Saturday, April 03, 2010

TOP STORY >> LRAFB AND COMMUNITY WIN Recognition for excellence

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville and central Arkansas’ support of Little Rock Air Force Base has been no secret throughout the Air Force. But in its first year of eligibility, the area has been recognized by the awarding of the Abilene Trophy for best civic community support of a base in the Air Mobility Command.

The Abilene Trophy, established in 1998 by the Military Relations Committee of the Abilene, Texas, Chamber of Commerce, is awarded annually to the community in Air Mobility Command that is most supportive of the local Air Force base.

Previous to the base’s reorganization last year, LRAFB was under the 314th Airlift Wing.

“This just affirms what a wonderful community we have and how important the base is to us,” said Annabelle M. Davis, executive secretary of the LRAFB Community Council, which won the award.

“It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I have the privilege of announcing that you won this year’s Abilene Trophy—the best community in all of AMC!” base commander Col. Greg Otey wrote in an e-mail to community council members Thursday.

“Your steadfast support of the base, its missions and its people haven’t gone unnoticed. I’ve said many times that I’m blessed to have such a supportive local community, and this award validates everything I’ve been saying since I arrived here last year.”

“We’ve said for a long time that the support we receive from the folks in central Arkansas is second to none,” Otey continued.

“That was validated with the announcement of the Abilene Trophy Wednesday. On behalf of the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base, thank you. Thank you not only for what you have done in the past but for what you will continue to do for Little Rock AFB and our airmen.”

Col. Michael Zick, vice commander for the 19th Airlift Wing, informed the Jacksonville City Council on Thursday night about the award, saying that the trophy would be displayed at city hall.

Mayor Gary Fletcher hugged the colonel and said, “We just fall in love with these guys when they are here and then miss them when they have to leave.”

Both Otey and Davis cited Jacksonville’s support of the new Joint Education Center as a key component in winning the award.

Jacksonville residents taxed themselves and raised $5 million toward the new center, currently under construction outside the gate but on base property.

“It really set a new standard and precedent,” Davis said.

Otey cited other indications of the support that the base gets from the community:

The Jacksonville mayor briefs Little Rock AFB’s newcomers orientation each week, so every new airman knows the local mayor.

Airpower Arkansas, a subset of the community council consisting of local community members, raised funds for the base’s 2010 air show, collecting more than $50,000 from local businesses and individuals.

Community members donated more than $22,000 in support of the Little Rock AFB rodeo teams.  In addition to the outstanding financial support, many attended the pre-departure breakfast and the post-rodeo celebrations, and a few community members even accompanied the Little Rock AFB rodeo teams to the competition.

Civic leaders sponsored base events including the Air Force ball, the annual awards ceremony and the Black Knight Heritage Dinner enabling deep discounts for airmen’s ticket prices. These leaders also made time on Thanksgiving and Christmas to serve meals to airmen at the base dining facility.

Community members sponsor the base’s free quarterly deployed-families dinner for spouses and children of deployed members.

Military discounts are offered to local concerts and sporting events and some are free.

Some recent examples include reduced admission to see country music stars Trace Adkins and Martina McBride, reduced admission to see the Harlem Globetrotters, admission for the price of the Ticketmaster service charge for both Kenny Chesney and the musical group Kiss, and community-sponsored tickets to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team.

These events especially allow junior enlisted military members the opportunity to see events that they might not be able to otherwise afford, thanks to the generous support of the central Arkansas community.

Formally known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award, it has been awarded since its establishment in 1998 in Abilene, the home to Dyess Air Force Base, which has an AMC contingent, the 317th Airlift Group.

But the main host, the 7th Bomber Wing, is under the Air Combat Command, and thus Dyess would not be eligible for an award sponsored by its host city.

Charleston, S.C., has won the award three times, and Grand Forks, N.D.; Dover, Del.; Tampa, Fla., and Spokane, Wash., have each won twice.

Larry Wilson, a former president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, said the Abilene Trophy reflected the area’s commitment to the Air Force Base.

“This is big,” Wilson said.

Alderman Marshall Smith said, “This is a tremendous award. The Air Force has said for years in different ways that Jacksonville is a great military town.”

Garrick Feldman, editor and publisher of The Leader, told Otey after the award was announced, “Every successful endeavor takes a team effort. The men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base prove that every day.

“The community support reflects our deep appreciation of your pursuit of excellence 24/7,” Feldman said..

“We meet you in our neighborhoods and businesses and see you flying on the horizon, and we hear you at night, the sentinels of freedom, always ready when called upon,” he said.

