Friday, April 06, 2012

TOP STORY >> Nelson pushes gas tax in Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Sheffield Nelson, the driving force behind an initiative to raise the state’s severance tax on natural gas from 5 to 7 percent, told Sherwood residents that Arkansans deserve to recover more than $455 million in damage to roads.

He was the speaker at the city’s chamber of commerce luncheon on Thursday.

Nelson, a former natural gas company executive and candidate for governor, said the hike would not discourage the development of oil and gas fields or affect employment prospects.

“We will not lose jobs. Jobs aren’t leaving natural gas. These companies are here to stay. They’ll find no better prospects than here in central and northwest Arkansas. They’re making money hand over fist,” he said, adding that the average drilling time is eight days, compared to as many as 150 days in other areas.

Of the current tax, Nelson said, “(What is being generated now) will barely cover your interest on $455 million to get started on roads.”

The 5 percent tax is designed to generate about $100 million a year.

Nelson said after the luncheon that thousands of signatures have been gathered to put the measure on the November 2012 ballot as an initiated state statute.

July 6 is the deadline for about 62,000 signatures he needs and Nelson didn’t seem worried.

He said if that goal is not reached, supporters are allowed one more month, but they wouldn’t need it.

Nelson said the plan would mandate that 70 percent of revenue from the severance tax go to the state Highway and Transportation Department, while the remaining revenue would be divided among cities and counties. The proposal would also create a $20 million fund to go toward repairing city streets.

He also warned that a lot of misinformation is being circulated.

“Look at who is saying what and remember I have absolutely no reason to lie. I understand this business. I have no reason to distort. I do want to help the state of Arkansas to get this problem addressed,” Nelson told the chamber luncheon.

That $455 million in damages to roads is a figure from 2010, he said.

“The number has been going up since then. (Gas companies, the state chamber of commerce and others are) trying to make it complex and convoluted. The real issue is we’ve got damages taking place. Do we make the companies that are making billions of dollars, that’s with a B, pay fair severance tax, similar to other states? Or do you let them pay a penance and leave? They will leave the state when they drill this gas out. When they leave, who do you think pays for it? These damages are being done and they will continue. If we stick tight to where we are today, it will be the good old taxpayers footing the bill. What we make (the gas companies) pay is what they’re going to pay. (Other states) are making at least three times what we are,” Nelson said.

Arkansas gets most of its natural gas from Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma and pays their severance tax rates of 7 percent or higher.

He said, “The funny thing about this natural-gas severance tax this is that some of the people, particularly the state chamber, are trying to act like this is a new thing. There is nothing further from the truth.”

Nelson explained that he was involved in changing the severance tax from three-tenths of a cent in 2008 to the 5 percent Arkansas has now.

“To go from three-tenths of a cent to a percentage, to any percentage, was a big jump because it set up our future for doing something like what we’re trying to do today. I can assure you that this is going to be a difficult task, but I think it’s going to be one that can be done,” Nelson said.

He also criticized a poll by Talk Business and Hendrix College showing that 55 percent opposed the measure. The poll claimed that 28 percent supported it and 17 percent said they didn’t know.

“You can get any answer you want by asking the right question. If the 7 percent severance tax proposed by Sheffield Nelson would cost jobs in the shale area, would you be in favor of it? Of course you’re not going to be in favor of it,” Nelson said.

But he praised the Arkansas Municipal League for supporting the proposal.

EDITORIAL >> North Belt dead ends

Lack of leadership and money, along with a judge’s ruling in favor of a local developer, apparently has killed the second leg of the North Belt Loop, which would have extended west from the bean fields at Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville to Crystal Hill at I-40 in North Little Rock.

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled recently that Sherwood must approve the plat for Deer Properties, which is planning to build a subdivision in the path of the North Belt.

For months, we’ve been reporting on the standoff between Sherwood and the developer, who had threatened to go to court if he didn’t get his way from the city council. Now he’s been vindicated and the North Belt, after a half-century of planning, appears doomed.

Metroplan could still buy out the developer, but the price, like the cost of the freeway, could be prohibitive. The cost of the 12.7-mile route has more than quintupled in the last decade, going from $120 million to more than $700 million, which is ridiculous.

Some of us remember the state Highway Department telling area residents when Bill Clinton was governor that a five-cent gasoline tax would fund completion of the highway. But funds were diverted for other projects, including $200 million or so for I-540 in northwest Arkansas, leaving nothing for the second leg of the North Belt.

Right now the route is just a 200-foot wide line on a map. The entire segment of the route would require conversion of 707 acres of right of way, including the proposed subdivision, according to the environmental statement.

This is how the route could have gone if state officials had kept their promise: From the western end of the proposed project at Interstate 40, the preferred alternative goes to the northeast through the Crystal Hill community to an interchange at Hwy. 365.

From there, it continues to the northeast into Camp Robinson, passing to the southeast of the Camp Robinson Army Airfield.

Briefly turning to the southeast then east, the route passes to the north of Engineers Lake before turning to the northeast again to cross Batesville Pike just to the north of Maryland Avenue and the North Little Rock Municipal Airport.

Part of the preferred alternative includes relocating a portion of Batesville Pike outside Camp Robinson.

From the Batesville Pike interchange, the preferred alternative continues northeast, to the west of Wayside Drive and crosses Kellogg Acres Road just to the north of the intersection with Oakdale Road. It continues east just north of Oakdale Road and then southeast with an interchange proposed at Hwy. 107.

The highway would have turned to the northeast when crossing Fears Lake and back to the southeast, crossing Oneida Street before connecting with the Hwy. 67 interchange.

Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? It looks like it will never happen. Thank the state Highway Department, Metroplan and local officials for the debacle.

TOP STORY >> Judge puts nail in coffin for North Belt

Leader senior staff writer

Enthusiasm for the North Belt Freeway has repeatedly rallied and failed over the 64 years since it first appeared on the Pulaski County master plan.

But now — half-built and on life support after a judge ruled a subdivision can go on the route — the Metroplan board of directors is reaching for the plug and members of the family are angling for a share of the spoils.

Forecast to cost $50 million in 1991, the project has been kicked down the road until it’s now estimated to cost $701 million if built in the 2020-2030 time frame. A lot of competing interests could find other uses for that money, and in Sherwood a lot of prime development land is out of play.

The short-term question is whether or not to fund purchase of more right of way for the North Belt to protect the corridor from development. Failure to do so now is conceded to signal the end the North Belt’s prospects and the once-popular project seems to be short of defenders.

The highway commission has signaled that it’s ready to move on without the North Belt.

Calling it “a pretty expensive roadway,” Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie told the board Wednesday, “Life is about choices. Unless the right of way is purchased in the foreseeable future, it won’t get built. The Highway Department isn’t going to add to the cost by condemning $400,000 houses.”

Many in Sherwood would like to see the North Belt go away, allowing for greater and more immediate development.

There was no shortage of suggested road projects in lieu of the North Belt, and Metroplan staff was directed to preliminarily investigate those and report to the board.


North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hayes said he’d rather see a four-lane connection from I-40/I-430 — which would have been the end of the North Belt — to Hwy. 365.

Others would add a four-lane highway to Hwy. 107 from the current end of Hwy. 440 at Hwy. 67/167.

Widening and further development of Hwy. 89 or Hwy. 64 further north were suggested as contributing to east-west traffic movement. Both of those are on the Regional Arterial Network with plans for improvement.

“We’d like to see it, but we all have priorities,” said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.


“Our greater need is the Vandenberg interchange. I’ve got people sitting six or seven lights (to get through the intersection),” Fletcher said. “We could add an interchange at Cofelt Road. If I have to choose (between the North Belt and Vandenberg), Vandenberg is the more immediate need.”

