Saturday, May 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bears show growth in game-two win

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills relief pitcher Hunter Heslep held on by a thread, but came through in the clutch as the Bears earned a doubleheader split with Pulaski Academy Thursday at Wildwood Park in Little Rock.

The home team won the opener 11-5 after a six-run first inning before Sylvan Hills came back for a 5-1 win in the nightcap.

Southpaw Marcus Long started on the mound and threw four innings of one-hit ball before running into some trouble in the fifth.

Long walked two batters and gave up two singles and a run before yielding to Heslep, who inherited loaded bases and the Bruins’ two and three hitters coming to the plate.

He promptly struck out Bryce Bartlett before taking on Arkansas signee Blake Wiggins. Wiggins worked the count full before fouling off a fastball. Heslep then reached in the bag and pulled out a huge breaking curveball that got Wiggins swinging off balance for the strikeout.

The strikeout preserved a 1-1 tie. In the bottom of the fifth, T.J. Burrow gave the Bears their lead back with a solo home run just inside the right-field foul pole – his first homer of the year.

The sixth inning was feast or famine for Heslep. He walked two before striking out Cayden Hass, then walked them loaded with one out before striking out Kyle Collander and Jack Holmes to get out of that jam.

“He likes it with the bases loaded,” said Bears’ coach Denny Tipton. “He could’ve made it easier but he got the job done.”

The Bears then put some breathing room between themselves and the Bruins in the sixth inning. With one out, Connor Poteet became the first of five-straight batters to reach base when he walked. Mackenzie Seats singled to center field and Chase Imhoff walked to load the bases.

That was the end of the night for Pulaski Academy pitcher Tony Chacko. Chris Hayes took his place and promptly hit Burrow with his first pitch to score Poteet. With the infieldplaying in on the grass to try to get the force out at home and prevent any further runs, Jacob White hit a grounder up the middle that scored Seats and Imhoff and set the final margin.

Heslep got Chacko to fly out to start the seventh inning. It was the eighth batter he faced and the first that didn’t either walk or strike out.

Bartlett grounded out back to Heslep and Wiggins popped up just foul of first base for what should have been the final out, but the ball was dropped. Wiggins then doubled to the wall in straightaway center field, but the rally stopped there as Heslep fanned cleanup hitter Merritt Osmond to end the game.

The Bruins’, 16-8, 8-2, win in game one locked the Bears into the four seed from the 5A-Central in the state tournament, and sparked an odd coaching strategy by Bears’ coach Denny Tipton before the start of their 5-1 win in game two.

He had every player swap his jersey with a teammate.

“There’s been a little bit of ‘how did I do’ with this team,” said Tipton. “We’ve got two weeks left before state. I told them I just want two weeks of them playing for each other, and not worrying at all about themselves. Play for your teammates.”

The reason for the jersey swapping was, however, the secondary issue for Sylvan Hills’ success. Tipton worries that the team has begun to learn how to lose.

“We have had so many bad breaks this year, it’s almost like we’re waiting to see when that bad break is going to come,” Tipton said. “They have to learn, they’re good enough to go all the way, but they have to learn to expect good things to happen, and play with that confidence that whatever the situation, we’re going to turn things around. If they don’t learn to play with that confidence, they just won’t go very far.”

Blake Maddox led the Bears offensively with two base hits in game two. Imhoff got two hits to lead the team in game one.

Sylvan Hills, 18-8, 8-4, added a doubleheader sweep of McClellan on Friday. They will host North Pulaski on Tuesday at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils get best of Arkadelphia

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team added three wins to its record this week but only had to take the field once. The Red Devils picked up a solid nonconference win over defending class 4A state champion Arkadelphia, beating the Badgers 5-4 Tuesday at Dupree Park.

Their scheduled conference doubleheader with Mills on Thursday was canceled when Mills forfeited due to a shortage of players.

Tuesday’s game was tied at four runs apiece when Jacksonville came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. James Tucker and Ryan Mallison singled to start the inning and Derek St. Clair bunted to move the runners into scoring position.

With first base open and only one out, Arkadelphia elected to intentionally walk Blake Perry to set up a force at every base and possibly a double play. But nine-hole hitter D.J. Scott singled to center field to drive in the winning run.

“It was a good win,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “They’re a solid team. You got to be to win it all. We played pretty well.”

Arkadelphia has its entire roster back from last year’s championship run, and the two teams played to a 0-0 stalemate through three innings.

The Badgers posted two runs in the top of the fourth before the Red Devils put together a four-run rally in the bottom of the same inning.

It started with consecutive singles by St. Clair and Perry. St. Clair stole second base and Perry’s hit scored him from second. Scott walked but was thrown out on a fielder’s choice by Courtland McDonald. Brandon Hickingbotham walked and Kaleb Reeves hit a two-RBI single to score Perry and McDonald. Jones then singled to score Reeves and give the Red Devils a 4-2 lead.

Arkadelphia added one run in each of the fifth and seventh innings before Scott’s big hit that ended it.

Hickingbotham pitched five and one-third innings, giving up three runs on five base hits. Reeves finished it, giving up one run on three hits. Jacksonville totaled nine base hits and Mallison was the only player in the game with more than one. He finished with two.

Jacksonville is now 19-5 overall and 8-2 in the 5A-Central, while Arkadelphia dropped to 18-4.

SPORTS STORY >> Mustang speed topples Badgers

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers took second place in the boys’ 5A-East Conference track meet Thursday at Bro Irwin Stadium. Forrest City won the meet with 194 points while the Badgers totaled 132. Batesville took third with 124.5 and was the only other team to finish with more than one hundred points.

The Lady Badgers scored 109, but that was only good enough for fourth place in the top-heavy girls’ meet. Batesville won with 158 points while Nettleton scored 123.5 and Blytheville totaled 112.5.

Forrest City had three of the top four spots in the 100-meter dash with John Williams winning it with a blazing 10.77. If that wasn’t enough, the Mustangs won the top four spots in the 200-meter dash with Williams again taking first place. Beebe’s Connor Patrom took seventh in the event.

Williams completed the dash-race hat trick by winning the 400-meter race with a time of 49.76. It was another case of three of the top four spots going to Mustangs, with Patrom taking second for the Badgers. All three of Williams’ times in the three races qualify for state that takes place next week in Harrison.

John Diaz won the 800-meter run for Beebe with a time of 2:09.24. He also won the 1,600-meter race with a time of 4:46.28. Allen Kirk and John Paul Savage finished fifth and sixth for the Badgers in the mile. Kirk, Savage and teammate Gus McCoy took fifth, sixth and seventh in the 3,200m race.

Beebe sophomore Tripp Smith was fourth in the 110-meter hurdles and teammate Jeffrey Love was eighth. Senior Badgers Marcus Burns and William Peterson took sixth and eighth respectively in the 300-meter hurdles.

Despite Forrest City’s dominance in the 100-meter dash, Batesville’s 4x100-meter relay team pulled off the upset of the meet by beating the Mustangs by more than a second. Beebe took fourth place. The Pioneers, in fact, won all three relays while Forrest City was second in all three. The Badgers took fifth in the 4x100 and third in the 4x800.

Beebe’s Brandon Lercher took second in the pole vault and teammate Kirkland Miller tied for fourth in the high jump.

Forrest City swept the top three spots in the long jump with Williams winning that event as well. Beebe freshman Nathan Clifton took fifth with a leap of 19-feet, 10-inches.