Friday, April 02, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Democrats slug it out

Having never invested any confidence in the honesty and propriety of political advertising, we cannot say that we were surprised by the first surge of commercials in the U.S. Senate race. Just mildly disappointed.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln began an all-out assault on her Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, last week with a barrage of multi-media ads that seemed to accuse him of lying, fraud and deception. The slick flyer that landed in mailboxes across the state last week has a picture of Halter, beneath which are the bold words “Drug Fraud. Lying. Lawsuits.” Then it asks, “Can we afford corporate board millionaire Bill Halter in the Senate?” That is followed by a picture of an overturned pill bottle and bundles of $100 bills. Television commercials send the same message.

If you open the flyer and read the somewhat smaller type with a little skepticism, you might conclude that Halter did not lie and did not defraud anyone in spite of the ads’ blurbs from the media that suggest that he did (“. . . lied to the public . . . offered false hope to people stricken with a deadly disease. . .” Associated Press, 10/03/09) (“. . . misleading statements” Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 7/6/07).

Halter was a member of the board of directors of a couple of biomedical firms that got sued for misleading investors and patients. The CEO of one was convicted of lying about a lung-disease treatment. Halter was on the board that fired him.

Halter’s defense was that he had nothing to do with the actions of the executives of the companies, but notwithstanding Lincoln’s deceptions, it has to be a little embarrassing. Everyone knows that corporate directors are figureheads who have little to do with the operations of the companies on whose boards they sit. Halter was no different.

After graduating with honors from the prestigious Stanford University and serving on its board of trustees, Halter was a prospect for the board of every start-up technology and biomedical company on the West Coast. And he served on a number of them in the ’90s and in the last decade. His earnings from director fees and from the sale of appreciated stock of the companies brought him a tidy living and financed his first race for political office four years ago.

If serving on the board of a drug company that was accused of misleading people about the life-saving benefits of its products is a disgrace, then everyone who has ever served on the board of a pharmaceutical company should hang his or her head in shame. Not one of them — not Merck, Pfizer, Lilly, Wyeth — has escaped that infamy. They have paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and defended hundreds of civil suits.

Truth be told, Lincoln’s political fund has accepted vast sums from pharmaceutical companies that have been sued and fined for misleading patients, doctors, hospitals and investors. Her contributions from pharmaceuticals outpace all but a half-dozen members of Congress.

Having been victimized by deceptive and lying commercials in the health-insurance debacle for close to a year — those, after all, are the reason that she is in so much trouble — Lincoln might be forgiven for using the technique herself. We would have preferred that she show the grace to be better than her critics.

While some of Halter’s first commercials characterize differences that he has with Lincoln on matters of federal policy like bankruptcy and student lending, he can be accused not of being dishonest but merely insipid.

The slapstick ads with his lovable old high school football coach in Little Rock moved quickly from clever to tiresome. The worst ones have him boasting of having stood up to the vested special interests when he gave the people of Arkansas a lottery. And what vested interest would that have been? The United Methodist Church?

SPORTS >> Fans need to keep eyes on the ball, too

Leader sports editor

The person who said baseball is a funny game probably was never hit by a foul ball the way Denard Span’s mother was on Wednesday.

And it’s a safe bet Span, an outfielder with the Minnesota Twins, wasn’t laughing either, since he was the one who hit the foul that struck his mother as she sat in the third-base stands during a spring training game with the New York Yankees in Tampa, Fla.

Put the whole mishap down in the “funny-strange” category, because foul balls aren’t necessarily a laughing matter.

Span led off the game and sliced a pitch from Phil Hughes into the seats behind the dugout, hitting his mother Wanda Wilson in the chest as she sat wearing her son’s jersey. Span dropped everything to run to his mother’s side while paramedics treated Wilson, then Span returned to the plate to strike out.

Fortunately Wilson was unhurt, save for some soreness, but the odd set of circumstances serves not only as a reminder of baseball’s unpredictable nature, but of its hidden dangers too.

I’m not here to take all the fun out of a season I enjoy so much, but folks, if you think the case of Span hitting his mother is just a freak thing, think again.

When I read the story I immediately recalled an Arkansas Travelers-Wichita Wranglers game at old Ray Winder Field on July 3, 2003.

Wranglers pitcher Wes Wilkerson came on to relieve Eric Thompson and try to hold a two-run Wichita lead to start the seventh inning. Wilkerson got through the seventh and retired two in the eighth before Travelers hitter Jake Webber sliced a pitch foul into the third-base seats next to the visitors dugout.

The ball struck a woman in the shoulder and glanced up to hit her in the eye. Like Span, Wilkerson sprinted from the field to check on the woman, and it wasn’t just chivalry in Wilkerson’s case either.

The woman was Wilkerson’s sister, Stacy Chmielewski, who had traveled from Nashville to see her brother pitch for the first time that season. Like Span, who left after three innings Wednesday, Wilkerson was too rattled to finish the game, though Chmielewski ended up being fine, other than having a bruise on her cheek.

“She was like, well, you got me back for all the several things that she did to me when I was younger,” Wilkerson said. “But overall I was glad she was all right.”