“It’s not that it’s not needed or not ever going to be needed, but with the widening of I-40, and work on Hwy. 67/167, it takes away some of that need,” said Highway Department director Scott Bennett.

There is great pressure from developers and landowners in Sherwood north of Hwy. 107, and one recently got a preliminary favorable ruling from Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza that requires the Sherwood Planning Commission to accept a several-hundred unit plat for a developer.

Steve Deere, through his Sherwood Land Company and Deere LLC, is planning a development comprising 573 single- family homes, 156 town homes and 312 apartments.


The North Belt project is on the Metroplan unconstrained wish list for 2020-2030 at a projected cost of about $700 million, but only about $20 million has actually made the financially constrained list for between now and 2019. In 1991, the project would have cost only about $50 million, McKenzie said.

Sherwood is a growing bedroom community largely bounded by North Little Rock, Camp Robinson and the limited access Hwy. 67/167. The North Belt not only would cut through prime remaining underdeveloped land, but it would cut that land off from “old” Sherwood.

“It’s going to divide our city,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman. “If we’re going to build it, build it. We’re getting either development or the North Belt. If there’s no commitment to buy the right-of-way, there’s no commitment to the North Belt.”

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines said it isn’t fair to deny Sherwood the development for another 30 years.

The first half of the freeway — known as Hwy. 440 and completed in 2003 at a cost of $63 million — runs from I-40 east of Little Rock to Hwy. 67/167 between Sherwood and Jacksonville.

Villines also said it was time to think about moving people, not moving cars.


“I’m having heartburn,” said Metroplan deputy director Richard Magee. He said most highway projects in that end of the country had been designed assuming eventual construction of the North Belt—most obviously its first half. He said changes to Brockington Road would probably have been much more ambitious, as well as the Brookswood flyover.

“When we change the assumptions, it changes everything on land use, transportation and employment planning,” said Magee.

“Its going to require a lot more than you guys are thinking. It puts a lot of current projects in jeopardy,” he warned.


The real value of completion of the North Belt is not for an outer belt around Little Rock and North Little Rock for through traffic, but for east-west movement in Pulaski County. Board members—mostly county judges and mayors in central Arkansas—were told that the original intent of the North Belt was to help residents of Cabot, Sherwood and Jacksonville get to work in west Little Rock, particularly in the hospital and medical corridor along I-630.

Improvements, recent and planned, to Hwy. 67/167, I-40 and I-630 have reduced that need, according to Metroplan transportation planner Casey Covington.

Hwy. 67/167 in the past few years has been widened to three lanes both directions between I-40 north past Hwy. 440 to Redmond Road in Jacksonville.

With widening of Hwy. 67 and I-40, there’s not a lot of time savings by going with the North Belt, Covington said. But 20 or 30 years in future, “you’re going to be adding more traffic, congestion and it will be needed,” he said.

Bids to replace and widen the Hwy. 67/167 overpasses at Redmond Road and Main Street in Jacksonville will be let in 2013 at an estimated cost of $17.2 million. But another $15 million worth of widening to that corridor from Jacksonville toward Cabot is part of a High-way Department proposal currently before the Metroplan board.

TOP STORY >>‘Pot-pourri’ bust stops big profits for 3 stores

Leader staff writers

Multi-million dollar businesses openly selling what law enforcement and the county prosecutor call illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia were shut down in northern Lonoke County on Wednesday morning when state and local law-enforcement officers raided tobacco shops in Ward, Austin and Cabot.

The merchandise that was seized in the raids included more than 15,000 packets of synthetic marijuana and about 3,000 pieces of drug paraphernalia.

Blown glass pipes and synthetic marijuana packaged as “pot-pourri” were among the seized inventory. The products were openly displayed and sold to anyone with $20 to $50 to pay for them, though the synthetic marijuana was marked “not for human consumption.”

So far, three business owners have been arrested on felony charges and more arrests are expected in the first drug bust of its kind in Lonoke County.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham says his interpretation of the state law is that any product that is similar in chemical makeup is included on the state’s list of illegal Schedule VI drugs.

“I’ve heard some comments that it’s not marijuana,” Graham said. “Well, under the law it is.”

Up in Smoke tobacco store on 3057 Hwy. 367 North in Austin, Rock’s Smoke- N-Bait on 615 Hickory St., in Ward and Alford Tobacco Store on 521 W. Main St. in Cabot were raided simultaneously.

All three local police departments as well as the sheriff’s office, Arkansas State Police and Arkansas Tobacco Control participated in the investigation.

Sgt. Brandon Hampton with the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office said law-enforcement officials seized several cases of synthetic marijuana known as potpourri. He said Rock’s Smoke-N-Bait, which is open seven days a week, averaged $12,000 a day selling potpourri, about $4.4 million a year.

The owners of that store turned themselves in Thursday after warrants were issued for their arrests: Beth Glover, 51, her son, Jeremy Reed, 33, and his wife, Stephanie Reed, 36. Jeremy Reed is a firefighter for North Little Rock and Glover is a clerk for the district court in Ward.

Glover and the Reeds were arrested for delivery of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a drug premise. A bond of $20,000 was set. Jeremy Reed was also arrested for simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms.

Graham said the owners of all three stores have attorneys. He is sure they will turn themselves in when the arrest warrants are completed.

The investigation into the sale of the synthetic marijuana started late last summer by various law enforcement agencies in the county but was moving slowly until it got a jumpstart at the end of December when state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) went to the State Police after he received a call from the frantic mother of a 14-year-old boy who almost died on Dec. 29 after smoking a product called Diablo (Spanish for devil).

The Leader spoke to the mother Thursday.

“I wasn’t aware he had it,” the mother said. “The kid next door actually bought it (at the Ward tobacco store). I was cooking and the boy came in and said my son had been stung by a wasp. I thought that was odd because he’s not allergic. I turned off the stove and went outside. When I got there, he was unconscious and he was gray, really gray.”

His pulse was weak and emergency workers had difficulty getting his blood pressure, she said. He was taken by ambulance to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock where he recovered but not fully.

The mother said her son told her he knew something was wrong when he looked down at their dog after smoking the drug and it looked as big as Clifford the Big Red Dog.

More than three months later, he still has hallucinations.

“He (sometimes) sees boxes and circles floating around in the air. And he’ll know people are with him but they seem faraway,” she said.

Austin Police Chief John Staley, who also serves on the Ward City Council, said the problem with the investigation was that without analyzing the synthetic pot it is impossible to determine if its components include any of the illegal chemicals named in state law. And he has neither the staff nor the money to fully investigate.

The danger from the drug is that it is impossible for consumers to know what is in it, how strong it is and the potential harmful effects.

The potpourri is a concoction of various plants sprayed with chemicals. Staley compared the manufacturing process to pouring syrup on pancakes. Some pour a little and some pour a lot. There is no consistency, he said.

Staley said he had seen juveniles have convulsions after smoking the potpourri, “flopping on the ground like a fish,” he said. So he knew the drug was harmful but whether it was illegal was not as clear.

“People have constitutional rights,” he said, but he added that it was frustrating to see what was being sold and not know how to stop it. Any rational person would know the actual intended use of the merchandise, he said.

“They call it potpourri, but they don’t sell containers for it. All they sell is bongs,” Staley said.

Staley said he is grateful to the senator for getting the state to help with the investigation.

The senator said he was also motivated by a news article he read on Dec. 30, when the mother called him. It was an account of an Arkansas teenager who died from using the drug. And like Staley, he says the intended use of the products is only barely obscured by the packaging. In addition to potpourri, the drug is also sold as bath salts.

