Lockheed Martin’s production line.

The new C-130J brings the base’s count to 16 — nine are with the 41st AS, which is part of the 463rd Airlift Group, a combat group. Seven more are with the 314th Airlift Wing and used for training at the base. Eventually, there will be 23 of the $65-million planes with a total value of $1.5 billion.

As the newest unit under the 463rd Airlift Group, the 41st Airlift Squadron, the “Blackcats” moved to Little Rock Air Force Base from Pope AFB, N.C., as part of the base realignment and closure process in April 2007.

“It’s a special honor and privilege for me to deliver this amazing aircraft to the 41st Airlift Squadron, the first active-duty Air Mobility Command unit to employ the special capabilities of the C-130J into combat,” said Schatz.

“It will soon add to the Blackcats’ legend and distinguished history of providing the nation a vital combat airlift capability,” he continued.

“Taking our soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guardsmen, airmen off the roads in Iraq and Afghanistan, getting the wounded warrior to medical care, and delivering cargo when and where it is needed are just a few of the vital missions the C-130J allows combat airlifters to perform with greater efficiency than ever before,” added Schatz.

The 41st is one of the most highly decorated airlift squadrons in military history, according to Pope AFB public affairs, and the squadron called Pope AFB home for 36 years. It is the third oldest Air Force squadron, and has been involved in every major campaign since 1942. In 1999, the 41st received its first C-130J.

Depending on the needs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, members of the 41st Airlift Squadron are deployed, using the new C-130J to transport troops and cargo. Some of its members are currently deployed in Southwest Asia on its first combat mission under the 463rd Airlift Wing.

Since arriving at LRAFB, the 41st Airlift Squadron has had to stand up, prepare to deploy and receive the new C-130Js, an enormous accomplishment completed in a year.

The C-130J has significantly improved capabilities compared to its aging predecessor, the C-130E. There is greater range and payload capacity, and it can be flown with a three-man crew – two pilots and a loadmaster – that lowers operating and support costs.

The C-130J flies farther and faster, carries more and is more reliable. And, it has six blades on its composite propellers with turbo Rolls Royce engines. The technological improvements provide life-cycle cost savings with its greater, all around efficiency. This model climbs faster and higher, and lands and takes off in a shorter distance than previous models of the C-130.

The C-130J is a longer plane with an additional 15 feet added to the fuselage, increasing the available room in the cargo compartment. It has improved fuel, environmental and ice-protection systems and an enhanced cargo-handling system.

SPORTS>> Quick start fizzles for Panthers in loss to Pine Bluff

Leader sports editor

PINE BLUFF — The Cabot Panthers did all their damage in the first inning, and it wasn’t enough.

The Panthers fell 4-2 to Pine Bluff at Taylor Field on Wednesday afternoon and added to their struggles to reach the state tournament next month. The loss dropped Cabot to 2-7, still with a half-game lead over Russellville for the sixth and final postseason berth from the 7A-Central. Russellville was swept by Little Rock Catholic on Wednesday.

That makes the Cabot’s battle with Russellville on Tuesday at Wade Field all the more critical.

“I told the kids, Tuesday is huge,” said Cabot head coach Jay Fitch. “It will be like the World Series for us. There’s a lot on the line.”

Cabot earlier pummeled Russellville, 14-0, but the Cyclones nearly knocked off first-place Catholic on Wednesday.

The Panthers will also host red-hot Conway on Thursday before heading to Catholic for a doubleheader on April 28. They will finish with last-place Central a week from Tuesday.

A walk by Powell Bryant followed by doubles by Drew Burks and Ben Wainright staked Cabot to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against the Zebras. But Wainright’s hit was the last one the Panthers would collect.

Cabot starter Sam Bates was cruising along, and led 2-1 after three innings. But a sore shoulder ended his night. The Zebras (5-5) tied the game in the fifth against reliever Matt Evans. A walk and a hit batter to start the sixth, followed by a single and a sacrifice fly, put Pine Bluff up 4-2.

Fitch said his team’s other goal — aside from making the state tournament — was to maintain Cabot’s streak of not having a losing season. They are currently 10-10.

“In my nine years here, we’ve never had a losing season,” he said.

If Cabot can complete the season sweep of Russellville, it will give them the tiebreak with the Cyclones. Fitch said he is especially concerned about last-place Central, whose only win in conference this season came against his Panthers on the strength of a three-hit gem by Tiger ace Brandon Shomar.

“I tell you, you give that kid any kind of run support, they have the potential to win,” Fitch said.

SPORTS>> ’Rabbits sweep Stuttgart, claim second straight conference title

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke wrapped up its second straight 4A-2 Conference championship with a doubleheader sweep over visiting Stuttgart on Tuesday.

The Jackrabbits had plenty of hits in the opener, but had to outlast Stuttgart in 10 innings, finally landing an RBI single from Luke Mitchell in the bottom of the tenth to score Jordan Harris for a 2-1 win.

Lonoke rallied in Game 2 with an eight-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 14-7 win in a match highlighted by 24 total hits by the two teams.

The game was tied 1-1 when the Ricebirds hit a five-run flurry in the top of the fourth inning. Lonoke answered one of those scores in the bottom side, started the bottom of the fifth inning still facing a 6-2 deficit when the ’Rabbit bats started to come to life.