Another foul ball ended in a history-making tragedy during a game between the Travelers and Tulsa Drillers at Dickey-Stephens Park on July 22, 2007.

Tulsa’s Tino Sanchez ripped a Bill Edward’s pitch foul, and the ball struck Tulsa first-base/hitting coach Mike Coolbaugh in the neck. The resulting trauma cost Coolbaugh his life, leaving his wife, who had a child on the way, a widow and Coolbaugh’s young son fatherless.

A multitude of coincidences, many of them detailed in Scott Price’s excellent book “Heart of the Game” put Coolbaugh in harm’s way.

The Colorado Rockies had only recently hired Coolbaugh and assigned him to Tulsa, after the Drillers’ original coach couldn’t complete his duties, and Sanchez had been serving as the de facto hitting coach in the meantime. Perhaps most sad, most bittersweet, was the fact Sanchez, Edwards and Coolbaugh were all expecting children at the time of the tragedy.

Major League Baseball, so slow in so many cases to embrace change, swiftly mandated all major and minor league base coaches wear helmets, though such a helmet would not have saved Coolbaugh.

But at least the pro game was trying to take action to prevent further tragedies. There are no such precautions at high school or youth fields, where coaches relax on folding chairs and spit sunflower seeds in foul ground while aluminum bats increase the danger of hard-hit stray balls.

But at least the coaches and players have their heads in the game and a fighting chance to get out of the way of an errant drive. What of the unsuspecting fans?

While the episodes detailed in this space are extreme examples of what can go wrong at a ballgame, the fact is, paying customers get hit with fouls or broken, flying bats every year.

Tickets carry disclaimers and ballparks post warnings to decrease injury liability, but that is no protection for the fan in the beer garden more interested in a young lady’s short skirt or the mother in the stands trying to wipe mustard off her child’s face.

So please, have a great time at the ballpark this year. I insist. But when the umpire shouts, “play ball,” remember two other, equally important words.

“Heads up.”

SPORTS >> Bears roll past Falcons

Jordan Spears delivers a pitch for Sylvan Hills Tuesday.


Special to The Leader

North Pulaski’s growing pains continued, while Sylvan Hills stayed perfect in conference action with a doubleheader sweep, 23-0 and 13-0, on Tuesday afternoon.

Sylvan Hills hit two grand slams in the first game as it improved to 10-4 and 4-0 in the 5A-East.

“North Pulaski is a really young team, so they’re going to get better,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “They’ve got some young guys and a young coach, so they’ve got something to look forward to.”

Tuesday’s first game began innocently enough with the Bears scoring three runs in the first inning. It would be the second inning where the game quickly got out of hand.

After starter Jordan Spears struck out the side in the bottom of the first, the Bears batted around twice in the second while scoring 14 runs.

Michael Lock walked to start the inning, followed by a fly out to right field. The next 14 batters reached base safely for Sylvan Hills.

Leadoff batter Corey Arnold hit a grand slam in his second at-bat of the inning, while Lance Hunter’s two-run double was his second hit of the inning.

The Bears began playing station-to-station offense after taking such a large lead as the coaches held the runners to just one base regardless of where the ball was hit.

But even that act of sportsmanship couldn’t keep the Bears off the scoreboard in what became a prolific third inning.

Three consecutive hits were followed by a hit batter, an error deep in left field and, finally, Blake Rasdon mashing his third grand slam of the season.

Sylvan Hills has seven grand slams as a team this year.

While the offense was giving the Bears ace Spears more than enough support, it turned out the tall right-hander and UALR signee only needed the first run his teammates scored.

Spears gave up a single to Marshall Shipley in the first inning and another to T. Allen in the third, but didn’t allow the Falcons to put another ball into play.

The senior struck out the side in each inning to finish with nine strikeouts in a complete, three-inning victory. The game ended early thanks to the 15-runs-after- three innings rule.

Game two went a little better for North Pulaski, but the young Falcons were still held scoreless by Sylvan Hills starter Forrest Harrison.

The Bears started several reserves in the second game and were a little slower to put up runs in clusters, though Trey Sims led off the game with a home run.

Sylvan Hills scored three runs in the second inning to make it 4-0, and the Bears broke the game open in the third by batting around and scoring six runs.

Besides getting the victory, Forrest led the Bears in hitting in the second game with a single, double and pair of runs. Sims was the only other Bear with multiple hits.

SPORTS >> Panthers keep race in conference tight

Hayden Heverling, right, gets backup from Logan Spry on a breakaway.


Leader sportswriter

The first half of play in the 7A-Central Conference has resulted in a logjam near the top of the boys soccer standings.

The Cabot Panthers kept themselves in the fight with a 2-0 shutout over Van Buren on Thursday night at Panther Stadium.

Junior forward Logan Spry struck both times for Cabot with straight-ahead breakaways at the 18- and 35-minute marks of the second half.