“Who buys bath salts in a tobacco store?” the senator asked. “You go to Victoria’s Secret or someplace like that.”

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills routs Mills and Bruins

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills baseball team plowed over all its competition this week. The Bears swept a doubleheader with Mills by a combined 36-1 on Tuesday, then hammered Pulaski Academy 18-8 on Thursday in a non-conference game.

“I thought against PA we really came out ready to play,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “I was really pleased with our mindset approaching the game. It wasn’t a conference game, but we came out understanding that it’s preparation for conference and I thought we were really focused.”

Sylvan Hills beat the Comets 15-1 and 21-0 in a 5A Southeast doubleheader. Conner Eller got the win on the mound in game one while Dillon Boone got the win in game two.

On Thursday the Bears jumped ahead 4-0 in the first inning and were never in trouble. Lance Hunter started and got the win, and also got the main offensive highlight of the game.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, Hunter sent the first pitch he saw over the wall in left field for a two-run home run that made it 4-0.

Dalton Freeling had walked and scored on a passed ball after reaching third on Boone’s double to right. David Carrasquillo was then hit by a pitch and Conner Eller sacrificed to right field to score Boone from third, setting up Hunter’s bomb.

The Bears added one more in the second and the Bruins scored in the top of the third to make it 4-1. Sylvan Hills put it out of reach with nine runs in the third inning, with lots of help from poor fielding and bad pitch control by Pulaski Academy.

Hunter led off the third and reached when his pop fly to shallow center was dropped. The pop up was so high, Hunter was almost to second base by the time the ball hit the ground. J.D. Miller then struck out, but reached first base when PA catcher Hunter Freeman couldn’t handle the curve ball in the dirt. It also allowed Hunter to reach third, setting up an RBI sacrifice fly by Chase Imoff.

T.J. Burrows hit a single to shallow right field to score Miller from second. He tried to stretch it to a double but the throw beat him by several feet. PA shortstop Lawson Vasser, however, dropped the ball while applying the tag. Back at the top of the order, Brandon Baoni singled to left field and Freeling walked to load the bases. Boone then got a two-RBI single to left field and Carrasquillo walked again to load the bases. Freeling, Boone and Carrasquillo all scored on wild pitches while Eller and Hunter walked to put two more on base for Miller. Miller hit a deep fly to centerfield to score Eller for the ninth and final run of the inning and give the Bears a commanding 13-1 lead.

The Bruins rallied for seven runs in the fourth inning. Three walks and two errors contributed to the PA rally.

The win lifts the Bears to 14-5 on the season and they stand 6-0 in conference play. There is still a four-way tie for first place in the 5A Southeast. Monticello, Watson Chapel and White Hall are also 6-0. Crossett, North Pulaski, Mills and Helena are all still winless in league play.

Next week, Sylvan Hills faces Watson Chapel and Monticello takes on White Hall.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville hits slump, loses three consecutive

Leader sports editor

The week after one of the Jacksonville baseball team’s best weeks of the season, it had one of its worst. The Red Devils lost three times this week. On Tuesday they lost both ends of a 6A East Conference doubleheader at Jonesboro, then fell to Suttgart at home on Thursday to fall to 6-12 on the season and 2-4 in conference play.

“We just didn’t swing the bats very well all week,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “Last week we did really good. I thought our pitching was decent. We threw the ball pretty well.”

Last week Jacksonville won two games in which it was a considerable underdog, beating first-round draft prospect Trey Killian and Mountain Home on Tuesday, then shutting out 14-5 Sylvan Hills 2-0 last Thursday.

This week the Red Devils lost 6-4 and 6-2 to Jonesboro and 4-0 to Stuttgart. While the bats weren’t on fire in game one against the Hurricane, the Red Devils did get seven base hits. It was errors and unearned runs that aided Jonesboro’s victory. Playing as the home team in game one of the double dip, Jacksonville trailed 6-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Five of Jonesboro’s runs were unearned.

The Red Devils rallied with two runs in each of the last two innings. Freshman Derek St. Clair led off the inning with a single and moved to third on two sacrifice flies. With two outs, D’Vone McClure, Jesse Harbin and Greg Jones got consecutive base hits to score two runs and put together the Red Devils’ best offensive inning of the game.

Harbin took the loss on the mound, giving up just six hits, but hitting two batters and walking two others. St. Clair and Jones led Jacksonville offensively with two hits each.

In game two, Jonesboro got a huge third inning with two home runs and five runs scored off freshman pitcher James Tucker. Jacksonville scored two in the top of the fourth and Jonesboro set the final margin with a run in the bottom of the same inning.

Jacksonville scarcely threatened Stuttgart on Thursday. The Red Devils got just three hits, one in the first, one in the second and one in the seventh. Greg Jones, Ragan Jones and St. Clair accounted for those base hits.

Youth and inexperience has been an obstacle to overcome for Jacksonville all season, but Burrows thinks his team can overcome a bad week.

“You go through these spells,” Burrows said. “Even good teams are going to slump a little bit. We did it last year. It’s about how you get through it and come out on the other side.”

SPORTS >> Cabot teams place high in Panther relays

Leader sportswriter

Cabot teams took second place in both boys and girls competition at the Panthers’ own Walmart Invitational track meet at Panther Stadium on Tuesday.

The Lady Panthers won seven events on their way to a runner-up finish to Bryant, which scored 155 points to Cabot’s 107. Conway finished a close third with 105 points, followed by Jonesboro and Marion.

The Conway boys took top honors with 163 points followed by Cabot with 101.5 points. Marion was third with 89.5 points while West Memphis and Bryant rounded out the top five.

Cabot coach Leon White was pleased with the strong overall team performances, but said the main goal of the meet was to get individuals qualified for the 7A state track meet early next month.

“We felt pretty good about it,” White said. “We mainly wanted to get people qualified for the state meet, and we did that. The girls did really well, and they also did well on the boys side. It was a good meet.”

Cabot senior Emily Myers was the heavy favorite going into the girls long-distance events, and lived up to expectations with wins in the 1,600 meter and 3,200 meter runs. Myers, who is signed to run college track at the University of Nevada at Reno, practically strolled to victory in the 1,600 with a time of 5:11.99, almost 20 seconds better than second-place finisher Claire Kane of Mount St. Mary. Myers’ teammate Allison Sinning took third place by finishing the event in 5:37.38.

Myers and Sinning swept the top two spots for Cabot in the 3,200-meter run, as Myers ran an 11:50.67 and Sinning ran a 12:06.42.

“She was the favorite,” White said. “She kind of coasted in. We wished there would have been somebody there to push her a little harder, but that didn’t happen. That’s what happens at some of these smaller meets sometimes. At the conference meet and then at state, she will get all the competition she wants.”

Junior Marlene Sheehan won the 800-meter run for the Lady Panthers with a time 2:36.03, and was also part of the winning girls 4x800-meter relay team along with Myers, Sinning and junior Meagan Duncan. The group ran a 10:09.74, besting the Bryant team by almost 20 seconds.

Lady Panthers senior Sabrina Antimo lifted Cabot’s stock with a great showing in the sprint events, as she won the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.55 to qualify for state. She also took first place in the 200-meter dash by running a 26.11 to edge out Conway’s Kiahna Doby.

“She was already qualified for state in the 100,” White said of Antimo. “She had a good meet, and also got qualified for the 200. We didn’t jump her any; she’s been having knee trouble, but we hope to try and let her jump a little bit as the year goes along.”

Cabot’s tradition of dominating the girls pole vault event continued as senior Julia Gairhan easily took first place by clearing 10-2, while teammate Haley Troutman measured an even 8-0 over the standard for third place.