Drew Southerland went four innings on the mound for the Jackrabbits in the opener, but it was reliever B.J. Manning who earned the win in six innings. The pitchers combined to hold the Ricebirds to four hits, with Southerland fanning five batters and Manning seven.

A reliever also took the win in the nightcap. Jacob Taylor went 3 1/3 innings, and gave up only two runs.

The batting stats were sparse in Game 1, but Game 2 had plenty of big hitters for the Jackrabbits. Glenn Evans was 3 of 4 with two runs and two RBI. Mitchell was 3 of 5 with two runs and two RBI, and Ricky Manning was 3 of 4 with two runs and two RBI. Southerland, Jason Dillie and Justin Neyland all finished with two hits for Lonoke.

The Jackrabbits finished the regular season with a record of 12-5 overall and 9-3 in conference play. They have a first-round bye in this weekend’s 4A-2 District tournament at Newport. Lonoke will await the winner of today’s game between Mountain View and Heber Springs at noon.

SPORTS>>Miller fleet in field, free with bat

Leader sports editor

Denny Tipton encourages his batters to keep their swings as compact as possible. But there is one player the Sylvan Hills head baseball coach is willing to grant a little license to in the matter of batting strokes.

When Hunter Miller’s typically aggressive swing resulted in a towering game-ending shot over the fence in left against Searcy last Tuesday, Tipton wasn’t inclined to tell Miller to shorten it up. After all, it was Miller’s 10th round-tripper of the season.

He’s batting .397 with 32 RBI and 39 runs in just 28 games. In other words, if it isn’t broke …

“We work hard on keeping swings a little shorter,” said Tipton, whose Bears just clinched the 6A-East title with a sweep of Searcy and are 22-6 overall. “But Hunter’s always going to be naturally long. To me, he’s just a natural hitter.”

Tipton said Miller actually has made some improvements in his swing over the past three years. Used to be, Tipton said, Miller would hit towering fly balls that would be caught 10 feet short of the fence. Now, he gets on top of the ball better. The result:
Ten home runs this year to go along with eight his junior season. He hit only one as a sophomore.

Miller doesn’t particularly look like a power hitter. But Tipton said his bat speed, explosiveness and leverage help offset any brawn deficiency he may suffer from.

“I take my hacks when I get up to the plate,” Miller said. “I don’t go up there looking for walks. I’m up there swinging the bat.

That’s just how I am.”

As far as his size, that’s getting ready to change. Miller, an All-State quarterback and free safety with blazing speed, signed with Ole Miss in February to play football. He knows — and his new head coach Houston Nutt knows — 185 pounds isn’t going to cut it in the Southeastern Conference.

So Miller plans on hitting the weights as soon as baseball season ends, which Miller and Tipton hope isn’t until the May 17 championship game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Given the Bears’ deep pitching, solid hitting throughout the lineup and outstanding defense, anything less than that is probably going to be a disappointment.

The Bears, who suffered an early exit in the state tournament last year and came up short in the semifinals two seasons ago, lost a lot of talent off last year’s team. But they enjoyed an influx of talent in Abundant Life transfers D.J. Baxendale, Justin Treece and Jake Chambers.

“This is the most athletic team I’ve played on since I’ve been here,” said Miller, who saw some action as a freshman and has started all three years since then. “We can compete with anybody in the state. It would be very disappointing [if we don’t reach the championship game] because we have every player in the book we need to win it.

“So we think we should get there and win it.”

Tipton knows he’s got a loaded club, but he isn’t as willing as Miller to turn this into an all-or-nothing season. Winning the conference is always the No. 1 goal, he said. After that, it’s to win one game at a time in the state tournament.

“Is [getting to the championship game] what we expect?” Tipton asks. “Yes. I’d be lying to people if I didn’t say that. But there are some good teams out there and only two teams ever make it. If we take care of ourselves, I think we’ve got a good shot.”

They have a solid one-two punch in their starting rotation, beginning with the often-unhittable Baxendale, a junior who is leaning toward Missouri State. Miller has become a dependable No. 2 man, usually pitching the second game of conference doubleheaders. Tipton said the greatest development he’s seen in Miller over the years has been on the mound where, he explained, he has become less of a thrower and more of a pitcher.

“He’s always been gifted with a good arm, but he had some arm trouble in football,” Tipton said. “I think that made him a little nervous on the mound.

“This year, I think he really decided he wanted to work at being a pitcher. He’s turned out to be pretty good. His velocity may be off a little bit this year, but he’s more concerned with his form now.”

Miller said he relishes the opportunity to be such a key component of the Bears’ pitching rotation, insisting that it doesn’t take away from his offensive focus in the least.

“I know, if we win that first game, we want to go for the sweep,” he said. “I know I need to go out there and mow them down.”
Mostly, he has done just that, compiling a 5-2 record this season. Miller pitched some as a sophomore before hurting his arm, and was used sparingly last season.

Despite his 4.5 speed, his arm was so strong that Tipton used him behind the plate in the early part of his sophomore season. But when his arm became sore, Miller moved to the outfield, something he didn’t regret a bit.

“It bothered my knees,” Miller said of his time as a catcher. “I felt like I was getting all tight, like I couldn’t run.”