With the winner of Friday’s match between Russellville and Conway taking sole possession of first place at 6-1, the loser would join the host of teams locked in second place with two losses, including Cabot (6-2-1).

“Anytime you get a conference win, it’s big,” Panthers coach Clark Bing said. “We played a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half. Van Buren was fast early on, but the heat — well, I think the heat affected everyone a little bit, but I felt like it ended up playing into our hands.”

The Pointers attacked offensively in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but once Spry took the assist from Riley Schack and sophomore Eric Silva for Cabot’s first goal mid-way through the period, the Panthers controlled the ball for most of the duration.

Defensively, William Hildago and sophomore Reed Harrell prevented breakaways by Van Buren in that time after the Pointers had a few shot attempts when the game was still scoreless.

But junior goalkeeper Jason Sled held off the early attempts, including a free-kick save at the nine-minute mark and a stop at the 13-minute mark.

Classmate Charles Mantione took over for Sled in the late going after the Panthers secured their two-goal cushion.

“Jason is a football guy and Charles is a basketball guy,” Bing said. “But both of them are learning the game more all the time.”

Spry got his first shot at the 15-minute mark when sophomore Hayden Heverling tried to set him up in front of the goal with a left-side drive and feed into the middle, but Van Buren’s defense penetrated the play. Hildago had a chance to score less than a minute before Spry’s first goal, but his attempt was too high.

Sophomore Eric Silva did a solid job of working the middle in the physical match, but drew the ire of officials with 16:27 left and drew a yellow card for roughness.

Spry’s second shot, a 25-yarder just off the middle to the left, caught Van Buren’s goalkeeper out of position and gave Cabot the two-score lead with less than six minutes to play.

Spry, who kicks and plays defensive back on Mike Malham’s Panther football team and is a sixth man on Jerry Bridges’ basketball team, plays just as pivotal a role for Bing on the soccer field.

“Logan is what you’d find if you look up athlete in the dictionary,” Bing said.

“He’s just well rounded. If the game involves a ball, he can play it. You don’t see a lot of big, stocky guys like him out on the soccer field.”

SPORTS >> Conway cuts down Cabot

Cabot starter Cole Nicholson in action against Conway at Conrade Field.


Leader sports editor

Players get into the ballpark for free but Conway still found a way to make Cabot pay on its home turf Tuesday.

The Wampus Cats took advantage of three Panthers’ errors on the way to a 4-2, 7A Central Conference victory at Conrade Field.

A miscue cost Cabot a run in Conway’s two-run fourth and another error led to a run in the Wampus Cats’ sixth. The cushion helped Conway survive the seventh, when Cabot loaded the bases but got just one run.

“I don’t know how many bases that we gave them on missing the ball in center field, making a bad throw,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “We didn’t keep the double play in order and against a good quality bunch that will hurt you every time.”

Cabot center fielder Joe Bryant overran Tyler Langley’s single to center for a two-base error in the fourth and Langley scored when Jordan Cates grounded into a double play. Panthers first baseman Tyler Erickson and reliever Chase Beasley couldn’t connect on a flip to first as Beasley covered the bag in the sixth, and Wesley Hoover scored from third on the play to make it 4-1.

“We hit the ball okay,” Conway coach Noel Boucher said. “We put the ball in play. They made some good plays. It’s conference time and so everybody’s going to put their best forward and they’ve got a good ballclub so we’re fortunate to win on the road.”

Cabot (6-3, 0-2) still had a shot in the bottom of the seventh. Powell Bryant drew a one-out walk, Andrew Reynolds singled and right-handed, sidearm reliever Andrew Adams walked Matt Evans, the last hitter he faced, to load the bases.

“Any time you’ve got a funky delivery, a little sidearmer, you don’t see that a lot,” Fitch said. “So it’s something that takes a little getting used to and once we saw it and made him throw strikes we hit him. So it’s about making adjustments and they got him out at the right time and coach Boucher’s a great coach.”

Erickson singled to left off reliever Matt Lefler to drive in Powell Bryant and keep the bases full, but Lefler struck out Brandon Surdam and Justin Goff hit into a force play to end the game.

“It’s not rocket science,” Fitch said. “When we didn’t swing at balls in the dirt, we hit it decent and hit it well early in the game, just couldn’t get much to fall. Man we’re just kind of not getting breaks No. 1 and not helping ourselves swinging at bad pitches.”

Conway starter Bo Stitch went 5 1/3 innings, scattering six hits — three of them on the infield— while striking out five, walking two, hitting a batter and giving up one run.

Cabot starter Cole Nicholson worked five solid innings, giving up four runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

“He just got tired; it’s still pretty early in the season,” Boucher said praising the start by Stitch. “The second guy did real good, came in, got us out of a jam and Lefler came in at the end and threw some breaking balls to get us out of it. So good job by everybody.”