“She’s been hurt, so that was her first time to compete in several weeks,” White said of Gairhan. “She qualified for state, and that was the only thing she competed in this time. By the conference meet, we’re hoping her leg will be better.” Gairhan has suffered inflammation around her Achilles’ tendon in recent weeks.

The Panther boys team did not have as many wins as their female counterparts, but were consistent overall with a number of top-three and top-five performances.

Sophomore Jordan Burke finished second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.79 while senior Caleb DeLaPaz won the 800-meter run, clocking in at 2:03.16. Junior Scott Foltz finished third in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:36.96, and Forrest Lair took second in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:35.80, just ahead of teammate Alex Simpson in third place.

The Panthers also won the 4x800-meter relay event on the boys side, as DeLaPaz, Lair, Foltz and Simpson left the Bryant team in the dust at 8:16.81, compared to an 8:41.72 for the Hornets.

“That’s the first time we’ve run these four together this year,” White said. “They all did really well. That time should be even better by the time we get to the state meet.”

The Panthers were lean on high finishers in the field events, with sophomore Heath Pledger tying for third in the discus throw with a distance of 124-10.

Cabot wrapped up the week with a trip to Russellville for the Cyclone Relays yesterday, and will take part in the Wampus Cat Relays at Conway on Thursday.

SPORTS >> Badgers play well, win doubleheader

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers got an important doubleheader sweep of the Wynne Yellowjackets Tuesday at Beebe High School. The Badgers beat Wynne 6-3 and 3-2 to improve to 7-5 overall this season and stay in the race for the conference championship.

Beebe’s Brandon Stane pitched in game one and turned in a fine performance. He gave up one hit over the first five inning. The only trouble he saw came in the sixth inning when he temporarily struggled with control while the defense momentarily grew sloppy.

The Badgers got the lead early with two base hits in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Than Kersey got things rolling right away with a shot to left field. Two batters and two outs later, Jared Aschbrenner singled to score Kersey and give Beebe the lead.

In the next half inning, Wynne got its only hit in the first five innings and it was a good one. Five-hole hitter Jonathan Lindsey sent a shot over the fence in left field to tie the game. It didn’t stay tied for long.

The Badgers rallied with two outs in the bottom of the same frame. Eight-hole hitter Matt Stillman doubled to left field and Tyler Burge walked. Kersey got his second base hit of the game, an RBI double that scored Stillman and gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead.

Beebe added to its lead in the third inning. Stane aided his own cause by leading off the inning with a triple over the head of Wynne centerfielder Walker Mitchell. Aschbrenner got his second RBI on the next at bat with an infield single between shortstop and third base.

Aschbrenner got the third of his four base hits in the game when he led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a double to left field. He scored two batters later on a single down the third baseline by left-hander Cody Reaves.

Wynne rallied in the top of the sixth with some help from the Badgers.

Stane, who hadn’t issued a walk up to that point, put two on base, including the leadoff hitter Taylor Jumper. Mitchell then got an infield single between short and third.

Aschbrenner made the stop, but his throw to first wasn’t on time and was well out of the reach of Reaves at first base. It was the first of three errors on the play that led to a Wynne run.

When Aschbrenner’s throw went wide, Jumper made for third. Reaves’ throw to third was off the mark and Jumper headed home. The throw home beat Jumper, but Badger catcher Dakota Lovston failed to make the catch, allowing Jumper to score and leaving Mitchell safe at third base.

Letting the eight and nine hitters on base with no outs to start an inning is usually a recipe for disaster, but Stane and the Badgers pulled it together. Wynne leadoff hitter Johnny Ratliff grounded out to second base and Darren Martin popped up to Lovston at the plate.

Wynne relief pitcher Nick Wright then singled to left field to score Mitchell, and reached second base on an errant pickoff throw by Lovston. Colby Rogers then walked, but Stane got Lindsey to ground out to shortstop to get out of the jam with the Badgers still leading 4-3.

They added two more in the bottom of the sixth to set the final margin.

Kersey walked and Lovston got a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs. Stane advance Kersey with a fly ball to centerfield to leave runners on the corners. Kersey scored on an error at first base on a pickoff throw. Lovston scored on Aschbrenner’s fourth base hit, another double to centerfield.

Aschbrenner finished 4 for 4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored.

Stane went the distance on the mound for Beebe. He gave up just four hits and walked two while striking out seven Wynne batters.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

EDITORIAL >> If we cease to grieve

We want to acknowledge the compassionate and caring teachers and staff of Dupree Elementary in Jacksonville, who last week honored their three students who perished by smoke inhalation along with their mother and youngest sibling.

Marilyn Beavers, 30, Dequan Singleton, 10, Sydni Singleton, 9, Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4, died after a small kitchen fire in their duplex went undetected.

Teachers, classmates, parents and community members, including Mayor Gary Fletcher, gathered to pay tribute in the small field adjacent to the school where they released white dove-shaped balloons and paid tribute to their classmates who perished.

Funeral services for the five were held Saturday at St. Luke Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

The three Dupree Elementary students will live on in the memories of their classmates and teachers. Principal Janice Walker recounted the special traits of each, then said, “I ask that you forever hold tight to these memories, as they will get us through the days to come.”

Lena Washington, Sydni’s teacher, said she was stunned by the deaths. She left Sydni’s chair and desk in place as she told the class of the tragedy. “On Tuesday,” she said last week, “I came in and there were some stuffed animals in the chair and more have been added since...Each is called Sydni.”

All of this is in stark contrast to Florida school officials’ reactions to the death of Trayvon Martin last month in Sanford, Fla. The 17-year-old was shot dead by a neighborhood watch captain in circumstances still under investigation. School officials there chose to ignore the youth’s death, sweeping it under the carpet without a mention, much to the dismay of his classmates, many of whom were his friends. Ignoring his death led to protests from students who were unable to express their grief.

On the other hand, Dupree Elementary’s staff saw an immediate need to allow their students to grieve. This is laudatory and, according to experts on grieving, a most helpful way to allow those stricken by grief to deal with its ravages as soon as possible. And so life goes on but in a new, positive direction.

Warren Dupree Elementary is no stranger to the perils of death, having lost a student just last November. Cheyenne Walters succumbed Nov. 22 after a second failed heart transplant. She was a fifth-grader at the school and a member of Dequan’s class.

The community could take a lesson from the teachers and staff at Dupree Elementary. We are still reeling from the accident on Hwy. 161, which left a veteran firefighter dead and another fireman and a policeman seriously injured.

That accident, still under investigation, occurred when the son of an accident victim allegedly responded to her call for help. Driving a mini-van, he plowed into the three first responders as they were attempting to rescue his mother.

The community is being asked to open its wallets for the four families who suffered in the two separate and recent tragedies. A fund has been set up at Regions Bank for Marilyn Beavers and her four children to help with burial expenses. Donations can be sent to routing number 082000109 for account number 0166651727.

A fund has also been set up at Arvest Bank for the families of Capt. Donald Jones, a 31-year veteran firefighter, firefighter/engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo. Donations may be made at any Arvest branch. Jones was buried on March 24. Bowmaster and DiMatteo continue to recover from serious injuries.

In a letter of consolation to his wife after the death of their youngest and only daughter, the ancient Greek historian Plutarch pleaded with her not to give in to excessive grieving over the 2-year-old’s death. Yet he conceded that grieving is a necessary and good thing. “If we cease to grieve,” he said, “we may cease to remember.”

We should learn by example. Thank you, Dupree Elementary.