Patrom took fifth in the triple jump at 39-7, which was also won by Forrest City’s Williams.

The Badgers took three of the top four spots in the shot put. Seniors Race Payne and Dusty Skinner were one and two while Dusty Grier finished fourth. Payne’s toss of 51-5 met the qualifying standard for state.

Jesse Crisco also met state standards in winning the discus throw with a fling of 143-9. Payne took fifth in that event at 124 feet.

In the girls’ meet, sophomore Taylor McGraw took second place in the 200-meter dash behind Forrest City’s Nikirah McKinney and also was second in the 800-meter behind Nettleton’s Kyandra Chandler. Sophomore Tori Colbert took fifth in the 800m and senior Katie McGraw was seventh in the 400m.

Chandler also took first place for the Lady Raiders in the mile and two-mile races, while Beebe’s Brenna Johnson was third in the two-mile and fourth in the mile. Trystan Taylor also placed in the mile, taking eighth place.

Senior Madison Richey took third in the 100 and 300-meter hurdles, finishing behind Blytheville’s Jabreuna Brimlett and Batesville’s Summer Strecker in both events. Richey finished in a three-way tie for first place in the high jump and was second in the long and triple jump competitions. She lost by one-quarter of an inch in the long jump with a leap of 16-5, and by only nine inches in the triple jump, both times to Brimlett.

Kassidy Elam placed in both events as well for Beebe, taking sixth in the long jump and eighth in the triple jump. Taylor McGraw also placed in the triple jump, taking fifth place.

Beebe sophomore Tori Lovelady finished seventh in the discus and freshman Kierston Miller was eighth in the shot put. Beebe’s relay teams took second in the 800, third in the 100 and fourth in the 400.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers hold top spot

Leader sportswriter

Six runs scored in the sixth inning helped the Lady Panthers’ softball team pull away from Jonesboro in their 7A/6A-East matchup Wednesday at the Cabot Softball Complex, winning by the final score of 8-1.

Cabot held a narrow 2-0 lead going into the sixth inning, but that lead was cut to one with one swing of the bat. Jonesboro three-hole hitter Madi Bishop led off the inning with a towering solo home run that sailed over the fence in right field, cutting the Lady Panther lead to 2-1.

Cabot, though, responded in a big way its next at-bat, scoring six runs to push the lead to seven, which all but put the game away.

Freshman Hannah Montgomery walked to lead off the inning, and senior Brandyn Vines laid down a sacrifice bunt the next at-bat to advance Montgomery to second base. Vines was safe on the play, however, as the throw to first was dropped by the Lady Hurricane second baseman, whom was covering the bag on the play.

Lane Justus also bunted the next at-bat to advance both runners, but was thrown out at firstfor the sacrifice. That brought leadoff hitter Rachel Allgood to the plate, and she drove in both runners with a single to straightaway center, giving the Lady Panthers a 4-1 lead.

Erin Eckert was next up for Cabot, and she singled to right field. Allgood scored on the play, though, and Eckert advanced to third base because the ball got past the Jonesboro right fielder. Three-hole hitter Heather Hill walked the next at-bat and cleanup hitter Kaitlyn Felder singled to left field, driving in Eckert for a 6-1 Cabot lead.

Molly Wood followed Felder’s at-bat with a one-out single to right field, which allowed Hill to score, and Shauna Attendorn, Felder’s courtesy runner, scored the final run of the game on a passed ball at home plate. The throw from the backstop actually beat Attendorn home, but she was able to slide under the tag to set the final score.

With the win, the Lady Panthers improved their conference record to 11-1 on the season and earned the season sweep over Jonesboro. The first meeting between the two teams was much closer.

Cabot won that matchup 4-3, and did the most damage in the sixth inning of that game as well.

“It was the same difference in that game,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “We got up on them in the sixth inning and we held on.”

Even though Cabot got the win, Cope would like to see his team get off to better starts and not wait till late in the game to start putting runs on the scoreboard.

“We’re getting to the point where we’ve got to start earlier,” Cope said. “We’re having good late innings, but we need to start early and make them chase us the whole game.”

Freshman Lauren McCl-uskey got the win in the circle. She pitched all seven innings and finished with three strikeouts while giving up just four hits. The Lady Panthers outhit the Lady Hurricane 10-4.

Vines, Wood and Eckert led Cabot offensively, as each finished with two hits. Team-mates Allgood, Hill, Felder and Macee Abbott had one hit apiece.

Cabot played at North Little Rock yesterday after deadlines in a game that will in all likelihood decide the 7A/6A-East Conference champion. Both teams entered yesterday’s game with just one loss in conference play.

North Little Rock’s lone loss in league play was against Cabot in the conference opener in March. The Lady Panthers won that game 9-7 after holding off a furious seventh-inning rally from the Lady Cats. Look for details of that highly-anticipated rematch in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Lady Panthers (14-8, 11-1) have three games next week. They’ll play a nonconference game against Benton at home Monday before closing their conference schedule Tuesday at home against Searcy.

Their final game of the week will be a nonconference game on the road at perennial power Bryant. Each of those games is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Upgrading old planes

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told us recently that the on-again, off-again avionics modernization program for the older C-130s is on again.

That’s good news for Little Rock Air Force Base, which still has more than 50 aging C-130H cargo planes, along with 31 late-model C-130Js. The new planes cost about $70 million. The 10 C-130Js slated for delivery to Little Rock from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., would raise the total of C-130Js at the base to 41.

Active-duty pilots at LRAFB may be flying only the state-of-the-art C-130Js by the end of September. But the Pentagon has wisely restarted the previously discontinued program to modernize the legacy C-130Hs with new, digital avionics, communications and navigation equipment, Pryor said.

The C-130Hs have been around since the 1960s, so remodeling them for $9-$14 million apiece is a real bargain. It’s like restoring old Mustangs: They’re classics and will run forever with a new motor. The old planes need new wiring and computerized navigation systems and could fly for another 20 years.

Pryor told us the avionics-modernization program, dropped in the last budget because it was too expensive, will have a $47.3 million infusion to begin upgrading the navigation and communications systems again. C-130 AMP improvements include a fully integrated, night-vision-goggle compatible, digital glass cockpit and new digital avionics that increase situational awareness and enhance safety. It’s technical, but it makes sense.

If the active duty 19th and 314th Airlift Wings are all C-130Js all the time, the older model C-130Hs will be decommissioned or transferred to National Guard and Air Force Reserve units around the country — including those at LRAFB.

Boeing was the manufacturer of the AMP kits installed on the five C-130H aircraft here when the plug was pulled on the program in 2012. The C-130s are manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Four more kits, manufactured but not installed, are currently at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

In addition to $47.3 million for the continuation of the C-130 AMP program, Pryor said $22.4 billion will be spent on C-130J programs, $8.7 million for C-130J modifications, $1 billion for dual-equipment Guard and Reserve units, and about $100 million for the C-130 propulsion-system engine upgrades and system propeller upgrades.

“I’m also working on a bill called the Military Commissary Sustainment Act,” he told us. Under the current budget proposal, “subsidies for nearly all of our commissaries would be cut. My bill would prohibit the Department of Defense from making these cuts until a commission releases its 2015 report.”

Pryor’s work in behalf of the air base will help the mission grow and we are grateful for that.

EDITORIAL >> Helping area storm victims

Arkansas loves to help those in need and that is evident in the outpouring of donations to the El Paso, Mayflower and Vilonia tornado victims.