Reynolds singled with one out in the Cabot first and, after a double by Evans, Erickson drove in Reynolds with a sacrifice fly.

Chase Thompson and Joe Bryant had consecutive, two-out hits in the second but were stranded. A one-out double by Powell Bryant was wasted in the fifth, and Conway prevented a run when catcher Connor McClain threw out Surdam, with Adams covering the plate, when Surdam tried to score on a wild pitch in the sixth.

Conway (10-2, 2-0) tied it in the third inning when Patrick Mann doubled, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Ryan Lazo’s groundout. The Wampus Cats took the lead in the fourth when Wesley Hoover led off with a double and Langley singled him in and took third on Joe Bryant’s outfield fielding error to set up the second run of the inning.

Hoover beat out a leadoff bunt in the sixth, stole second, reached third as Langley grounded to Erickson and scored on the misplay between Erickson and Beasley at first.

Of Cabot’s eight hits, six came from the No. 1-5 hitters Powell Bryant, Reynolds, Evans, Erickson and Surdam.

“I told them ‘It’s the greatest team sport there is. We can’t have three people swinging the bat,’ ” Fitch said. “Their pitching was adequate and got the job done but I thought we should have hit it a little better than what we did.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Refighting old battles

It is comforting to live in a state where the elected leaders, or some of them, do not chase the latest political chimera or lose their wits when the mob is pounding on the door. Gov. Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said they were not going to accede to the demands of 33 Republican lawmakers and have the state defy federal law. It didn’t work when the slave states tried it in 1861 or when Arkansas Gov. Orval E. Faubus tried it again in 1957, and they are not going to risk the state’s treasury and reputation again by doing such a frivolous, foolish and utterly wasteful thing, the governor and the state’s lawyer-in-chief said.

The Republicans want state officials to do something to stop the new health-insurance law from taking effect in Arkansas, principally the part that requires people in 2014 to buy health insurance or else pay a tax like they do for Social Security and Medicare.

The theory is that the federal government has no right under the Constitution to require people to buy insurance or pay a tax and that state governments can just declare a federal law off limits in their boundaries. Republican officials in 14 states are suing to stop the national government from infringing on the states’ sovereignty by mandating health insurance for everyone.

To win, they have to overcome 207 years of case law.

“They tried it here in Arkansas in ’57 and it didn’t work,” Beebe said. “I think you’ve got to tell people the truth. And if I understand the law, the truth is the federal government can’t just be defied by the state governments.” Beebe understands the law pretty well. He was a spectacularly successful lawyer before he was the attorney general.

And McDaniel, his successor: “I would be abusing my office to bring a suit that I believe to be constitutionally frivolous. State budgets are tight enough right now without bringing actions that are entirely driven by political motivation rather than sound legal justification.”

Beebe and McDaniel are not champions of the new health insurance law, although Beebe’s sole objection to it seems disingenuous. He doesn’t like the state being required to start paying a small share of the cost of covering poor working families in Arkansas in 2017. But if you engage the state in defying any federal law that has an objectionable feature, where do you stop?

Beebe was in the state Senate when the state gingerly undid the last defiance of this sort. The legislature in 1989 referred a constitutional amendment to the people that repealed the interposition and nullification law of 1956, which had ordered the state to protect racial discrimination in Arkansas any time the national government tried to end it. Arkansas voters ratified the repeal amendment in 1990, although the 1956 law had been a dead letter from the day it was adopted. Now some Republicans want to revive the stand of the white supremacists, only this time to prevent medical coverage for everyone rather than just human rights for black citizens.

The Republican crusade against mandatory health insurance may be the most mystifying political about-face in U.S. history. In the spring of 2010, the Republican Party officially views mandatory insurance as an irreversible stride toward a socialist state and a government takeover of health care. But for most of the previous 40 years, that was exactly the Republican solution to the growing health-care crisis. In the early 1970s, Presidents Nixon and Ford pushed a sweeping version of what is now called Obamacare, requiring all American businesses to supply health insurance for their workers, but Democrats wanted a Medicare-for-all arrangement.

When Bill Clinton pressed for a universal insurance system in the 1990s, the ultra-conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, proposed a system like the new law based on mandatory individual purchase of insurance. Twenty Republican senators, including current leaders like Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassley and Christopher Bond, introduced a bill requiring everyone to buy health insurance. (Hatch and Grassley explained recently that they were confused back then and didn’t know what they were doing.) Moderate Republicans led by Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island introduced a modified version that required individual insurance purchases, and it appeared for a while that they might get together with Clinton.

Just as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy would later rue his refusal to embrace the Republican plan in 1974, President Clinton seemed to regret not seizing the opportunity to pass an imperfect but workable idea for meeting his goal because it was Republican. When Republican Gov. Mitt Romney put the whole plan into effect in Massachusetts four years ago, Kennedy and other Democratic leaders decided it was after all the easiest path to the goal.