TOP STORY >> AF seeks upgrade ideas

Leader senior staff writer

While three members of the Arkansas congressional delegation questioned the Air Force’s plan to close down and replace the C-130 avionics modernization program when they met last week with Air Force brass, who are moving ahead, meeting next week with contractors interested in developing and supplying a cheaper, less ambitious upgrade.

Requests for information with a list of specifications were posted on the federal business opportunities website in early March. Contractors will meet one on one with Air Force officials next week at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at Fairborn, Ohio.

The Air Force has asked for proposals in its efforts to find a less-expensive, off-the-shelf communication, navigation and air traffic management upgrade for the older C-130s instead of the avionics modernization program it had originally committed to. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Boozman, (R-Ark.) want evidence that the idea is a good one.

The three met with Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, director of Global Reach Programs for the assistant Secretary of the Air Force. Kane is responsible to the Air Force acquisition executive for airlift, air refueling, training and special operations programs.

“I would say that we learned some new information but are still pursuing additional information they have but haven’t yet provided, Griffin said.

Pryor said, “This meeting was another attempt to get answers on the substance behind the Air Force’s decision to terminate the C-130 AMP. According to the Air Force, this decision was strictly an affordability issue. I expressed frustration with the Air Force’s reluctance to provide documentation detailing its analysis that led to the proposal. Again, I pressed the Air Force for this information and emphasized that fully understanding these numbers is vital as Congress continues with the appropriations process. Our conversation about this matter is not over.”

Despite the Air Force’s original plans to install AMP kits on another 221 C-130s at a cost of about $4.1 billion, the Defense Department’s proposed 2013 budget closes out the C-130 AMP conversion policy with the installation of a fifth and final AMP kit, according to Jennifer Cassidy, a Pentagon Air Force public affairs officer.

Meanwhile, that proposed budget provides $647 million towards the alternative, a communications, navigation, surveillance air traffic management program.

“The primary intent of this (request for information) is to solicit industry feedback on the viability of the planned Optimize Legacy C-130 Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management Program,” according to the posted request for information.

“The Optimize Legacy C-130 CNS/ATM Program will address the warfighter need for global airspace access for the Air Force C-130H aircraft fleet by complying with CNS/ATM requirements. This objective is planned to be achieved through an avionics upgrade of an estimated 184 C-130H combat delivery fleet replacing and/or adding equipment necessary to meet the mandated Air Force Navigation/Safety modifications and CNS/ATM requirements,” it read. “This modification will allow for more efficient operations in national and international controlled airspace for the foreseeable future.”

Contract award is expected in 2014 with low-rate production beginning in 2016. All 184 aircraft would be completed by 2023, according to the RFI.

The proposed 2013 budget contains $76.5 million in research and development funding and $570.5 million in procurement funding, Cassidy said.

Originally, the plan was to install the AMP kit on another 221 legacy C-130s.

“We’re waiting on actual cost comparison, comparing AMP upgrades to some of the alternatives being discussed,” Griffin said. “(We) want to see numbers for ourselves. The delegation is all on the same page. I don’t know of any daylight on this issue between us,” he said. “We need to get all the information.

“We want to know what were the numbers they looked at to compare AMP with potential replacements and what were the assumptions. We need to get down in the details.”

Griffin said there was more than one alternative, especially since the capabilities, specifications and costs of those off-the-shelf products had evolved over the years.

Among the requirements are updated night-flying capability and the ability to meet the minimum updated standards being implemented by the Federal Aviation Agency here and new standards in Europe. Otherwise, the older C-130s could be excluded from direct, fuel and time efficient air lanes.

The four C-130s in which the AMP kits that were installed and completed are grounded on the tarmac at Little Rock Air Force Base, where they had been sent for real-world testing. Those kits replaced the analog instruments and communications gear with digital equivalents, heads-up, see-through displays and only required a crew of four.

The newer model C-130J, of which there are 27 at the base, require a three-man crew. According to Griffin, the systems to replace the AMP will require the five-man crew.

TOP STORY >> Family says farewell to fire victims

Leader staff writer

Furlandare Singleton is mourning the loss of his fiancé and their five children, but he shared with The Leader a glimpse of their happier days together.

Marilyn Beavers, 30; son, Dequan Singleton, 10, and daughters, Sydni Singleton, 9; Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4, died from smoke inhalation after a small kitchen fire at their duplex at 3A S. Simmons Drive on March 22.

A group funeral was held Saturday at St. Luke Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Arrangements were by Gunn Funeral Home in Little Rock.

“I’m not sitting up trying to make it seem like we had a perfect life because we didn’t. There’s nothing perfect about life at all. We were blessed by God. We didn’t have a big house or nice fancy cars, but we definitely were truly blessed by God,” said Singleton, a truck driver, who was on the road when tragedy struck home.

The last memory Singleton has of his family is a phone call from 2:30 to 2:50 a.m., about four hours before their bodies were found.

“They were up, they were on spring break. They were sitting up eating ice cream and watching movies. You’ve got five people in the house and nobody makes it out. That is truly tough to take.”

He said he teased the children by saying, “you know you’re supposed to save your daddy some of that ice cream.”

“They loved sweets,” Singleton said.

The cause of the fire at Max Howell Place, a low-income housing complex, is still under investigation, according to Jacksonville Fire Marshal Mike Williams.

He confirmed the fire started in the kitchen and said it “probably smoldered out.”

Williams said he didn’t believe any-one opened any windows or vents.

A relative said he was told the fire started after the family warmed up some French fries in the oven.

Jennifer Gray, who lives next door in 3B, called 911 a few hours before the bodies were found because she smelled smoke.

Firefighters first responded to the duplex at 5:50 a.m. March 22.

They left 30 minutes later after finding no sign of a fire. Gray was told smoke had drifted from another fire across the freeway, about a mile away. That fire leveled an unoccupied home at 3400 Northeastern Ave.

Firefighters did a walkthrough of Gray’s apartment, an external walk around the duplex and used a thermal imager, a device that detects heat. The fire did not cause any damage to the exterior of the building, Williams said.

Two maintenance men for the Jacksonville Housing Authority, which manages the duplexes, entered 3A around 7 a.m. in response to a call from Gray.

They said the smoke detector was going off when they entered.

The two men found smoke and the children in their beds.

The fire had gone out by the time firefighters arrived for a second time at 7:30 a.m.

The fire marshall said the department uses thermal imagers frequently and it couldn’t have malfunctioned.

“When they fail, they don’t come on,” Williams said.

Firefighters also knocked on the door of 3A, but didn’t go inside when no one answered at 5:50 a.m.

Williams said it is department policy that firefighters not enter a residence uninvited when there is no sign of a fire, especially for their own safety as some individuals may have firearms and shoot at intruders.

The state fire marshal is advising the department in this case. The Jacksonville Police Department, state Crime Lab and county coroner are also involved in the investigation, Williams said.

Singleton said, “I don’t know enough yet (about what happened). I am definitely deeply disappointed in the fire department because I feel like they went out there and to me they didn’t do the right protocol. They didn’t do the job the way it was supposed to be done. They said they checked around the building and stuff. I find that hard to believe because they said they didn’t see a fire. But you could clearly see the kitchen window was just dark black.

“Now if the maintenance guys could see that, how come they couldn’t see it? I’m not sitting up here saying that they could have saved my kids’ lives. I don’t know that. But at least I would have had the satisfaction of them trying. I know they lost one of their own. And I feel like if you lost one of your own maybe you shouldn’t have been on the scene at the time because you’re dealing with lives here.

“The housing complex, she would complain. She really would. She would complain to the housing complex about her smoke detectors not working. She couldn’t get any answers to get it fixed. They said in the news it was checked once a year, but I can tell you right now, she stayed on it just for these purposes. You never know what could happen. They did not work, not in that house.”