But it is that love that scammers prey on. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel warns about those unscrupulous people and groups that sabotage the love pouring we have for our fellow neighbors.

Donate only to those organizations that you know and trust, like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or your neighborhood church or civic group.

In Beebe, the city, the chamber and First Baptist Church are leading efforts to collect the donations for tornado victims.

Drop off points are at city hall, the police department, the fire department and the church. Deliveries are being made to Vilonia, El Paso and Center Hill.

The Cabot Library is collecting nonperishable food, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, pet food and other items.

Re:New Community Church is bringing Vilonia residents by van to the church’s community center to allow them to pick out supplies and clothing. And church members are putting together personal hygiene kits for residents.

Cabot Resource Center on Hwy. 5 next to Sonic near Greystone is collecting donations for tornado victims.

Angel Franks of Lonoke is collecting donations for storm victims at the Atwood’s store parking lot. A U-Haul truck is set up and accepting donations of bottled water, baby formula and care products

Whit Davis Lumber Plus stores in Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbrier are serving as tornado relief drop-off locations. They are asking for batteries, flashlights, bottled water, blankets, toiletries, packaged snacks and cash.

Excel Ford of Cabot has teamed up with the Cabot Dream Center to gather donations of work gloves, trash bags, water, toiletries, diapers, paper towels and hand sanitizer.

The Airmen and Family Readiness Center on Little Rock Air Force Base is accepting donations of shovels, rakes, workman’s gloves, trash bags, eye goggles and hand sanitizer.

Blankets, pillows, bottled water and non-perishable food are being accepted at North Metro Medical Center’s Education Building in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville’s First United Methodist Church is accepting donations of water, snacks, diapers, blankets, tarps and flashlights.

Help as much as you can, it’s the Arkansas way, but make sure it goes to those in need and not a scammer’s pocket.

TOP STORY >> She hopes to win handicap van

Tonya Lovercheck, 40, of Jacksonville is competing to win a handicap-accessible van after a November 2011 car crash left her with limited use of her hands and arms and no use of her legs.

The Jacksonville High School graduate’s neck was broken and her spinal cord was injured at cervical levels 5, 6 and 7 in a one-vehicle rollover accident on Dick Jeter Road between North Little Rock and Jacksonville.

Lovercheck is now a resident of Woodland Hills Nursing and Rehab.

Her sister, Brandy Robin-son of Cabot, recently entered her in the contest for the van.

Robinson said, “She relies on others to do many of the basic things we take for granted each day.

“I created a Facebook page for her and hundreds joined, praying and seeking updates on her progress. Her story was shared by many, and people she didn’t even know visited her in the hospital. Hundreds have been inspired by her positive attitude and the bravery she has shown despite her circumstances,” she said.

“Tonya has two beautiful daughters, ages 16 and 5, and she is missing out on so much by not having transportation. She is unable to attend school functions, softball games or simply go out with them to eat, all because of her disability,” Robinson added.

The girls live with their father, and Tonya does not get to see them unless they are brought to her at the nursing home. Robinson said that environment is not where the girls and their mother can best enjoy their limited time together.

“A new van would help Tonya more than words could ever say. She would have the capability to spend precious time with her children — time she cannot get back. She would have a way to get out of the nursing home and see the world around her. My beautiful sister deserves to have a fulfilling life, one she can enjoy outside of the walls of her nursing facility,” Robinson said.

“The van would be a reliable source of transportation for her to be able to attend both of her daughters’ school events, softball games and more.”

About the contest, Robinson explained, “You simply connect through Facebook and on the website.

“You don’t have to create an account. Please share this with everyone you know. This is a daily voting contest so vote every day and help Tonya get this new van so she can experience life to the fullest. Also, if you have more than one e-mail address, you can vote once each day from each of them,” she said.

The ways to connect are or

TOP STORY >> Storm cost still rising

Leader staff writer

Faulkner County officials on Thursday reported that 700 homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornado that hit Vilonia, Mayflower and El Paso last Sunday evening, killing 15 people in three counties.

FEMA has approved $318,746 in assistance for 422 victims who registered to receive it as of Friday afternoon, according to public information officer Dan Martinez.

According to a report released by the National Weather Service this week, the devastating tornado was rated an EF4, meaning it had 166-200 mph winds. Its path was 42 miles long.

And it was the first EF4 or stronger tornado in the United States in 2014, the report states.

Sunday’s tornado was the deadliest single tornado in Arkansas since the March 1, 1997, tornado ranked an F4 (using the old scale) killed 15 in Saline and Pulaski counties, according to National Weather Service data.

According to a Faulkner County news release, 710 homes have received preliminary assessments.

Of those, 328 were destroyed, 111 had major damage, 231 had minor damage and 40 others were affected by the tornado.

Of the assistance amount FEMA approved, Martinez said $270,908 was for damage to homes and $47,838 was for other needs, like personal belongings, medical and funeral expenses.

There are three mobile units where victims can register for assistance. They are at First Assembly of God Church, 851 Main St. in Vilonia; 607 Hwy. 365 in Mayflower and First Baptist Church, 1206 Main St. in Vilonia.

They can also register by calling 501-621-3362 or online.

There are 117 FEMA boots on the ground in Arkansas, Martinez noted. More are on the way.

And a disaster recovery center will open in Mayflower on Tuesday.

The Attorney General’s Office warns homeowners of scams that arise after natural disasters.

They should avoid contractors who require fees up front, pressure the homeowners to hire them immediately or show up at their homes, according to a news release. Research the door-to-door contractors using neighbors and the Better Business Bureau, it states.

Homeowners should always get estimates, put everything in writing, never pay to fill out a loan application and never pay someone a fee to arrange financing, the release continued.

It also says prices can’t go up more than 10 percent by law.

Then the release states that legitimate charities won’t pressure people, won’t offer to send someone to pick up money, won’t call to thank someone for a pledge they haven’t made and are registered with the Attorney General’s Office.

As of Wednesday, volunteers who wanted to help with the cleanup in Vilonia and Mayflower were asked to sign in at Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia or at city hall in Mayflower.

It has been reported that a main volunteer resource center will be set up at Home Depot in Conway. The center would direct volunteers to access points in Vilonia and Mayflower that have not been decided.

A Facebook group for volunteers has also been formed. Search Arkanstrong Volunteer Tornado Response Forum for more information.

Police have been turning away onlookers in both towns and setting a curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Several cities and other local entities are providing or have provided assistance.


Beebe Mayor’s assistant Angie Gibbons said the city has sent three loads of donations, including water, clothes, food and toiletries, in the last couple of days.

The city of Beebe, the chamber and First Baptist Church are leading efforts to collect the donations for tornado victims.

Drop-off points are at city hall, the police department, the fire department and the church. Deliveries are being made to Vilonia, El Paso and Center Hill.

Gibbons said Beebe’s police chief and fire chief traveled to Vilonia to help out on the first day of the recovery effort.

The city’s dump trucks and other equipment were offered, but Gibbons said she didn’t know if they were used.

She explained that the mayor told her that Vilonia had a lot of National Guard equipment at its disposal.


Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis said the city’s cops helped with search and rescue effort, traffice control and patrolled Mayflower on Wednesday.

Director of Operations Eddie Cook added that Cabot firefighters have helped staff Vilonia’s firehouse at night.

The Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department on Hwy. 31 also responded to the disaster.

The Cabot Library is collecting nonperishable food, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, towels, washcloths and pet food.

Re:New Community Church is bringing Vilonia residents by van to the church’s community center to allow them to pick out supplies and clothing. And church members are putting together personal hygiene kits for residents.