Miller can run, of course. If you’ve ever seen him tear around second base and turn a routine double into a dazzling triple, or, from his center fielder’s spot, turn an opponent’s routine double into a routine out, you know that. With all his power, all his hitting ability and, now, his newfound pitching proficiency, it is Miller’s defensive speed that Tipton may miss the most.

“That speed and natural ability, you just can’t replace that,” Tipton said. “Anytime you have an athlete who can track down base hits and make it look so easy, that’s just something a coach loves.

“We have a lot of upperclassmen, and I think we’ll be pretty good next year. But that will be hard to replace — having that natural center fielder with a great arm.”

Miller comes from a long line of Sylvan Hills athletes, including uncles who played quarterback and a brother, Hayden, who is currently playing baseball at Arkansas Tech.

Miller, who threw for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for nearly 1,400 in his senior season, will play defensive back and safety at Ole Miss. He figures he’ll likely redshirt as a freshman, though there is a possibility he could see some special teams action.

As much as Tipton thinks Miller would benefit from focusing on just one sport — something he’s never had the opportunity to do in high school — the coach also thinks Miller would make a fine college baseball player.

“Football coaches in the SEC don’t usually like to see them play another sport,” Tipton said. “I’ve tried to contact the Ole Miss [baseball] coaches to see about Hunter playing. If they ever see him play, I think they’d jump at the opportunity.”

Miller said he loves both sports equally, that it would be hard to give up either one. With Nutt’s blessing, he said, he’d like to try to continue his baseball career.

“That’s something I want to talk to him about,” Miller said. “I want to talk to the baseball coach and see what he thinks. If he thinks I could help out, and if Coach Nutt would let me, then I would do it. I’d love to have that chance.”

SPORTS>>Lady Devils stay red hot

Leader sportswriter

The games were total contrasts, but they were both wins for Jacksonville. The Lady Red Devils swept Searcy with a dominant performance in Game 1, but had to rally from a two-run deficit to take the win in the nightcap.

Jacksonville needed an extra inning, and some incredible defensive play by sophomore second baseman Jennifer Bock to take a 3-2 win in eight innings after controlling the first game 5-1 on Wednesday at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Bailee Herlacher scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning off a fielder’s choice by Taylor Norsworthy.

Herlacher started the frame out at second base as part of the universal tiebreak rule, and stole third to set up the winning play.

“This is the second or third time this year that these young ladies stepped up and came back to win or tie it,” said Lady Red

Devil coach Tanya Ganey. “They have that attitude that they refuse to lose, and when you go into the bottom of the seventh thinking you can still win, it’s a big plus.”

The victory improved Jacksonville to 9-4 overall, and, at 7-2 in league play, remained one of only three teams in the 6A-East Conference race with two losses. The Lady Devils played a crucial doubleheader at Jonesboro yesterday in a game completed after Leader deadlines.

The Lady Lions had even more chances than their two runs, but a pair of heads-up double plays by Jennifer Bock in the second and third innings disposed of a number of potential Searcy runs. Both plays started with hard grounders to Bock, who made quick stops, and got the tag on runners headed for second before tossing it over to first baseman Norsworthy to retire the batter.

Herlacher and Bock scored the first two runs of Game 1 in the top of the first inning, and Jacksonville never looked back. The Lady Lions did manage to avoid a shutout by plating Kelsey Boggan off a double from Emilee McDonald, but the Lady Red Devils added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings.

The games were originally slated for the day before, but Tuesday afternoon downpours pushed the game back a day, and forced the Lady Devils to host on the field that the Lady Falcons of North Pulaski normally use.

Searcy grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top ofthe fifth inning of Game 2 with a two-run hit by freshman Amber Rollins that scored Nila Navarro and Olivia McConnaughhay.

Jacksonville’s chance to answer one of those runs in the bottom of the fifth was foiled when the field umpire ruled that Chyna Davis led off third illegally on a sacrifice fly. Instead of a score, the Lady Devils were pinned with another out, and a strikeout ended the threat.

The Lady Red Devils finally answered in the bottom of the sixth. Searcy pitcher Rollins gave up three straight one-out singles Bailee Herlacher, Bock and Jessica Lanier to load the bases.

Norsworthy went for the bunt to drive in the first run, but Rollins got the throw to the plate in time to tag Herlacher out. That put junior Paula Burr at the plate, who doubled down the right field line to bring home two runs and tie the game.

Lanier took the win in both games, but with significantly different numbers for each game. She struck out 10 while allowing only two hits and one unearned run in the first game, but fanned only four while giving up as many hits in the finale.

Rollins took the loss at the mound for Searcy, but the youngster showed good strength early. She allowed only two hits through five innings while striking out seven. Jacksonville racked up five hits in the final two frames of regulation.

Lanier went 2 of 3 in Game 2, and Herlacher finished 2 of 4. Burr was 1 of 3 with a double and two RBI.

“Jennifer [Bock] is doing an awesome job at second base, and she is also hitting well,” Ganey said. We have several players who have really stepped up — Paula Burr, Jessica Lanier and Chyna Davis are just a few of them. It seems like a different person steps up at different times when we need it.”

For Searcy, Rollins was 1 of 3 with two RBI.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >Stepson is held in fatal shooting

A man was arrested for the shooting death of his stepfather in Ward on Tuesday night. At 5 p.m., a caller from Cedar Hills Housing told the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department that he shot his stepfather. Ward police have not released the suspect’s or victim’s names.