The family was approved for a new house near Cato Elementary three or four days before the tragedy, he said.

“We didn’t tell the kids. We wanted it to be a surprise to them. You know they were cramped up into that little apartment and here we were getting a five-bedroom house,” Singleton said.

Singleton said he was home the week before the fire, when the family had reunited with Singleton’s father over dinner at Golden Corral in North Little.

“It had been a long time, two years, since I had seen my dad. We had our own personal issues. They were extremely joyful and happy to see their grandfather. My dad, I’d never seen his eyes go wide like that. It’d been so long since he’d seen the kids.”

“They said, ‘Oh granddaddy, give me a dollar. Their grandpa gave them all $2.”

The children had a money jar at home where they put all of the money they got from anyone. They were saving up for a trip to Disney World, he said.

Singleton said, “They were good kids. All of my kids were very, very respectful. You have to raise them to say, ‘Yes, sir. No, sir.’ My kids were like that. Their reading skills weren’t high at first, but after we talked to tutors they had started to progress. They tried to help their mom out. You didn’t have to ask them twice to do something, to keep their rooms clean.

“My kids were my life. I was working for my kids. Everything was for my kids. When you’ve got kids, it’s all about them

“They are in a better place. They are up there with the Lord. I know their mom is up there. She had a good heart. She had started going to church more. She had started dragging me to church.

“They could come and talk to me at any time. I felt I could talk to my kids. Anytime I was in town, if I was gone for two weeks, their granddad could tell you they would jump all over me, especially my daughter, Emily. I just cannot explain the type of love I had for my kids. All of them (Marilyn and the children) were my rock.”

Singleton said all three girls were cheerleaders for their big brother’s football team. The two older girls had been at it for three years and Emily joined them this year.


Singleton and Marilyn were planning to get married by a justice of the peace within the next month.

“She didn’t want to move into the house with two different names. That (getting married) would have made her happy,” Singleton said.

The couple met when they were both in ninth grade, 16 years ago.

She went to North Little Rock High School and he was at Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood.

He was hanging out with a friend at McCain Mall and the friend was dating Marilyn’s sister at the time. She had come to the mall with her sister. The two were very close, and Singleton and Marilyn started talking.

Marilyn was working at North Metro Medical Center, cleaning offices at night. Before that she was at Pathfinder, but the schedule was too difficult to work around.

Marilyn took classes at Pulaski Technical College in Little Rock and she wanted to major in business.

“She was one of the best moms a kid could have. She was a neat, neat person. The house was always clean,” Singleton said.

He said she was very creative and liked to take the children to lots of activities and events like the circus.


“Dequan was very, very athletic. I let him know education comes first. Football players are smart. I said, ‘When you get into junior high, middle school you have to have a certain grade- point average to play football.”

Singleton said his son was a running back, defensive player of the year and player of the year, along with another boy on his team.

He said, “Coaches would say, ‘Every time we see you, your son lights up. He was so happy when you made his game or practice.”

Singleton once parked a truck in New York City and flew home to see one of Dequan’s games.

“I tried to stick to my word. I told my son, ‘Your word is your bond.’ He listened to me, everything I said,” he said.

Singleton said Dequan’s teacher took him out of his fifth-grade class early this school year and put him in a mixed class of fourth- and fifth-graders in the talented and gifted program.

“He was very upset because he thought they were moving him back down to the fourth grade. He came to me and he was like, ‘Oh dad they moving me to this class. I don’t want to be in this class. They’ve got fourth-graders in there. I can’t be in the class with fourth-graders. I was having fun.’

“By the time me and his mom went up to the school to talk with (the principal), I was friends with the teacher in his class. He said, ‘Dad, I thought you were on my side. How could you do this to me? Why would you do this to me? He kept a journal. I didn’t know that. He wrote, ‘I wanted to get out of the class. Next thing I know, my mom and dad were friends with everybody. They just turned against me.’”

Dequan was talented in more than one way. He won fourth place for the song he sang at Dupree Elementary School’s talent show this year and earned first place at the science fair last school year.

The project was how long it takes bread to get stale.


Sydni was writing her own songs.

Singleton said, “She wasn’t great at it or whatever, but she definitely tried and she definitely wasn’t ashamed of singing. She was proud of what she did. I told her that you can do anything in this world if you put your mind to it, believe in God and trust in him. He will lead you to what you want to be.

“Sydni tried to be like Dequan. If he got down there and did 40 pushups, she’d do 45. For Christmas, I’d have to get Sydni and Haylee makeup. As long as I got them makeup, I was okay. They’d use up a big box in two weeks,” Singleton said.


“That Food Network, she loved it. She helped her mom make cakes and stuff like that. She was learning how to cook.

“Haylee was smart. She said I want to help people in court, keep people out of trouble.

“Her grades started dropping this year. I told her, you can’t do this. She loved to talk in class, just like Sydni. I told her she had to get her grades together and I told her she had to read,” Singleton said.


Emily started school at Homer Adkins Pre-K this year.

Singleton said, “She didn’t even cry. She stood there with that little face and didn’t want to move, lip poking out. She was so sad. The next day we couldn’t even get her to stay home. She got up and was like ‘Mama, put my clothes on. I want to see my school.’

“Her mom the first day, she was just nervous. We went out and sat in the parking lot for two hours. I had to calm her down. (She said) ‘I don’t want to leave my baby.’ (I said) ’You going to have to get used to it because you’ve got to bring her every day.’

“She did that for a whole week straight. She was nervous all week.”

TOP STORY >> A parade 37 years after war

Leader staff writer

Saturday was a picture-perfect day to welcome back home our returning airmen, sailors, soldiers and marines from war.

The problem was it was almost 37 years to the day after the war—the Vietnam War—ended.

The crowd, fewer than organizers had hoped for, still numbered in the hundreds and included dozens of Vietnam-era veterans, who lined Main Street to enjoy the 30-minute parade, which included a Huey helicopter and C-130 flyover.

Larry Biernacki of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History was the parade commentator. He told the crowd that military members returning from Vietnam did not receive a proper welcome, were not recognized as heroes and many were not even accepted back into the community.

“They fought for our country and are heroes,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of scarring, and I truly believe we lost a generation because we never recognized our Vietnam vets. They need to be acknowledged as heroes, and that’s part of what we are trying to do today,” Biernacki said.

For Lendy Lewis and her family, who were holding up a large “Welcome Home” banner, it was a bittersweet acknowledgement. She called her husband, former Jacksonville Alderman Robert Lewis, one of the many “living casualties” who came back from the war.

Lewis died in 2006, two weeks after filing to run for another term as alderman, probably as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange while he was in Vietnam in 1963-64.

Even though Lewis served before the war became controversial, the only folks to greet him when he got home was his family.

“There was no big welcome,” Lendy Lewis explained. “Our main concern was that he had orders to North Dakota and we were worried about being able to find housing.”

Lewis and his wife were married for 48 years. They raised six of their own children, including a daughter, who was raped and murdered about 20 years ago. They adopted her two young children and raised them also.

During the parade, Biernacki said the Unites States had 58,000 military members killed in action, including eight women serving as military nurses. The youngest American solider to die in the war was 15 years old. The first American casualty came from Arkansas.

More than 4 million civilians were killed during the war — the equivalent of 12 percent of Vietnam’s population.

Although the U.S. had advisers on the ground as early as 1960, the war didn’t escalate to full-scale status until 1963. It ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on March 30, 1973.

Besides the veterans in the parade, mostly as members of a number of motorcycle clubs, the highlight was the truck pulling a Huey helicopter (the iconic symbol of the war) that will soon be on permanent display at the museum off Main Street.