Cabot Resource Center on Hwy. 5 next to Sonic near Greystone is collecting donations for tornado victims. The center is a distribution point for the Arkansas Conference for the United Methodist Church. Deaconess Colleen Caldwell said disaster relief teams from North Carolina and Louisiana are using the church’s facilities during the evenings.

Angel Franks of Lonoke is collecting donations for storm victims at the Atwoods store parking lot. A U-Haul truck is set up to accept donations of bottled water, baby formula, care products and other items from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Items will be taken to Vilonia.

Franks’ brother, Staff Sgt. James Luttrell, a Marine stationed in Virginia Beach, has organized a collection in his area. Different drivers from Virginia to Vilonia are relaying a trailer of donated items.

Cabot Crossfit is accepting donations, too. Its members planned to volunteer today.

Excel Ford of Cabot has teamed up with the Cabot Dream Center to gather donations of work gloves, large trash bags, water, wipes, toiletries, diapers, paper towels and hand sanitizer.

Ward Central Elementary School is accepting monetary donations for tornado victims.


Jacksonville provided two ambulances during the search and rescue effort in Vilonia.

The Airmen and Family Readiness Center on Little Rock Air Force Base is accepting donations of shovels, rakes, hoes, workman’s gloves, heavy-duty trash bags, eye goggles, hand sanitizer, flashlights, batteries, tarps, corded ropes and water.

Help Make Jacksonville Beautiful Again is sponsoring a barbecue potluck at 10 a.m. today at Galloway Park. The group will collect donations for tornado victims.

Donations of blankets, pillows, bottled water and non-perishable food are being accepted at North Metro Medical Center’s Education Building in Jacksonville. Donated items are being delivered to the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office.

Jacksonville’s First United Methodist Church is accepting donations of water, snacks, diapers, blankets, tarps, batteries and flashlights that will be delivered to the Red Cross.

Whit Davis Lumber Plus stores in Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbriar are serving as tornado relief drop-off locations.

The business is asking people to donate batteries, flashlights, bottled water, clothes, blankets, toiletries, toothbrushes, packaged snacks, canned goods and cash.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said she offered trucks to pick up the debris but Mayflower officials said the county would take care of theirs. She hasn’t heard back from Vilonia.

Hillman added that several of the city’s churches are leading relief drives and volunteering.

The city’s firefighters were scheduled to help out on Thursday, Fire Chief David Teague said earlier in the week.

Area churches, businesses and those leading relief efforts that are not publicized here are invited to contact The Leader at 501-982-9421 for publication in follow-up coverage.

Leader creative editor Christy Hendricks and staff writer Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Beebe calls firing range a big draw

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation shooting sports complex in Jacksonville held a grand-opening ceremony Thursday with Gov. Mike Beebe helping cut the ribbon for the $3.2 million facility.

The foundation paid $2 million to build the complex, while the rest was funded by the city.

Beebe called the 160-acre complex at 2800 Graham Road “one of the finest — if not the finest — shooting ranges in the region.

“Jacksonville has always had a vision to make the community bigger and better,” Beebe said. “Somebody had to have a vision. This land is absolutely beautiful.”

He said the complex will attract families and will get young people involved in shooting sports “for generations to come and will enrich countless lives.”

Randy Milligan, chairman of the Game and Fish Foundation, said several key Jacksonville residents approached the group about building the complex on the edge of Jacksonville.

He mentioned Mayor Gary Fletcher, state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), Phillip Carlisle, Tommy Bond and former Rep. Mike Wilson, who sold the land to the foundation with his business partner, Jim Peacock.

Milligan said they brought blueprints and a budget, with their goal to have the largest and nicest shooting complex in the South.

The foundation’s youth-shooting sports program, which held its tournaments at the Remington Gun Club in Lonoke County for many years, is now holding events Jacksonville. The program has grown from 500 participants to 4,000, Milligan said.

Fletcher told the crowd of about 200, “It will be one of the major attractions in Arkansas.”

He said people from Louisiana are driving four hours because they heard about the shooting complex.

Fletcher said, when word gets out, Jacksonville is going to see a lot of people coming.

“I think it was a wise investment,” the mayor added.

He thanked the city council and the advertising and promotions commission for backing the range.

Several dozen youngsters were trap shooting before and after the ceremony. They stopped long enough to listen to the speakers at the ceremony.

Thousands of kids from around the state will attend a tournament there this weekend, bringing their families with them and filling up motel rooms.

The multi-use complex is the largest of its kind in the state. It includes 14 trap fields, three skeet overlays, three lit fields, two pavilions, a lake and a 5,100-square-foot clubhouse that has a classroom.

Plans for the site include a 3-D archery range and rifle and pistol ranges. More than 10,000 rounds have been fired at the shooting range since it opened three months ago.

“Visitors are telling me daily how it is the nicest place they have been to,” Kevin House recently told the Jacksonville Parks Commission.

The facility has hosted two major tournaments, with several more scheduled on most weekends during the summer. School teams are using the range during the week. But, after June 1 when school tournaments are done, use during the week will probably fall off.

The range held its first tournament April 12 with 145 participants and another on April 19, which was a Ducks Unlimited event with 390 shooters. Ducks Unlimited donated $3,200 raised during the tournament.

Another regional tournament is being held today with about 1,200 participants.

Call 501-241-2441 to schedule use of the range or rental of the classroom or pavilions.

Not everyone is happy with the new facility though. Some Jacksonville residents, especially those who live across the street, have complained about the noise at the firing range.

And some residents in the nearby Foxwood subdivision farther away say they can hear shooting from the complex.

But officials are discussing planting more trees and building walls to reduce the noise.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

TOP STORY >> Young volunteer in U.S. spotlight

Leader staff writer

Cabot Middle School South fifth-grader Riley Strube was recognized at her school with a standing ovation from her classmates as she accepted the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for the top middle school and junior high school youth volunteer in Arkansas based on her community service.

Strube volunteered more than 450 hours in the past four years for I CAN! Dance, an organization that allows children with special needs to participate in dance programs and perform around the state.

As the state honoree, Strube received a $1,000 scholarship, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense paid four-day trip to Washington to be recognized.

Strube accepted her award, presented by principal Georgia Chastain, in front of family, students and her dance buddy, Londyn Giles, a North Little Rock kindergartener.

The fifth-grade students gave her a standing ovation for her achievement.

Strube will receive a President’s Volunteer Service Award certificate and a letter from President Barack Obama.

She has a chance to be awarded one of five $5,000 scholarships, a crystal trophy for Middle School South and a $5,000 donation to a charity of her choice.

“You don’t have to be a certain age to do community service. You have to find something you love to do and make community service out of that. With I CAN! Dance, I love to dance, so I made community service out of that,” Strube said.

“I get to come to dance class and teach little kids with special needs how to dance. We do the ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘Animal Action,’ where we get dance when they say the animal; we dance like that,” Strube said.

The special needs dancers are not charged to be in I CAN! Dance. Strube helps with fundraising efforts for the program too.

She made and sold bracelets to raise funds to build a special-needs accessible playground.

She also volunteers with the Susan G. Komen foundation, cheering on the walkers and helping with hospitality.

TOP STORY >> Youngest victims remembered

Leader staff writer

When Alderman Tim McMinn, the pastor at Sylvan Hills Community Church, gave the invocation to start Monday night’s Sherwood City Council meeting asking for prayers, help, guidance and assistance for victims of Sunday’s deadly tornadoes, he had no idea how close to home the tragedy hit.