That thoroughly Republican idea — spread the risk by having everyone patronize private industry — is now the law. It took 40 years for Republicans to win the great ideological struggle, but at the moment of victory they retreated from the field of glory, repudiated their aims and sued to undo their triumph.

There must be a parallel in the Civil War where the victors left the field — there’s a parallel for everything in the Civil War — but we can’t think of it.

TOP STORY >> Rice farmers seek millions

Leader senior staff writer

A multi-million dollar lawsuit by more than a dozen Lonoke County rice farmers against Bayer CropScience began last week and could continue for about a month, according to observers.

In February, a St. Louis District Court jury ruled against Bayer in a similar case, awarding other growers about $1.5 million in actual losses.

Named Lonoke County plaintiffs in the suit being heard by Circuit Judge Phillip Whiteaker in Lonoke County include Randy Schafer, End of the Road Farms, Inc., Shafer Planting Co. Wallace Farms, Robert E. Moery; Kyle Moery, Carter Farms Partnership, Robert Petrus, Randall Amaden, R&B Amaden Farms, Randall J. Snider, S&R Farms, A.S. Kelly and Sons, Neil Daniels Farms, Little Twist Land Co. and Garner Land Co.

Among those, only Wallace Farms and Carter Farms Partnership are not members of the Riceland Foods cooperative.

The farmers are represented by the Little Rock office of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton LLP, Paul Byrd, managing partner.

Genetically engineered rice is sold without distinction in the United States and some other countries, but in Japan and in the European Union, it is prohibited.

At the time the suit was filed, and before Whiteaker imposed a gag order, Byrd has called the trial a continuation of the long, painful road Arkansas’ rice farmers have traveled since the Aug. 18, 2006 announcement that tainted rice had entered the state’s rice crop. The so-called Liberty Link rice in question was altered to make it immune to a Bayer herbicide.

On Aug. 18, 2006, the USDA announced that GE rice had been found in the U.S. commercial long- grain rice supply. As a result, the EU and other markets would no longer buy U.S. long-grain rice and the farmers suffered a decrease in the value of their rice.

The loss of such a major market as the EU is significant. In 2005, EU countries purchased more than 200,000 tons of U.S. long-grain rice.

TOP STORY >> Fletcher sees progress in his first year

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher is at the mid-point of his first term as head of the city. Fletcher reflected on the past nine months as mayor and discussed the future at the Jacksonville Rotary Club meeting on Monday.

Fletcher, who is running for re-election in November, took a look back since being elected mayor last year to fill Mayor Tommy Swaim’s unexpired term.

Fletcher spoke about working to get the state fair in southeast Jacksonville. He said it would be one of the biggest economic boosts to the area.

Jacksonville can expect a possible economic boost in the upcoming months, he said.

The Memphis Flea Market is coming April 10 and 11 to the vacant Walmart building. The flea market will have 400 booths for shoppers to visit. The event has not been in the area in five years.

To accommodate overflow parking, the city will have a shuttle service from the Jacksonville High School football field to the flea market.

The city purchased two 30-plus passenger vans for $3,000 a piece from federal government surplus. The vans will be used during other events to help with parking, including the Wing Ding Festival.

The farmers market near the community center will be open May 1. Bricks are being laid for the 2,100-square-foot facility.

Fletcher said, “It is going to be nice, and we can add to it.”

He said one of his goals was to clean up Jacksonville and to make it safer.

The city has passed the nuisance and abatement ordinance, creating a homeowners association in the Sunnyside Hills addition, and the Jacksonville Police Department has created special-operations group to focus on areas that the city is having problems.

Fletcher said he would like to expand Galloway Park.

With an eye to future business growth of the city, Fletcher discussed economic development.

“We have no raw land for shopping centers,” the mayor said.

Restaurants and businesses want to move into new buildings not old ones, he said.

On the theme of new construction, Fletcher said the city needs a new police department, which would be built on Marshall Road.

“We give police officers the best equipment, but we need a facility to back it up,” Fletcher said.

He was proud of the landlord association, which aims to attract better tenants to Jacksonville. “People are working together, networking and keeping the city informed,” he said.

After the Rotary meeting, Fletcher spoke about the Pulaski County Special School District desegregation hearings.

The mayor told The Leader, “I think we have done as much as humanly possible.”

“If you could take the money out of the case, it would die. The average person thinks the desegregation case has turned into a money issue rather than an education issue,” Fletcher said.

He continued, “We need to get back to neighborhood schools and local control, where parents feel they have ownership in their children’s education. The system is holding the kids back.”

TOP STORY >> Lincoln makes local stop

Leader staff writer

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, facing a tough primary battle in May and re-election in November, says she finds inspiration from another woman senator from Arkansas.