Grand marshal for the parade was John Steer, who was a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Infantry during the Vietnam War. He was in two of the worst conflicts of the war, the Slopes in June 1967 and Hill 875 in November 1967. He lost his right arm and one of his legs was severely damaged in the Hill 875 battle.

Steer received two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for his heroic actions in the war.

The Little Rock Air Force Base honor guard opened the parade, followed by the grand marshal and the Sgt. W.K. Singleton Pipes and Drums of Bartlett, Tenn. The band, associated with the Marine Corps’ Det. 476, is named in honor of Sgt. Walter Singleton, a Medal of Honor winner who lost his life in Vietnam.

Other groups in the parade included 13 vehicles from the Arkansas Military Vehicle Preservation Association, eight vehicles from the Ira C. Eaker Chapter of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, the American Legion Post 71 from Cabot, an Arkansas chapter of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group whose main goal is to publicize POW-MIA issues, a float by First Arkansas Bank and Trust saluting those killed in the war and the 20-member Jacksonville High School drum line.

Others in the parade were members of the Kennedy family who have had members fighting in wars from World War I to today, the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club, the David D. Terry Jr. Chapter of the Air Force Association, ABATE District 13 motorcycle Club, members representing the USS Razorback and U.S. submarine veterans, the military museum with its newly acquired Huey helicopter, veterans Fred Divincenzo and John Herald, members of the Teamster Horsemen Motorcycle Association and the 30-member precision marching group from the Beebe High School Air Force Junior ROTC.

SPORTS >> Another pitching gem, Bison win

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison have put on a clinic this year of how to win games, and Monday was just another lesson against Poyen as the Bison beat the Indians 8-1 in a non-conference game at home to improve to 13-2 on the season.

Josh Mathis earned the win with a shutout performance on the mound, striking out four and walking two in four innings of work.

“The pitching was good,” said Carlisle coach B.J. Greene. “Josh Mathis, again, threw well. He’s moving up our depth chart every game, and he’s getting close to being the number two guy. Defensively we played really well. We went without an error, so that’s really good.

“Hitting, we had some guys strike out with runners in scoring position with two outs. We had three guys do that, and that hurt us a little bit. But we hit the ball well.”

Carlisle wasted no time putting runs on the board, scoring two in the first, one in the second, and one in the third to take a 4-0 lead. Mathis’ pitching stayed strong in his final inning of work, and the Bison used the next two innings to build its lead.

Leadoff hitter Chris Hart walked to start the bottom of the fourth before stealing both second and third base. Tommy Inman also walked, and while at first base, Inman gave Poyen pitcher Bryan Wilfong plenty to stress about.

On a pickoff attempt to first, Wilfong balked, allowing Hart to score and Inman to advance to second. Trey Wilson then doubled off the fence in right center to bring Inman home, and give the Bison a six-run lead.

Carlisle added its final two runs in the fifth. Connor Fields walked to start the inning then stole second and third base, and crossed home plate after a wild pitch.

Hayden Hoover also walked, stole second, and advanced to third on a passed ball. Hart then singled to bring Hoover home to give the Bison a comfortable 8-0 lead.

Poyen (11-4, 2-0) was able to put a run on the board in the top of the seventh when Wesley Crowder hit a two out double that sent Tyler Emerson home to make the score 8-1. Will Smith, who came in to relieve Mathis in the fifth, struck out Ryan Hicks to end the game.

Four Bison had base hits in the game, but it was the strong pitching and solid defensive play that stole the show once again.

“I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never had a team where I’ve had as many pitchers as this,” Greene said. “Trey’s (Wilson) our number one, hands down. Will Smith had thrown one inning up to this point. Last year he was second on the team in innings pitched, and he threw one inning before today.

“Pitching is by far right now the most pleased I am with anything, because we’re getting outs on a consistent basis. We threw two pitchers today and they threw a total of 78 pitches, so that’s good.”

Hart and Wilson led Carlisle hitting. Hart went 2 for 3 with two singles. Wilson was 2 for 4 with a single and double. Mathis and Inman had a hit apiece.

Carlisle (13-2, 4-0) will try and continue its winning ways tomorrow when the Bison host conference rival McCrory in a doubleheader that will decide who takes control of the 2A-6 Conference.

SPORTS >> Bad fourth dooms Cabot

Leader sportswriter

This time, it was the fourth inning that proved to be the demise of Cabot as Little Rock Catholic scored five runs in the pivotal frame to defeat the Panthers 8-4 to earn its first 7A Central Conference victory of the season.

The Panthers (6-7, 0-4) turned in a decent batting performance and played solid defense for the first four and two-thirds innings, but a round of Rocket runs with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, including four unearned, created a gap that could not be overcome.

The loss was another in a pattern in which Cabot held its ground most of the game only to have one difficult inning that put them on the losing side of the scoreboard.

“It’s very frustrating; we feel like we could be 3-1 without some of the errors,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “In this conference, everybody’s good, and one bad inning can cost you the game. We’re starting to swing the sticks well, we just have to play seven innings and not six.

“It is frustrating, but it’s also part of having a young team. We’ve told them that good teams consistently do things right, and that’s a key to winning.”

Cabot took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Zach Patterson put the first run on base with a double and advanced on a single by Scott Brunett. Justin Goff sent Patterson in with a sacrifice fly to right field to cut the margin to one.

Cabot held on to the lead until the bottom of the fourth, and had two outs against the Rockets when starting pitcher Chipper Morris hit one batter and had the next batter behind the count at 0-2 when a long fly to right center field was misplayed to score two runs. An infield error during the next at bat allowed another run in, and the Rockets took advantage of the breakdowns to put two more scores up to take a 5-1 lead.

Brunett walked in the top of the fifth and advanced to third on a pop out before starting Catholic pitcher Taylor Wallace was called for a balk to give him a free walk across the plate to score the Panthers’ second run to make it 5-2, but the Rockets answered that score in the bottom of the fifth.

“I think it can be with certain players,” Fitch said of frustration following mistakes becoming a factor. “We’ve got to guard against it. We tell them that baseball is a game of failure, if you do something the right way three out of 10 times, you’re doing awesome. You have to deal with failure, and some are better at dealing with it than others.”

The Panthers pulled to within two runs in the top of the sixth when Hayden Vinson reached second base on an infield error by Catholic and senior catcher T.C. Carter singled to put runners at first and second. Both runners advanced on a passed ball, and Casey Vaughn sent them both home with a double off the right centerfield wall.

The Panthers played at North Little Rock last night and will host Little Rock Central on Friday.

SPORTS >> Falcons get dominant, win over Mills ladies

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Falcon soccer team picked up its first victory of the season in dominant fashion with a 3-0 shutout over Mills University Studies at Falcon Stadium on Friday.

The Lady Falcons (1-4, 1-0) got a clean sheet from goalkeeper Stephanie Ogden and another strong performance in the backfield from speedy defender Ashley Cullen, while forwards Ariel West and Ilycia Carter kept possession in North Pulaski’s favor most of the way. West scored North Pulaski’s first two goals while senior Mercedes Wilson added the final score off a late penalty kick to cap off the dominant performance.

“We’re continuing to do the same drills and working on what we need to work on,” Lady Falcons coach Kendra Sauheaver said. “We go back and take a look at what we did during the game and go from there. It’s never your night; you never know which way it can go.”

Ogden came up with four saves total, including two close calls on breakaways that she stopped just in time to keep the Lady Comets off the scoreboard. The Lady Comets were in position for several more opportunities, but struggled to get by Cullen, who used her speed to stop potential breakaways.