About 10 minutes into the meeting, Alderman Mike Sanders, a member of the parks and recreation committee and who is involved in the city’s youth sports program, told the council and a crowd of about 100 that two of the 11 dead in Vilonia were  young boys who had recently moved from Sherwood to Vilonia. “They were very active in our baseball program,” he said.

Before the meeting ended, names of the dead had been released and he told the council that the young boys were Cameron and Tyler Smith, ages 8 and 7, respectively. They lived on Cody Lane in Vilonia.

Sanders said the boys’ parents, Daniel and April, were severely injured in the tornado and were taken to different hospitals in Little Rock.

Robert Birch, president of the Sherwood Optimist Club, coached Cameron the past three years on five different ball teams and Tyler this past summer.

“We were all one big family,” Birch said. “Cameron spent a lot of time over at the house. He was a very quiet, respectful, wonderful young man. Tyler was the more rambunctious of the two,” he said. “But wherever Cameron went Tyler followed.”

Birch said from his understanding, the family followed all the proper emergency procedures. “They were hunkered down, but there is nothing left of their home except a concrete slab.”

He said the youth sports community of Sherwood already filled up an 18-foot box truck of supplies and needed items for the victims. “We are going to take it to the church where Cameron and Tyler went in Vilonia,” Birch said.

“We hope to have three, four or five more loads by Saturday,” he said. Donations are being accepted at the Sherwood Sports Complex, the softball or baseball side, from noon to 9 p.m. through Friday, and possibly into Saturday.

“It is unbelievable how the Sherwood community has responded to this,” Birch said, “from moments of silence at each ball game to cash donations, volunteers and a truck load of supplies.”

TOP STORY >> Deadly storm: Horror of it all

Leader staff writer

A National Weather Service-trained storm spotter broadcast over the Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network that there were “bodies everywhere” after Sunday’s tornado struck Vilonia, May-flower and El Paso.

The Leader has received an unconfirmed report from a volunteer that a body was removed from debris near Clover Ridge Drive in Vilonia on Tuesday morning.

But an Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman said Tuesday afternoon that there were 15 confirmed deaths and the last of those was confirmed Monday evening.

If the department confirms that there was a 16th fatality, Sunday’s tornado will become the most deadly the state has seen since 1968, when 35 Arkansans were killed. That is according to the National Weather Service.

The volunteer also said people who were accompanied by American Red Cross staff told him two residents were still missing Tuesday morning.

Three of the 15 confirmed victims were children, ages 14, 8 and 7. The series of storms caused 30 deaths in the South.

Eleven people died in Faulkner County. There were three fatalities in Pulaski County and one in El Paso.

Surviving residents, along with volunteers from all over the state, were picking up debris and doing what they could to help after downtown Vilonia was opened on Tuesday.

At least half the businesses and homes on Main Street were destroyed. In some places, nothing but a concrete slab was left.

FEMA personnel arrived Tuesday afternoon after President Barack Obama declared a disaster for Faulkner County, making federal aid available to those who were affected.

Victims who need assistance are encouraged to call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit

According to a preliminary report released by the National Weather Service on Tuesday, the devastating tornado was at least an EF3, meaning it had 136-165 mph winds.

Resident James Smith and an insurance adjuster were touring his damaged home on Main Street on Monday.

He took cover in a hallway before the tornado struck.

“It was scary. You could hear it coming…Before I hunkered down, I saw it coming. It looked bigger than the one three years ago. It didn’t look good, sounded even worse,” Smith said. “It did more damage this time.”

Austin Hightower of Vilonia agreed. He said, “It was pretty horrific.” Hightower also lived through the April 25, 2011 tornado that killed four residents.

He said this one was much worse. “Last time, it kind of jumped. This one just went and went and went,” Hightower explained.

He was serving hamburgers to volunteers and survivors on Tuesday afternoon with Lisa Lawrence and another resident.

The other resident said he and his son helped search the Black Oak Ranch Estates subdivision for people. He described finding one injured family.

The resident said, “It was pretty rough. We found him down the field. The mother and baby were missing. They found them later on.” They were injured but had survived.

Lawrence said her family took cover in their storm cellar. “I think a lot of people will build them now,” she added.

A Vilonia resident and the member of a church devastated by the tornado didn’t want to take a break from cleaning debris near the church for an interview.

A woman who was also helping out at the church didn’t want to be named but said it would take years to rebuild Vilonia. She agreed that the important thing was that the community come together to rebuild the town.

If the death toll doesn’t change, Sunday’s tornado is the deadliest single tornado in Arkansas since the March 1, 1997 tornado ranked an F4 killed 15 in Saline and Pulaski counties, according to National Weather Service data.

Area police and firefighters had a roadblock set up Monday afternoon, closing downtown Vilonia. Utility crews, residents and first responders looking for victims were allowed in.

The crews were repairing damage that left many Entergy customers in the dark.

The utility’s outages peaked at 35,722 at 8:15 p.m. Sunday, according to a news release. The outages were down to 10,500 Monday afternoon.

Of those, 9,000 were in the Vilonia/Mayflower area, the release states. More than 300 poles and 50 transmission structures were downed by the tornado.

According to the release, more than 1,000 local and out-of-state workers were repairing the damage.

First Electric Cooperative experienced outages throughout its system because of Sunday’s severe storms, but “we were fortunate that the tornado skirted our system,” spokeswoman Tori Moss said.

At the peak of the outages, more than 8,300 members were without power, she continued.

“Crews worked throughout the night and were able to restore service to all but 200 members by early Monday morning, and the remaining members were restored by early afternoon,” Moss said.

Police, firefighters and insurance agents joined utility crews. A clerk at an area gas station said many of the agents live in Vilonia and have opened up their homes to those who don’t have one anymore.

Cabot, Sherwood and Jacksonville have sent or will send first responders to the tornado-ravaged areas.

The Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department on Hwy. 31 also responded.

Two Jacksonville ambulances with paramedics went to Vilonia. North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville treated two adults and one child for minor injuries caused by the storms.

Volunteer Susie Mitchell, who lives off Hwy. 5 near Cabot, was in Vilonia on Tuesday. She helped Woodmen of the World members serve hot food to anyone who needed a meal.

She said she heard a lot of sad stories. One of them was the teacher of a child who died. The teacher lamented that nothing but a slab marked where her pupil’s house had been.

Mitchell traveled from Hot Springs to volunteer. She said, “It was just so devastating to see. Wow, I can’t believe it does this.”

Mitchell’s son, Tommy, was volunteering alongside her. He was off work Tuesday for his birthday.

Tommy Mitchell lives on Hwy. 107, six or seven miles from Vilonia. He said, “It is pretty devastating. It’s different seeing it in person than on TV and the Internet.”

Sherwood police officers — some who live in the Vilonia area — responded to the disaster on their own, according to a department spokesman.

Sherwood firefighters are scheduled to help out on Thursday.

TOP STORY >> Storm devastates El Paso

Leader staff writer

The powerful tornado on Sunday that hammered Mayflower and Vilonia also hit the northern edge of the El Paso community, killing one woman and destroying four homes. The twister’s destructive path plowed along El Paso Road off Hwy. 5 in White County.

“It was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever been through in my life,” Robert Chambers said.

Chambers, his wife, Christina; their 9-year-old daughter, Madison; and his 74-year-old mother, Loraine, sought shelter in a hallway of their home.