Speaking to the U.S. Department of Agriculture women’s history program at Sherwood Forest on Monday, Lincoln repeated the words of former Sen. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, who in 1932 became the first woman elected to the Senate, just 12 years after women gained the right to vote.

Quoting Caraway, Lincoln said, “If I can hold on to my sense of humor and a modicum of dignity, I shall have a wonderful time running for office whether I get there or not.”

Lincoln said she carried that quote during her first campaign for Senate in 1998, when she became the second woman to represent Arkansas in the Senate.

Lincoln was the guest speaker for the program that honored Women’s History Month. The senator touted her accomplishments since becoming the first woman to chair the Agriculture Committee in September.

“We’ve had more dignitaries visiting Arkansas in the few months she’s been chairman. And when they come, they bring gifts,” Linda Newkirk, state executive director of Farm Service Agency, said in her introduction.

“It’s a very powerful position, and it’s certainly important for Arkansas,” Newkirk said.

“Folks, we still have a lot of work to do. I’m putting that chairmanship to work for you,” Lincoln said, pointing out that chairmanship is at stake in this election.

“I want officials from Washing-ton to come down here because I believe in the great job you all do. I want them to see our needs, too,” Lincoln told the group, whose members work for USDA’s three branches: Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources
Conservation Service and Rural Development.

“The president has talked about increasing exports, and I’m going to help him do it,” she said.

“My father was a farmer. But boy, did he have an equal partner in my mother,” Lincoln said, highlighting the importance of women in agriculture.

She said that 1 million farms in the U.S. are operated by women.

“Not until 2000 did the USDA recognize women as farmers, only as farmers’ spouses,” she said.

Lincoln said she got a disaster bill passed in a record three months after last year’s floods, when it usually takes three years.

She said she helped secure $4 million to help put 700 Arkansans back to work.

“We’ve talked about health care for two years, and I know people are exhausted with that. But, folks, we can’t have health care unless we start with our kids,” the senator said of a $10.5 billion plan to help fight childhood obesity over 10 years by improving school lunches.

In an interview, Lincoln said her recent vote against the House health-care reconciliation bill was a matter of principle.

“I didn’t feel like it had the transparency that the other process did,” she insisted.

She disapproved of a bundle of late amendments tacked on in the House. Another vote was needed in the Senate to make both bills identical.

The bill passed by a simple majority in the Senate. Defeat would have killed the health-reform bill.

Lincoln said that the reconciliation bill needed to be approved in a manner that “we learned about in high school civics class.”

She frequently supported the reconciliation process to prevent Democratic filibusters during the Bush administration.

TOP STORY >> Huckabee in top form at banquet

Leader staff writer

Just before former Gov. Mike Huckabee careened down a mile-long bobsled course in 2001, a 16-year-old junior Olympic told him, “Keep your eyes on the curve ahead.”

“It was a profound lesson I’ve never forgotten,” the former presidential candidate told the crowd of about 200 at the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce dinner Monday night.

It was the advice that he left everyone with: Keep your eyes on the curve ahead.

Huckabee said that in February 2001, while governor, he was in Utah for a forum and that state’s governor surprised the other governors by saying they were going to visit the Olympic village the next day for the governors’ bobsled race.

“I didn’t think he really meant that we would be in a bobsled. I’m from southern Arkansas and had hardly seen snow and had never seen a bobsled. I was hoping they were going to name bobsleds after us governors and we would watch the bobsled race. But no, he really meant that we would race bobsleds, but said we would get some training,” Huckabee explained.

The former governor said he went to the hotel room that night and immediately looked up bobsledding on the Internet. “That was not a good idea. Do you know bobsleds can travel at 90 miles per hour?”

But Huckabee said the Utah governor was true to his word about the trainer. “My trainer was a 16-year-old teenager. I’ll be truthful, I don’t want to learn to drive anything from a 16-year-old,” he quipped.

The governor said that as he and the teen walked up the course and stopped by each curve and the youngster explained what would happen if the governor steered too high or too low that he just became more nervous.

“By the time we trekked to the top, I was terrified and exhausted,” Huckabee said.

He said they placed him in the bobsled and the teen was the brakeman. “Now, that’s a funny name because there were no brakes on the bobsled. I hoped he prayed,” the governor chuckled.

But it was at the top, Huckabee said, that the teen said something so profound that it has become a mantra for the governor.

The teen said, “Don’t look back. Always keep focused on the curve ahead.”

The youngster told the governor that the bobsled zips down the course so quickly that if they made a mistake on a curve and were still on the track they were okay.

“It can’t hurt us now,” he told the governor.

The teen added that while in a curve, don’t try to make any quick adjustments. “It’ll just make more of a mess,” he said.

“If you just steer for the curve ahead, we’ll make it okay,” the boy assured him.

And Huckabee said that’s the way people should live and the government should act.

“By the way,” the governor added, “I finished second in that race, too.”