“I’m very proud of my team; they kept the ball where it should have been,” Ogden said. “She was getting pretty close, and the other one was pretty close, and I just went out and grabbed it. Altogether, on our games, we haven’t been playing as a team, but we’re talking now. We are doing better. I think as the year goes on, our progress will be even better.”

Carter had two good strikes early on that were stopped, but West’s 15-yard shot off an assist from Carter in the 33rd minute of the first half got through to give the Lady Falcons a 1-0 lead.

“It was a great pass,” West said. “We were talking, which we’ve been practicing. Practice makes perfect, and we’ve got some great coaches. It just all came together on both of those shots.”

West’s second goal at the 13:09 mark of the second half was much different, as her slow roller from close range caught the Mills goalkeeper snoozing and skipped into the net right beneath her to increase North Pulaski’s lead to 2-0.

“I think I dipped around her a little bit there,” West said.

West was going for the hat trick in the final three minutes with a nice 20 yarder from the left side that was saved.

“I know the team is proud, and I’m proud of the team,” West said. “I love them, and they love me.”

Mills came close to tying the game midway through the second half, but Odgen made a diving save on a breakaway shot to keep North Pulaski’s lead in tact, and the Lady Comets never threatened again.

Wilson put an exclamation point on the game at 31 minutes when she drew heavy contact in the middle in front of the Mills goal to earn a close-range penalty kick, and got the goal with a low shot into the right corner.

The Lady Falcons hosted 5A Southeast Conference front runner Sylvan Hills last night and will host White Hall next Tuesday.

SPORTS >> Red Devils surprise rival Bears, get shutout

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got an outstanding performance from a freshman on the mound that led the Red Devils to a 2-0 victory over rival Sylvan Hills on Friday at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Ninth-grader James Tucker went the seven-inning distance for Jacksonville, giving up six hits while walking none and striking out three Bears.

Another key to the victory was outstanding defense by the home team. Sophomore Kaleb Reeves made a series of great plays at third base, especially in the late innings. Cole Bredenberg made a diving catch in right field and Greg Jones’ fully-stretched diving stab of a line drive ended the game in the top of the seventh inning.

Tucker himself made a huge play to get out of a jam in the top of the sixth. Sylvan Hills’ J.D. Miller hit a hard line drive back at Tucker with two men on base and one out. Tucker kicked his right leg high in the air to get it out of the ball’s trajectory, and got his glove down to make the catch. He then had the presence of mind to throw to first to double up David Carrasquillo and end the threat.

“I’ve said all season for us to win, we’re going to have to throw strikes and make plays,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “Tucker threw strikes and we made plays behind him. We made plays all over the field. Kaleb, we haven’t had a third baseman play like this in a long time.”

Jacksonville led 1-0 after getting an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Carrasquillo pitched a good game as well for the Bears. He didn’t give up an earned run in seven innings. Jacksonville senior Ragan Jones led off the sixth by reaching on an error at shortstop.

Freshman Greg Jones laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second base and Justin Abbot struck out. Junior David Williams then doubled to left field to score Ragan Jones and set the final margin.

Carrasquillo gave up eight hits while striking out seven and also walking none.

For Sylvan Hills, Dylan Boone, Carrasquillo and Chase Imoff accounted for all of the Bears’ offense, each recording two base hits.

Jacksonville spread the wealth a bit more. Williams was the only Red Devil with multiple hits while Derek St. Clair, Jesse Harbin, Reeves, Ragan Jones, Abbot and D’Vone McClure recorded one hit apiece.

The game’s results made for a mild upset. Sylvan Hills (11-5, 4-0) had won five of its last six with its only loss coming in the finals of the large Central Arkansas Invitational Baseball Tournament.

Jacksonville (5-9, 2-2) had recently beaten Mountain Home’s top-notch prospect Trey Killian, but did that with senior ace Harbin on the mound.

“Coach (assistant coach Jeremiah) Clennn has been saying all along that our pitching was going to be pretty good,” Burrow said. “We know they’re young but I feel like our pitching has been pretty decent all season. We’re going to be pretty good on the mound. Coach Clennon has been saying that all the way back to when we started.”

Both teams were back to conference play Tuesday after The Leader’s deadlines. Sylvan Hills hosted Mills while Jacksonville traveled to Jonesboro.

Each team hosts a non-conference game on Thursday. Jacksonville faces Stuttgart while the Bears face Pulaski Academy.

SPORTS >> Penalty kicks lift NP

Leader sports writer

Conner Thomen was bruised and battered following a grueling game that ended with a dramatic penalty-kick shootout, but it didn’t stop the North Pulaski goalkeeper from joining in the celebration following the Falcon’s 7-5 victory over Mills University Studies at Falcon Stadium on Friday.

Thomen made three big saves in regulation, including one that resulted in a kick to the face at the 12:39 mark of the second half that kept him on the ground briefly before he shook it off and made another save three minutes later.

The Comets finally got one past him in the 37th minute to tie the game at 3-3 and eventually force overtime, but that’s when Thomen really showed his grit with two crucial stops that helped the Falcons (1-4, 1-1) take the victory.

“I was so scared about the shootout,” Thomen said. “So nervous walking into it; I can’t even believe I blocked those two. Regulation though, I just get into a mode and keep going. I just can’t stop myself. When I got kicked in the box, I felt pain for a minute, and it went away.”

Mills made its first kick of the overtime period before Ulysses Arres answered for North Pulaski. Thomen then stopped the next Mills attempt, and Chris Laxtar gave the lead back to the Falcons with a nice strike into the lower left corner of the net.

The two teams traded goals again before Thomen made his second stop and Alex Edwards put the game away for the Falcons with a line drive to the left side.

“That was nerve racking, it was exciting, it was fun, it was frustrating, all at the same time,” North Pulaski coach Jeff Osborn said. “I told the guys that if we could control the middle of the field, we could basically boot the ball on our side and keep it there. So that was kind of our strategy going in.”

Christian Florez gave the Falcons an early lead in the fourth minute when he took a header past the Mills goalkeeper following assists from Edwards and Jeremy Castaldo. The Comets tied the match midway through the first half and took over the lead at the 12:18 mark with their second goal that gave them a 2-1 halftime advantage.

Edwards tied the game once again at the 12-minute mark of the second half with the most impressive goal of the night when he took a header and turned it around with a backwards kick to catch the Mills goalkeeper completely off guard for the score. Arres got the lead back for the Falcons with 19:57 remaining in regulation with a perfect strike from the right side.

The Falcons went into prevent mode after that and appeared to have worn their opponents down when the Comets suddenly came back to life in the final five minutes, scoring with a one-on-one breakaway at the 3:22 mark. Edwards had an opportunity to put it away in regulation with a penalty kick at 1:33, but his delivery was just high.

“I didn’t say a word,” Osborn said of Mills’ late goal. “That goal was scored, they dropped their heads for about five seconds, and then they knew there was still three minutes left in the game, and we still had a chance to win.

“At worst, we were going to go to overtime – penalty kicks, so we were in prevent mode. It worked for about 20 minutes, and the last three minutes, the defense got a little fatigued.”

Not only was it North Pulaski’s first win of the season, but the celebration afterward also led to the first career Gatorade bath for Osborn, who was dowsed with a cooler during his post-game talk.

“Conference or not, I tell the guys that every game counts, every minute counts,” Osborn said. “I can see the progression. I’m just so proud of them, because they work so well at practice, and a lot of times, what they do in practice doesn’t translate into the game. But tonight, it did. They played a good team, they came out on top, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

North Pulaski hosted Sylvan Hills Tuesday night after The Leader’s deadlines.