“It was five seconds of terror, then silence. We began picking off debris, making sure everyone was OK,” Chambers said.

The 100-year-old three-bedroom house that had been in their family for generations was leveled. They emerged with cuts and bruises.

“I honestly don’t know how we walked out of here. It was miracle; I know that,” Robert Chambers said.

The family’s cat, Thomas, warned them of the approaching tornado, as no sirens sounded.
“Our cat was acting funny at the foot of the bed. Its eyes got real big. He craned his neck and his head turned almost around to look out the window. He opened his mouth really wide. It was strangest behavior I have ever seen,” Chambers said.

He said they had 10 to 15 seconds to get into the hallway.

“I believe Thomas saved our lives. We would have been hit before we heard the roar (of the tornado),” Christina Chambers said.

Robert Chambers said the house was shaking. They got down, and he tried to cover everybody up.

He said they were inside the tornado. He felt the debris, the cold winds, being lifted up and the rain. Chambers said it did sound like a freight train, with a deafening roar.

“I honestly thought that we were gone — the sheer force. I hope I never go through it again. I won’t. I will get a storm shelter,” Chambers said.

“I’m very thankful. We lost everything, but we survived. I don’t think it has sunk in. We are in shock. Our car is in our kitchen,” Chambers said.

Their cat has not been found.  

Chambers said residents have stopped by with food and money. The American Red Cross disaster relief team gave out snacks and water to storm victims.

“I advise everybody, if they don’t have a storm shelter, to get one. We were very fortunate,” Robert Chambers said. 

Chambers’ aunt, Paula Blakemore, 55, died when the twister shredded her doublewide trailer. She was their neighbor. El Paso firefighters found her body 200 feet away in the woods.

The twister toppled a tree onto Leroy Kirkland’s new truck and skipped along a field toward the homes on El Paso Road.

“The TV quit working. I came out to the porch. There was no wind. It felt like I was in vacuum. The wind started moving.

“I got back inside into the hall and covered up. It didn’t last a few seconds. It was a scary situation. Thankful we didn’t get hurt,” Kirkland said.

Family, church friends and a dozen airmen with the 53rd Airlift Squadron from the Little Rock Air Force Base were helping Kirkland on Monday as he cut  downed trees and be-gan to make repairs to his fence row.

“You don’t expect a lot of young guys to do that. They are asking me for things to do,” Kirkland said.

Victor Lockert said, “The TV told us it was coming. When it hit Vilonia, I left to go to Beebe to get away from it.”

When he came back home his carport was on his truck.

David Jones found junk mail addressed to Vilonia residents and dozens of pictures in his field.

El Paso Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Boaz reported there were two houses completely destroyed and three injuries. Three years ago nearly the same day, a tornado skirted the northwest corner of El Paso, damaging a house and trees.

El Paso is an unincorporated township. It does not have tornado sirens.

Boaz said he has asked the White County Office of Emergency Management for sirens in the past. They told him it would better serve the residents to have NOAA weather radios. El Paso is rural and spread out. It would be hard for the sirens to reach everyone in the community.

A small command center at the fire station after the last tornado hit has since been closed.

The fire department plans to meet with El Paso Community Center board members to see if the community center can be used during the next emergency. 

“It humbles me to see the outpouring of the community. People as far as Antioch and Furlow came to bring food. It is amazing how this brings things together,” Boaz said.

EDITORIAL >> Disaster aid and politics

There is nothing like a vast natural disaster such as the one that struck our neighbors to the north Sunday to demonstrate the common generosity of people, the impulse that says we are all God’s creatures and your undeserved suffering is my obligation, too.

We saw it at Mayflower and Vilonia where hundreds of families seemed to lose everything—their homes, their possessions, some their loved ones and many their livelihoods—in a few horrifying seconds of a killer tornado, just as we see it each time that calamity strikes, whether from the wildfires of the western plains, the hurricanes that ravage coastal cities, the tsunamis of the southern seas or the great earthquakes along the planet’s seismic faults.

Within minutes of the reporting on the devastation at Vilonia and Mayflower, hundreds rushed to help in whatever way they could from many miles around, even if they were only in the way of the relief workers, while others—big businesses and individuals—offered food, clothing or some other form of help that might make people’s losses and sudden hopelessness more bearable.

And, yes, that unspeakable player, Government. There were the first responders of local government, searching for survivors, comforting loved ones and providing safety and security, and Gov. Beebe and the agents of the state promising the state’s help, limited though it can be, to put things back to normal for the stricken communities in the shortest time possible. Beebe rushed an emergency request to President Obama, who issued the declaration immediately. There was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Washington setting up to start dealing with all the individual crises—funerals, homelessness, joblessness, infrastructure, business collapse—in the way that the federal government is known for helping, most controversially: with money.

The day after the storm, the whole Washington delegation—five Republicans and the lone Democrat, Sen. Mark Pryor—issued a joint statement announcing there would be relief from the government, which charitably none of them noted was headed by the largely despised Barack Obama. All six had signed a letter supporting Gov. Beebe’s request for a disaster declaration for Faulkner County, which would open the tap for all sorts of aid, to individuals, businesses and local governments to help them rebuild their homes, businesses and jobs and help them pay for such things as funerals and emergency lodging.

Then the inevitable happened. The Arkansas Times blog observed that Rep. Tom Cotton, our west Arkansas congressman, had voted consistently against disaster relief like that which will be coming to Mayflower and Vilonia, but he joined the statement taking some credit for getting the federal money flowing to help with recovery.

There were howls, from Cotton’s staff and Senate campaign, that it was wrong to introduce politics into the tragedy. It was irreverent to introduce politics when everyone should be mourning.

On the contrary, it is precisely when politics should rear its head—at the moment and in the circumstances where people see what political philosophy and votes really mean, how they affect each of us and our community of friends and relatives. If politics is more than a parlor game, people need to see what it means to their lives. Contrary to the commonly expressed belief, it nearly always makes a difference who you vote for and who gets elected. It is times like this when that truth becomes self-evident.

Tom Cotton holds a distinct political philosophy—libertarian is the common name for it—and he is passionate and far more steadfast in advancing it than nearly all the rest of his conservative party. It is the belief that the government’s role, even in a democratic system, is very limited and that government wanders too far when it taxes and spends in an effort to correct the imperfections and failures of the social and economic order. Instead, people must be left alone, or with the help of friends and private institutions like churches and the free market, to deal with the vicissitudes of life. It is not the government’s role.

So Cotton voted against disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and then supplemental relief for the same victims—the only one of the Arkansas delegation to do so—and he voted against replenishing the FEMA fund from which Arkansans will now get emergency help. So is it wrong for Cotton to ask FEMA to authorize money for Arkansas disasters, as he has now done three times, when he votes against providing the money?

It depends on how you look at it. He can say that the country cannot afford to spend large sums on help for disaster victims, but if it is going to do it, he wants Arkansans to get its share.

This is a small problem for Cotton because while large numbers of Arkansans, perhaps most of them, think the government is too big and spends money profligately on poor people, when it comes down to programs that help them and their families people think the spending is wise. Tom Cotton is not a fan of social insurance—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance to people with low incomes and the like—and he has voted his conscience on all of them, namely for budget plans that would turn Medicare into a voucher system that would shift an ever-greater share of medical costs to the elderly, and similar shifts for Social Security and other health- and nutrition-insurance programs. 