The victim was airlifted to UAMS, where he died. The suspect was taken into custody without altercation. He is being held at the Lonoke County Jail awaiting a court appearance.

“Names are being withheld pending notification of family members,” Lieutenant James Staley of the Ward Police Department said Tuesday night.

TOP STORY > >Cabot teachers get higher starting pay

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board on Friday unanimously approved giving Cabot teachers a $150 raise, bringing the district’s starting pay for new teachers with only a bachelor’s degree to $35,550.

In addition, certified staff not topped out on the salary schedule received step increases; the classified staff, including custodians, food services staff, interpreters, maintenance staff, nurses, clerical and office staff, paraprofessionals and technology staff, also received a pay increase of 10 cents an hour.

This is the second pay increase the certified and classified staff received this school
year; the first raise was around Christmas.

According to Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman, the money for the raises came from the state.

“Our district depends on the state to supplement our foundation funding based on the amount of revenue our local tax base generates,” he said.

“The state requires that a certain percentage of this money be equally distributed to certified staff members,” he added.

The amount varies from district to district depending on how much the state assists the district with foundation funding, Thurman said; the concept is referred to as ‘trust fund’ money.

“The state doesn’t provide any additional funding for this increase above what any other district is provided, but since the state must supplement the district, the state mandates that a certain amount be provided in the form of teacher raises,” he said.

Cabot’s trust fund allocation for certified staff this year was $642, $500 was provided at Christmas and another $150 on Friday, the superintendent said.

“Due to the financial state of the district and the challenge of nondeficit spending for another year, the district is only able to provide the amount required by the state. We would like to be able to do more for teacher salaries but our focus at this point is on the long-term fiscal stability of the district,” Thurman said.

Board members were reminded that district administrators, which includes school principals and program directors, have not received a step increase this year due to the financial concerns of the district.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville man is taken in for killing

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville police responded to a shooting at a Sunnyside residence early Monday morning and found a shooting victim. Daud Amir Jones immediately told police he shot his girlfriend in the head. Melony Graham, 25, was pronounced dead soon after police arrived. She lived with Jones at 180 Pike Ave.

Jones, 31, was arrested at 12:57 a.m. and charged with first-degree murder. He was not given bond. Jones was a manager at Taco Bell in Cabot.

According to the police, officers who arrived at the couple’s home on Pike Avenue found Jones lying on the floor in a hallway holding Graham, who was bleeding from her head.

When an officer asked Jones who was responsible for the shooting, he reportedly said, “I did it.”

Jones told police who arrived at the scene that the gun he killed Graham with was on the top shelf in a closet.

Officers located a Cobra .38 caliber semi-automatic handgun. He was then arrested and taken to the Jacksonville Police Department. Graham was pronounced dead.

Capt. Charles Jenkins of the Jacksonville Police Department said Monday that Jones did have a prior record, but he was unable to release specific information.

Capt. Jenkins said police were not sure how long Jones lived in Jack-sonville, but he did tell officers that he lived in the city about a year.

The police have not established a motive for the killing, but police have confirmed that Jones was involved in a relationship with Graham.

Jones was arraigned Monday in Jacksonville Municipal Court. The case was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court. No circuit court date has been set.

TOP STORY > >Excellent inspection for base

Leader staff writer

Months of preparation and practice exercises paid off for Little Rock Air Force Base as both the 314th Airlift Wing and the 463rd Airlift Group earned excellent ratings in their recent Operational Readiness Inspections (ORIs).

The ORI checked the Air Mobility Command’s and the Air Education and Training Command’s level of mission readiness and response.

The inspection team presented various scenarios which tested initial response, deployment, mission support and ability to survive and operate.

Col. Mark Vlahos, the 314th AW vice-commander, said the excellence rating pointed out the excellence done day in and day out at the Rock.

Chief MSgt Brooke McLean, 314th AW command chief, said he was “incredibly proud of the 314th team.”

“A lot of hard work and it paid off. It just represents what we do each and every day, though. I don’t think anybody was surprised by this — it’s what we do, combat airlift,” McLean said.

The 463rd was rated “Excellent” in scenarios which tested their initial response, employment and mission support. The group was rated “satisfactory” in the ability to survive and operate. When Col. Jeff Hoffer, the 463rd AG commander, learned of his unit’s score, he said he was excited and tremendously proud of all the 463rd Airlift Group and the 314th Airlift Wing.

“After the ROCKEX in March, I felt that we were at the top of our game,” Hoffer said, adding, the airmen were ready to tackle the challenges head on.

“Everybody has given 110 percent all the way through to the final challenge. All of this would not have been possible without our Airmen,” he said.

During the ORI outbriefings, the Inspector General (IG) team recognized exceptional team and individual performers from both the 314th AW and the 463rd AG.

Five individuals were recognized from the wing as superior performers and received the IG’s coin.

They include civilian Richard Myers, 314th Airlift Wing Safety; Airman Daniel Lemons, 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Max Shelton, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; Master Sgt. Robert Ray, 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron; and Major Matthew Wehner, 48th Airlift Squadron.

The 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Flight was the only flight to receive an outstanding rating, the highest rating possible.

Five individuals from the 463rd AG were also recognized and received the IG’s coin.