The opposite philosophy is that a democratically elected government is the instrument of the people, and it should do what a majority of the people want it to do. One of those happens to be taking care of unfortunate people who are victimized by natural cataclysms. The government is the agent for all our individual compassion because each of us cannot do what we would like to do to help. We express our compassion and generosity through the people we elect and the laws they pass.

Cotton has a different and equally legitimate idea about government. It is perfectly timely for everyone to reflect about that choice at a moment of sorrow.
—Ernie Dumas

SPORTS >> Panthers get shut out over Badgers

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team made the short trip to Beebe on Friday for a nonconference game with the class 5A Badgers and the Panthers left Gillam Field with a 7-0 shutout win.

Cabot scored the only run it would need in the top of the second inning, and added another run in the third inning and one more in the sixth before putting the game away with four runs in the seventh.

The Panthers scored their seven runs off of eight hits. The Badgers, on the other hand, couldn’t find any offense whatsoever as they could only manage one hit off of winning pitcher Kason Kimbrell. The senior southpaw struck out seven Beebe batters and walked none in his six innings of work on the hill.

“He was outstanding,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin of Kimbrell. “Usually, when he can get through that first inning he really settles in. He went to a lot of three-ball counts early, but once he got through that first inning he settled in.

“He just competed. He had an idea of what he wanted to do – pitching just off of what he was seeing by their swings, and he was able to throw his breaking balls behind the count when he didn’t have his fastball command early, and then the fastball command came back. He was kind of the story of the day right there.”

Kimbrell’s only hit given up came off the bat of Beebe three-hole hitter Justin Browning in the bottom of the first.

Browning singled to center field, but was picked off by Kimbrell the next at-bat for the third out of the inning.

Coleman McAtee gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead their next at-bat with a towering solo home run to left field. Cabot took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, thanks in part to a costly error at shortstop.

Two-hole hitter Gavin Tillery reached on an E6 with two outs in that inning, and Riley Knudsen followed with a single to center field the next at-bat. That brought cleanup hitter Tristan Bulice to the plate, and he drove Tillery in with another single to center.

The score remained 2-0 till the top of the sixth. In that inning, Kimbrell got on base because of an error at third base. Dylan Bowers came in to run for Kimbrell, and Bowers stole second base, advanced to third on a ground ball by Zach Patterson, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Jonathan Latture.

Beebe starting pitcher John Finley was pulled at the end of the inning, and the Panthers took advantage of the pitching change by adding four more runs to their side of the board during their last at-bat, putting the game out of reach and setting the final score.

Cabot leadoff hitter Lee Sullivan started the inning with a stand-up double to right field, and Tillery followed with a stand-up double to right center.

Sullivan scored on the play, and Knudsen followed with a two-run home run to right field to give Cabot a 6-0 lead.

Kimbrell walked two batters later with two outs, and Patterson helped set the final score with a stand-up double to right field, driving in Bowers, who scored all the way from first base to give the visiting Panthers a 7-0 lead.

Sullivan and Knudsen led the Panthers with two hits each, while teammates Tillery, Bulice, McAtee and Patterson had one hit apiece.

Cabot and Beebe will resume conference play this week.

The Panthers, 4-6 in conference play, host Jonesboro in a 7A/6A-East doubleheader today at 4:30. The Badgers (11-10, 6-4) travel to Batesville tomorrow for a 5A-East doubleheader that starts at 4 p.m.

SPORTS >> Big hit eludes Bears at Porter

Leader sports writer

LITTLE ROCK – Sylvan Hills had several opportunities to score throughout its nonconference game with Little Rock Catholic on Monday at Lamar Porter Field, but could only manage one run as the Bears fell to the Rockets by the final score of 3-1.

Blake Maddox scored the first run of the game to give Sylvan Hills (14-8, 5-3) an early 1-0 lead after being hit by a pitch at the start of the second inning. Catholic (16-5, 7-2), however, put two runs on its side of the board in the bottom of the third to take the lead for good.

Joe Myers and Zach Sokora scored the two runs for the Rockets after both reached base on a pair of singles. Catholic set the final score its next at-bat. Freshman Evan Hooper led off the bottom of the fourth and reached via walk.

Lance Harville-Thomas followed Hooper’s at-bat with a single to the right-field gap, and Sokora laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced both runners. Sokora was safe at first, though, because of an errant throw to first.

Hooper scored the next at-bat on a line-drive single to center field, which set the final score.

The Bears had their chances down the stretch to cut into the Rockets’ lead, but failed to score on each occasion.

In the top of the fifth, seniors T.J. Burrow and Connor Poteet walked to start the inning, and advanced to second and third base on a double steal, but Rockets’ pitcher Zach Morris struck out the next two batters and forced Jacob White to fly-out for the third out of the inning, getting out of the jam.

In the top of the sixth, Jacob Franco started the inning at second base after reaching on an E5. He advanced to second on the errant throw to first. Catholic’s Harper Vondran, like Morris before him, got out of the jam by striking out two of the next three batters he faced, and got a pop-up in the infield to keep the Bears off the board.

Sylvan Hills had a similar situation in the top of the seventh as the Bears had runners at the corners with two outs, but Vondran was aided by a 6-3 groundout to end the game in the host team’s favor.

“We just couldn’t get a break to fall our way,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “I think we had a lot more guys on base tonight than they (Catholic) did. It’s just about getting the hit at the right time. In the first three innings we even had guys in scoring position.

“We had chances all night. We just couldn’t get the timely hit when we needed it.”

With it being a nonconference game and with the playoffs approaching, the Bears threw their top four pitchers Monday – Marcus Long, Poteet, Maddox and Hunter Heslep – and Tipton was pleased overall with their performances on the hill.

“They threw well,” Tipton said. “We kept them to three runs. We’ve just got to score more than three. We had chances. We just didn’t get it done.”

Monday’s game with the Rockets was the fourth-straight nonconference game the Bears have played. Last week, Sylvan Hills beat Vilonia 10-6 and Little Rock Central 4-3, but lost to Benton 6-1.

The Bears will finish their regular-season schedule with three 5A-Central doubleheaders. They’ll travel to west Little Rock to face defending class 5A state champion Pulaski Academy in a twin bill tomorrow.

They’ll go back to Little Rock on Friday for a pair of conference games against Little Rock McClellan on the campus of J.A. Fair before finishing the regular season at home next Tuesday with a pair of league games against North Pulaski.

SPORTS >> Cabot ladies take first at Heber meet

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers won the Eagle Bank Relays in Heber Springs on Friday, narrowly out-pointing Lake Hamilton by 5.5 points with a final total of 103.5. The Beebe girls finished seventh out of 17 girls’ teams with 44 points. The Cabot boys scored 62 points to finish third behind Vilonia’s 82 and Searcy’s 65. Heber Springs and Lake Hamilton rounded out the top five with 59 and 57 points, while Beebe took sixth out of 22 boys’ teams with 50 points.

Cabot junior Lexi Weeks won the pole vault and the 100-meter hurdles. She was almost a full second ahead of second place in the 100m hurdles with a time of 15.75. Beebe senior Madison Richey was fifth at 17.09. Cabot junior Tori Weeks won the 300m hurdles in a tighter race, finishing in 47.39 ahead of Clinton’s Allie Hensley. Richey was third in that race at 48.97, while Cabot senior Rachael Hall was fifth.

Tori Weeks also won the triple jump by bounding 35-8.75, narrowly edging out Richey’s 34-7.75. Richey also took third in the long jump with a leap of 17-feet.

Lexi and Tori were first and second in the pole vault, beating the rest of the field by three feet or more. Lexi Weeks won by clearing 13-4 and Tori made 13-feet.

Lake Hamilton’s Taylor Wallace was third at 10-feet. Lexi Weeks also took third in the 200-meter dash while Beebe sophomore Taylor McGraw was seventh. McGraw also took fourth in the 800m.

The Cabot girls won the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays.

They barely edged Pulaski Robinson by .22 seconds in the sprint, but blew away the field by more than 15 seconds in the 400, finishing with a time of 4:01.78, while Conway was second at 4:17.45. Beebe took fourth in the 4x100 and seventh in the 4x400.

Lake Hamilton won the 4x800 while Conway was second, Beebe third and Cabot fourth.

Cabot junior Danielle McWilliams won the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:01.37. She also took seventh for two points in the 100-meter dash.

Samantha Nickell and Ashley Gore, a pair of Cabot sophomores, placed fifth and eighth in the 3,200-meter race. Cabot sophomore Katie Wright was seventh in the shot put.

In the boys’ event, Beebe’s Connor Patrom won the 400-meter race for the second time in three meets with a time of 50.70. It’s the fastest time posted in 5A this year, but still .14 seconds short of qualifying for the state meet.

Patrom’s senior teammate John Diaz was sixth in the same event and took seventh in the 800m.

Badger senior Race Payne won the shot put with a toss of 50-3.5 while Cabot’s Aaron Henry took third at 47-9.75.

Henry and Cabot sophomore Brandon Jones finished first and second in the discus throw. Henry won with a toss of 133-10 while Jones was second at 128-2. Beebe’s Jesse Crisco was sixth at 121-10.

Cabot senior Hayden Richey was fifth in the 300-meter hurdles while Beebe seniors William Peterson and Marcus Burns were right behind at sixth and seventh.

Cabot and Beebe teams placed in all three relays. Cabot took fourth and Beebe sixth in the 4x100. Beebe was second and Cabot third in the 4x400, and Cabot was third and Beebe eighth in the 4x800.

Cabot sophomore Rockey Burke was seventh in the pole vault at 11-6. Cabot junior Brayden Mercantel took fifth in the mile.

Cabot senior Allie Layton took second in the 100-meter dash while Beebe’s Keishaun Davidson was eighth. Davidson took fifth in the 200-meter dash while Layton was seventh and his teammate Jake Ferguson finished eighth.

The Badgers will host the 5A-East Conference meet at A.S. “Bro” Irwin Stadium on Thursday.

Cabot will host the 7A-East/Central Conference meet on Friday at Panther Stadium.

SPORTS >> SH girls cruise to wins at LRM

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills’ softball team remained perfect in 5A-Central Conference play with a pair of dominant league wins in Monday’s doubleheader against Little Rock McClellan at J.A. Fair.

In the first game, the Lady Bears shut out the Lady Lions on their way to a 16-0 mercy-rule win, and in the second part of the twin bill, Sylvan Hills got another mercy-rule win, this time by the final score of 16-1. Both games only lasted three innings.

Callie Cavender threw all three innings of game one for the Lady Bears. She gave up just one hit in that time and finished with seven strikeouts. Lynlee Broadway got the win in the circle in game two. She threw the first two innings of that game, striking out five while giving up just two hits.

Ace pitcher Michelle Sorensen came in to relieve Broadway in the bottom of the third, and she struck out the side to end that game early as well, because of the 15-run lead after three innings sportsmanship rule.

Sylvan Hills scored eight runs in the first inning of game one to take command of the game early. The Lady Bears added a run in the second before putting the game away in the top of the third with seven more runs. Cara Pozza and Tori Crites led the Lady Bears at the plate in game one. They each had two hits.

In game two, the Lady Bears went scoreless in the first inning, but racked up six of their runs scored in the second inning before ending the doubleheader with their best inning of the day in the third, scoring 10 runs in that inning to set the final score.

Pozza, Broadway and Kathie Hudson led the offensive onslaught in game two. They each had two hits.

The Lady Bears are once again in good position to finish the regular season undefeated in conference play and head coach Mark Anderson said he’s seen steady improvement from his team as the season has progressed, but added that there’s still work to be done before the playoffs get underway in May.

“We’ve seen some improvement,” said Anderson. “We’ve had to make a few adjustments defensively to try to make us better as a team, and the kids have done a good job of making those adjustments. We still have a few things we need to work on and get better at.

“We’re definitely not all the way where we want to be at, but we’re working on fixing those things every day.”

The Lady Bears, 13-6 overall, 8-0 in conference play, will play another conference doubleheader tomorrow at Pulaski Academy.

SPORTS >> Red Devils drop two to LRCA

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils’ winning streak ended at 14 on Friday, and then became a two-game losing streak with a disappointing doubleheader loss to Little Rock Christian Academy. The Warriors came to Dupree Park and left with wins of 1-0 in the first game, and 8-7 in 12 innings.

Jacksonville scored all seven of its run in the sixth inning of game two, going scoreless the other 18 innings of play.

“The crazy thing is, all season long we’ve killed pitching coming in at that speed we were seeing in game two,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “Eighty, 82 miles per hour, we’ve hit that all season long. I don’t know what happened or why we could hit it in one inning but not the other 11.”

The seven runs gave Jacksonville a 7-4 lead. Errors in the outfield had already given Little Rock Christian Academy two unearned runs of the four scored up to that point.

Another error in the outfield in the bottom of the seventh allowed two more unearned runs to score and sent the game into extra innings.

“That’s the other thing,” Burrows said. “I don’t know if we’ve made an error in the outfield all year, and then we make three in one game.”

The most disappointing thing about the loss is that it likely cost the Red Devils any chance of getting a No. 1 seed in the upcoming state tournament that they will host at Dupree Park.

Jacksonville and LRCA are now tied for first place in the 5A-Central Conference, but the Warriors have played all the other top teams in the conference, meaning the best Jacksonville can hope for is a co-championship. Since LRCA swept their games with Jacksonville, it will get the top seed in the tournament.

Jacksonville also still has to play Pulaski Academy in a doubleheader next week, and could still finish third or fourth.

The Warriors scored the only run of game one in the top of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Ryan Panyard hit a leadoff single and three-hole hitter Nate Alberius walked. With two outs, five-hole hitter Austin Ply singled to right-center field to drive in Panyard and both teams went scoreless the rest of the game.

Jacksonville pitcher Derek St. Clair gave up just one more hit the rest of the game and the Warriors never seriously threatened to score again.

Jacksonville had a prime opportunity to score in the bottom of the second. With one out, Ryan Mallison and St. Clair got consecutive hits. After a strikeout, Deaundray Harris singled to right field, but Mallison was thrown out at home to end the inning.

Jacksonville had another chance to score in the bottom of the seventh when Harris and Laderrious Perry got consecutive two-out singles, but Brandon Hickingbotham lined out to first base to end the game.

St. Clair went the distance, giving up three base hits while striking out 10 and walking five. Jacksonville doubled the Warriors base-hit total while striking out nine times and walking once.

LRCA scored one run in each of the second and third innings, then two in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.

Jacksonville finally got things going offensively, putting seven consecutive batters on base with six hits and one walk. All seven came around to score with Blake Perry’s slide home after Laderrious Perry’s single, giving the Red Devils their first lead of the evening at 5-4.

After LRCA tied it in the seventh off relief pitcher Kaleb Reeves, he stayed on the mound the remainder of the game.