They include Capt. Kenny Bierman, 61st Airlift Squadron; Capt. Nick D. Callaway, 50th AS; First Lt. Matthew Mansell, 50th AS; Senior Airman Brian Edwards, 463rd AG Plans and Programs; and civilian Gregory G. Call, 463rd AG Plans and Programs.

Two teams also were singled out for recognition: Aircrew Flight Equipment Generation Team, 463rd Oper-ations Support Group; and the Flight-line Post-Attack Recon-naissance Sweep Team, 463rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

TOP STORY > >Fact sheet issued for proposed jail

Leader senior staff writer

Characterizing the existing Lonoke County Jail as unsafe, overcrowded and inefficient, the Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture has created a two-page fact sheet to help residents decide whether to vote May 20 for or against a one-year, penny sales tax to pay for a new jail.

“The center tries to produce neutral papers to educate (residents) and let the voters decide,” according to Jeff Welch, Lonoke County’s chief agricultural agent.

Welch said the paper will be made available to the press, County Judge Charlie Troutman, Sheriff Jim Roberson and mayors and aldermen throughout the county.

There seems to be little or no doubt that a new jail would be a good idea. The main point of contention is whether to pay for it with a one-year sales tax, which could be considered regressive and paid for disproportionately, or by raising property taxes, which is considered unfair to property owners.

But after debate earlier this year, and the failure of the property tax increase to win support of the quorum court, the 10 members present voted on March 17 to put the one-year sales tax increase before the voters.

The county has wrestled unsuccessfully for several years with methods to update or expand the new jail or build a new one and with ways to pay for it.

The new jail would have 140 beds and should be sufficient for the county’s needs beyond 2030, according to the Public Policy Center paper, citing projections from the UALR Census Data Center.

It would cost about $5 million to $5.5 million, with the money raised by a dedicated sales tax.

If voters approve the tax, borrowed inmate labor from the state Correction Department will help build the new jail.

“Give me a penny tax for a year and I’ll build you a jail,” Troutman said.

The existing jail was built in 1972 and remodeled in 1992. It was designed for 40 inmates. With additions, its current capacity is 72 beds and frequently holds more than 90 inmates with a high of 98.

The Public Policy Center found the current jail lacking or inadequate in the following areas: No central control format, with doors facing every direction; no sally port, an enclosed area for loading prisoners in and out of the jail; electrical and plumbing are in poor operating condition according to Sheriff Jim Roberson; the lock system is outdated; the jail is unsanitary and unsafe for prisoners and employees; the camera monitoring system is “considered poor;” cells for women, designed for seven, sometimes hold 15, and overcrowded, unsafe conditions have resulted in multi-million dollar lawsuits.

County officials say it would cost $30 a day per prisoner, in addition to transportation costs, wear and tear and time spent transporting prisoners to and from court, making lockup elsewhere expensive and inefficient.

If approved, sales tax collections would begin Oct. 1 and end Sept. 30, 2009.

Residents would pay about 95 percent of the tax on goods and services, with the other approximately $275,000 coming from tourists and visitors.

Assuming that the average Lonoke County household, including those in the cities, makes about 85 percent of its purchases within the county, it is estimated that the amount of additional tax paid in that one year would range from about $65 for households earning between $5,000 and $12,499 to $286 for those earning more than $93,750 a year.

If the tax fails, it will still be Lonoke County’s responsibility to house and protect inmates, but it could cost an additional $107,277 a year on top of the 2007 jail budget of $680,723.

According to the center, “Opponents say a sales tax may not be the best funding option for a new jail because it places a heavier burden on low-income families.

“Opponents say increasing the sales tax rate in Lonoke County may result in both economic and revenue loss to the county.

“Opponents say the increased sales tax rate may cause Lonoke County residents to shop more in surrounding counties.”

EDITORIAL >>The court roars again

Nine years is a long time to leave lawlessness unrestrained, but when the river of justice begins to flow, it leaves no flotsam.

The Arkansas Supreme Court last week delivered its third decision in three months holding payday lenders responsible for their illegal activities. It was severe.

The court upheld a $1.4 million fine against the owner of 14 payday lending outlets in Arkansas. Dennis Bailey had run the cash stores, including stores at Cabot and Beebe, without even obtaining a license from the state Board of Collection Agencies, which is supposed to regulate the lenders and, in this case, actually did.

Previously, in January and March, the court had held in separate cases that two cash-advance companies had violated the state Constitution’s prohibition against usury even though they were in substantial compliance with the statute enacted by the legislature in 1999 that authorized payday lenders. The court still has not struck down the statute, but it is almost certain to do so later this year when the court hears an appeal of a trial- court decision that raises the question directly.

The Board of Collection Agencies had generally smiled upon the labors of the payday lenders, who charge interest rates of more than 300 percent (the Constitution says 17 percent is the most that can be charged), but it ordered Bailey to close all his businesses in 2005 because he did not have a state license. His business had a license from the state of Missouri and he claimed that the transactions were with the Missouri operation. He continued to make loans, so the board finally fined him $1.3 million plus costs. Bailey asked the Supreme Court to kick the case back to the agency because its punishment was based on hearsay, not sworn testimony at his hearing.

Hearsay is fine in administrative hearings and the lender did not raise the issue with the board anyway, the Supreme Court said. Close up and pay, it ordered.

When the Supreme Court is finally done with this travesty, the legislature should do some sober reflection. Lawmakers need to answer this question: When the Constitution is crystal clear about what the limits of lending are and when the state’s highest court rules repeatedly for half a century that it means exactly what it says, how can an overwhelming majority of the legislature and a governor (Mike Huckabee) enact a statute that says almost the mirror opposite? Tens of thousands of illegal exactions later we do not know the answer.

TOP STORY > >Cabot ends fees it put on builders of houses

Leader senior staff writer

Cabot’s impact fee on new construction, which last year brought in $208,000, has been repealed.

The city council Monday night voted 7-1 to do away with the 2006 ordinance imposing the fee on new houses and commercial buildings, which cost builders $1,272 on a 3,000-4,000-square-foot house.

If the fee had been extended, it would have nearly doubled this month.

A committee charged with determining whether the impact fee had contributed to the decline in construction in Cabot had recommended that the fee double this month as scheduled and remain at that level for 24 months, possibly until another source of income for the city was in place.

Alderman Teri Miessner, who chaired the committee, provided the lone vote against repealing the fee.

“Apparently we wasted our time meeting because apparently the intent of the council was to remove it anyway,” Miessner said.

City Attorney Jim Taylor had prepared an ordinance to freeze the impact fee at the second scheduled level as recommended by the committee, but that ordinance was not introduced. Instead, Alderman Tom Armstrong, who voted against the fee in 2006, made the motion to repeal it. That motion was seconded by Alderman Becky Lemaster, who had called the impact fee an unfair tax on the city’s struggling building industry.

Taylor had also drafted the ordinance repealing the impact fee.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said there was nothing in the new ordinance that would prevent the council from imposing the fee at a later date if necessary. During the year the fee was in place, the city had collected $75,000 toward the new fire station that is needed to hold down the cost of residential and commercial insurance premiums.

Williams said the city’s finances have improved since the council passed the impact fee. Voters passed a one-cent sales tax that built a much-needed wastewater treatment plant, helped pay for the animal shelter, the community center and the railroad overpass now under construction.

Layoffs last year in all city departments have kept salaries down, but the city has no revenue source at this time that will pay the $1.5 million needed to build a fire station or the $1 million needed to equip it, the mayor said.

Several builders and developers attended the council meeting. Bill O’Brien, a realtor and developer who served on Miessner’s impact fee committee spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying the closing of one lumber yard (84 Lumber) in the city and the layoff of workers at another (Ridout) are evidence that the building industry is struggling.

“Thank you for relieving the burden,” he said.

Information available at Cabot Public Works shows that residential construction is down, but it started going down before the impact fee went into effect in November 2006.

Two years earlier, 2004, was the boom year for home construction in Cabot. Building permits for 500 houses were issued that year, compared to 288 in 2002, 374 in 2003, 419 in 2005, 400 in 2006 and 183 in 2007, which was after the impact fee was passed.

However, of the 400 permits issued in 2006, 122 were in November, just before collection of the impact fee was started, for houses that would be built in 2007.

Although residential construction has slowed, commercial, which increases the city’s tax base, is on the rise. Nine commercial permits were issued in 2002, 25 in 2003, 20 in 2004 (the boom year for residential), 60 in 2005, 58 in 2006 and 67 in 2007.

In other business, the council passed an ordinance 7-1 banning the sale of novelty lighters.

Lieutenant Mark Shoemaker, from the North Little Rock Fire Department, spoke for the ban. Two states, Maine and Tennessee, have banned the lighters and he is working on a state-wide ban in Arkansas.

The reporting system for fires has only recently been updated to include novelty lighters, so hard data is not available.

However, it is known that two boys died last year in Russellville after starting a fire with a novelty lighter shaped like a motorcycle.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Shoemaker said, showing the council a croaking frog with a flame coming from its head. “They look like toys.”

Lemaster argued that government shouldn’t regulate what citizens can or cannot do.

“Commerce will take care of it,” Lemaster said. “If they are a bad idea, people will quit buying them.” Alderman Ken Williams countered that crack cocaine is a bad idea but people still buy it.

Alderman Eddie Cook said he also is opposed to “over-governmenting” but he voted with the majority to ban the lighters.

The council also passed an ordinance allowing RVs and motor homes in R-1 zones as temporary housing for tornado victims.

The ordinance expires in six months. Anyone still living in temporary quarters after the ordinance expires will face misdemeanor charges and fines of $100 a day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SPORTS>>Red Devils pick up pair of key wins

Special to the Leader

FORREST CITY — Jacksonville picked up a pair of critical conference wins on Monday afternoon at Forrest City.

The Red Devils won the opener 3-1 in 10 innings, and edged the Mustangs 7-6 in the nightcap.

The sweep propelled the Red Devils to 11-11 overall and 4-4 in the 6A-East.

“We’ve been competing all year and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows. “We’ve gotten better over the last month. We haven’t always played well, but we’ve fought hard every game.”

Forrest City took a 1-0 lead in the first game in the bottom of the second inning when Leslie Parker scored from third when Jacksonville catcher Patrick Castleberry made the throw to second base with Chance Pearson stealing. Parker trotted home for the 1-0 lead.

Jacksonville knotted the game at 1-1 in the top of the third when Terrell Brown scored from second base on a passed ball and a throwing error after belting a two-out double to center field.

It stayed at 1-1 until the top of the 10th when Jacksonville’s Cameron Hood hit a long fly ball to centerfield, which was misplayed and rolled all the way to the fence. Jason Regnas, who had walked, scored, as did Hood, who never slowed down after the Forrest City error.

Regnas, on the mound in relief of starter Seth Tomboli, sat down the Mustang side in the bottom of the 10th for the 3-1 win.
Forrest City starting pitcher Justin Cochran worked the first eight innings before giving way to Joey Bonds.

Cochran gave up one run on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Bonds allowed one hit and one walk with three strikeouts.

All three Jacksonville runs were unearned.

Tomboli, coming off a big win over Searcy last week, went eight innings giving up the one run on nine hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

Regnas issued one walk in his two innings but did not allow a run or a base hit.

Brown led the Red Devils from the plate, going 2-for-5.

In the nightcap, Forrest City scored four runs in the top of the first inning to open a quick 4-0 lead over the Red Devils.

The Mustangs sent 10 batters to the plate and used five hits and one walk to do the early damage.

Jacksonville answered in the bottom of the first inning with one run to cut the Mustang lead to 4-1.

Regnas worked his way on base using a Forrest City error and scored on Hood’s RBI double.

Forrest City made it a 5-1 game in the top of the second when Barrett Beshears tripled and scored on Findley Scott Laws’ RBI single.

The Red Devils used single runs from Brown and Regnas in the bottom of the third to cut the Mustang lead to 5-3. Brown walked and scored on an RBI double, while Regnas scored on Caleb Mitchell’s ground out.

Jacksonville tied the game in the bottom of the fifth as Regnas scored his third run of the game, leading off with a single and scoring. Castleberry singled and scored on Mitchell’s RBI single.

Mitchell’s hit prompted a Forrest City pitching change as starter Barrett Astin left in favor of Laws, with one on and one out.
Laws worked out of the inning without further damage.

The Mustangs regained the lead at 6-5 in the top of the seventh inning when Ray Patillo doubled and scored on Pearson’s RBI triple.

Pearson was left standing at third base as the final two outs were made.

Jacksonville won the game in the bottom of the seventh when Castleberry and Mitchell both singled to lead off the inning.

Castleberry scored on Jeffrey Tillman’s base hit and a Forrest City error while Mitchell came around to score the game-winning run on Tyler Wisdom’s base hit to end the game.

Regnas went four innings and gave up five runs on eight Forrest City hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Mike Harmon worked the final three innings giving up one run on five hits with four strikeouts.

Astin lasted 4-1/3 innings giving up five runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts before giving way to Laws who gave up two runs on four hits and had four strikeouts.

Beshears scored twice to lead the Mustangs while Cory Deere, William Burks, Mark Machen and Patillo all added single runs.
Regnas led Jacksonville with three runs while Castleberry scored twice.

“Each week, we’ve talked about getting a little better than the week before, and I think it is starting to show,” Burrows said.

“That was two big wins that I think we earned. We played well in all but two innings out of 17.”

SPORTS>>Bryant grand slam dooms Lady Panthers

Leader sportswriter

Pitchers normally love an 0-2 count against a batter, but the goose-deuce spelled disaster for Cabot junior hurler Cherie Barfield on Monday night at Conrade Sports Complex.

Bryant belted three of its biggest hits — including a grand-slam home run by Moesha McDaniel in the top of the fourth inning — on 0-2 offerings from Barfield on the way to a 6-1 win to stay atop the 7A-Central Conference standings. The Lady Hornets also took the win in the nightcap 7-1 to improve to 6-2 in the league.

McDaniel’s blast over the left field wall broke a scoreless game in the fourth. A double by Christen Kirshner in between walks from Barfield loaded the bases for the Lady Hornets with only one out, but Barfield got a strike out.

Barfield then served up two perfect strikes to McDaniel, and was seemingly on the way to working herself out of the tight spot when the Bryant PH knocked it over the fence.

Bryant added another pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning, highlighted by a triple RBI from Paige Turpin on another 0-2 pitch from Barfield. The Lady Hornets also hit a double off a 0-2 pitch one inning later, but a double play by Lady Panthers Kristi Flesher and Brooke Taylor off a pop-up prevented another score.

Pop-ups were problematic for the Lady Panthers. Eleven of their outs came via that route. The Lady Panthers failed to cash in an opportunity at taking the initial lead in the bottom of the third inning when they missed a tag-up opportunity at third base.

Flesher hit a deep fly to left, but the courtesy runner did not get in position to make the tag in time, and was left stranded one batter later when Conrade popped up to first.

The Lady Panthers avoided the shut out when a bases-loaded walk scored K.P. Danielson for the only Cabot score. Tara Boyd was the first to reach when her pop up to first was missed.

Danielson then came in as a courtesy runner, and advanced on a single to left field by Central Baptist signee Ashton Seidl. Another Bryant error loaded the bases before Barfield drew the walk.

The Lady Panthers are now 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the 7A-Central Conference. The Lady Panthers will visit Pine Bluff on Thursday.

SPORTS>>AD to suffer barbs for good cause

Special to the Leader

Cabot athletic director Johnny White is taking a step outside his comfort zone and allowing himself to be insulted for a good cause Thursday night. He will be the guest of honor for the annual Cabot Scholarship Foundation Roast.

“I’m really uncomfortable in that kind of thing,” White said. “I’d rather just go to work and do my job. It’s for a good cause though so I guess I’ll let some people make fun of me a little bit and hopefully it’ll be fun.”

Among White’s roasters will be Joey Walters, Randy Beaver and Flynn Reavely.
This is the 16th year for the fund, and this is the biggest year in its history. A total of 35 scholarships will be awarded totaling $35,000.

This is the largest number of scholarships we have ever given,” Carolyn Park, who helped get the program started in 1992, said. “I am so pleased. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we have as many as we do. I never thought we’d be giving away 35 scholarships.”

The community has stepped forward and supported the program. The fund currently gets most of its money from individual donations. The annual roast is the only fundraiser for the scholarship fund.

“Many of the donations are memorials for people who have passed,” Park said. “Some are in honor of people who are still living. We have some clubs and organizations and some businesses that have made contributions as well, but most of our contributions come from individuals.”

This year the foundation board itself is funding one scholarship in honor of Don Elliot, who recently moved. He, along with Park and Cal Aldridge, was one of the original board members.

The program gave away one scholarship for 10k in its first year, compared to 35 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each this year. Fundraising officials said they often find that a student has to drop out of school because of $1,000, but would also like to increase the amount of their scholarships.

Park said that lower interest rates have hurt endowments and that fundraising will help to offset those losses.

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills sweeps Lions

Leader sports editor

The first game began as a close one and turned into a rout. The second one began as a rout, turned into a close one and finished with a flourish.

Both were Sylvan Hills wins. The Bears improved to 11-1 in the 6A-East and 22-6 overall with a dramatic seventh-inning rally to beat Searcy 12-9 in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Monday at Dupree Park. In the first game, it was all Sylvan Hills from the second inning on in a 12-0, five-inning affair.

“We go as our bats go,” said Sylvan Hills head coach Denny Tipton. “Our pitching and our defense has been pretty good all year. We either get two hits or 10 hits. That’s kind of the way it’s gone all year.”

Sylvan Hills, which solidified its spot atop the conference standings, figured to be in for a battle with perennial power Searcy. But it looked like smooth sailing after the Bears cruised in the opener and opened up a 6-0 lead in the top of the third in the nightcap.

But some uncharacteristic fielding woes allowed the Lions to rally for three in the third, and Mac Ellis’ grand slam in the fifth put Searcy on top 8-6. The Lions added a run in the sixth to push the lead to three.

Hunter Miller led off the Sylvan Hills seventh with a base hit and D.J. Baxendale, the Game 1 winner, belted a home run to narrow the lead to one. Jake Chambers singled and pinch runner Michael Maddox stole second to put the tying run in scoring position with two outs.

Jordan Spears delivered him with a two-out, two-strike, game-tying single. Blake Evans followed with an infield hit, and Clinton Thornton gave the Bears the lead with a two-run triple off the fence in right-center. A wild pitch made it 12-9.

Baxendale came in to set down the Lions in order in the seventh, picking up the save. Chris Dalton, who got the final out of the sixth inning in relief, picked up the win.

Baxendale tossed a three-hitter in the opener, and while he wasn’t overpowering — at least by the standards he’s set this season — he was plenty good enough. He allowed three hits over the first two innings, then pitched hitless ball over the final three. He struck out four and walked two.

“I didn’t think D.J. threw as well as he’s been throwing,” Tipton said. “But he’s come off a couple of 100-pitch outings and we were hoping to get out of here with 75. We’d have probably pulled him if he’d reached that. [Baxendale threw only 66 pitches]. We know it’s a long year.”

His counterpart, Searcy hurler Anthony Dillon, set down the Bears in order in the first before Baxendale’s single, Chambers’ double and Justin Treece’s single in the second put Sylvan Hills up 2-0. The Bears missed an opportunity to blow it open in the third when they left the bases loaded.

Ellis drew a walk with one out in the Searcy fourth and the game still very much up for grabs. But third baseman Nathan Ellers turned a slow hopper by Tate Ruddell into a sparkling double play. Thornton’s quick turn at second and throw to first completed the 5-4-3 twin killing.

“Knock on wood, but except for the Forrest City game when we made four errors in one inning, we’ve really kept our errors down,” Tipton said. “We’re probably averaging less than one a game. And Nathan has played great for us all year.”

But they began to get to Dillon in the fourth, when they scored three more runs. Treece doubled leading off, and Spears singled. Evans sent a sharp single to right to score Treece, then came across on Mark Turpin’s double off the top of the fence in left. Miller’s bloop single over the second baseman scored Turpin to make it 5-0.

Evans delivered a two-run single in the fifth, when Sylvan Hills put the game away. Thornton drove in another with a long sacrifice fly to right, and Miller ended it with his 10th home run of the season — a towering three-run blast to left.

Miller had four RBI in the contest to go along with three for Evans and two for Treece. Sylvan Hills had 13 hits — two each by Miller, Chambers, Treece and Evans.

The Bears were coming off a 3-1 loss to top-ranked Fayetteville on Friday, a game in which they hit the ball hard but with little luck.

“It was nice to have a few fall for us today,” Tipton said. “Searcy is always a good club.”

The Bears finish up 6A-East play with a doubleheader with Jacksonville next Tuesday.