Huckabee opened his speech with a comparison of his life as a presidential candidate to that of a television talk show host.

“As a presidential candidate, I was able to tour the country in pretty much anonymity, even though I finished second to John McCain. But now that I’m on television I’m recognized just about every day, but not always as me,” he said with a laugh.

He said he was in the Atlanta airport recently signing copies of his books—he has written seven—and posing for pictures with members of the Delta ground crew.

“I’ve flown out of there so much lately, I know a lot of them by name. Well, as I was talking to the employees and posing for pictures, a young woman was watching the whole thing and walked up to me and asked, ‘Are you on TV?’”

I said, “Yes.” She then said, “You’re in politics, right?”

I said, “Yes.”

She then said, “I knew it, I knew it. You are Bob Dole.”

“Now, Bob Dole is a great American,” Huckabee told the crowd, “but he’s 85!”

Huckabee is just 53.

Even though Huckabee ex-pressed concern that Americans recognize television personalities better than politicians, he’s glad for the recognition and his show’s popularity.

“With unemployment at 10 percent, I don’t want to make it 11 percent,” he said.

One of the things that Huckabee hates now is when someone comes up to him and says, “Are you who I think you are?”

“I just don’t quite know how to answer that because I don’t know what they are thinking,” the governor said, adding, “I’ll often say, ‘You’re right, I’m Brad Pitt.’”

The person will say no and usually walk away, Huckabee said.

Huckabee didn’t mention any political races that he might be interested in for 2010 or 2012, although he is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for president.

For now he is staying busy with his television show, as a guest political commentator, author and with his radio news and commentary broadcasts that replaced Paul Harvey news at many stations across the country.

Huckabee talked about his parents as part of the Greatest Generation and how their goal was to make sure their children had a better life than them.

“It was about getting a good education, a good job and a better life,” he said. “Parents lifted kids up on their shoulders and were willing to sacrifice for them.”

But the governor said the current climate is different. “It is now the opposite. There is a willingness to sacrifice our own kids to give us a better life.”

He added that the government can’t continue to fund the country on credit cards. “At this rate, we will burden our children with debt and will hope they learn to speak Mandarin.”

Huckabee said the government’s job is that of a sports official. “Their job is to make sure things are fair and right and not help determine the outcome.”

He compared the government to the officials from last year’s Florida-Arkansas football game.

“It was clear we were beating the No. 1 team in the nation on their field at their homecoming, until the referees stepped in.

Even the ESPN announcers said the calls were bad and the SEC suspended the crew for three games. The SEC never does that,” Huckabee said.

But the former governor said the officials clearly helped determine the outcome of the game.

“That’s not their job or that of the government. Government’s job is not to determine who will win and who will lose, and that’s what it has come down to with the bailouts,” Huckabee said.

SPORTS >> Cabot, Jacksonville meet different fates in weekend tourney

Jacksonville junior outfielder Riley Zinc makes contact in a recent game.


Leader sportswriter

Cabot won a game and technically lost two at the Ozarks Fast Pitch Softball Classic at Harrison on Saturday — one game to an opponent and the second to Mother Nature.

The Lady Panthers (9-5) won easily against Dumas 19-0 in the first round and moved on to face a dominant Mountain Home team in the semifinals. The Lady Bombers took that game 3-0 and sent the Lady Panthers to face host Harrison in the third-place game, but storms moved in and cancelled the remainder of the tourney.

“Overall, the kids didn’t let the hurricane-force winds affect them all that much,” Lady Panthers coach Becky Steward said of the climate conditions Saturday. “I would like to have played Harrison, because they also have some good pitching. We need to be playing. We’re reaching a point now where we’re going to be playing two to three times a week.”

Every Lady Panthers player got at least one hit and came away with at least one RBI in the rout over Dumas. But once Cabot got to the semifinals and faced dominant Mountain Home pitcher Shelby Anderson, the hits were not as abundant.

Kaitlin Gunn hit a double to lead off the game, but was left stranded, and the Lady Panthers never had anything more than a single for the remainder.

The Lady Bombers took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first inning and added a third run in the bottom of the sixth.

“That first inning, we just had a couple of mental mistakes,” Steward said. “The score could have been worse; we got ourselves out of a couple of jams.”

The Lady Panthers went into spring break on an up note after winning their 7A-Central Conference opener against Russellville 1-0. Cabot played host to Conway on Tuesday and will be off until next Tuesday when it plays at North Little Rock.

“Of course, you have to worry about your Bryants and North Little Rocks,” Steward said. “But you can’t really overlook anyone in this conference. I think we’re all really evenly matched from three to eight.”


The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils lost two games at the Ozarks Classic on Saturday.

Paragould won 3-1 in the first round, then the Lady Devils saw a tight game against Nettleton slip away late, 10-3.

Jacksonville was set to play Dumas in the final consolation round when storms moved into the area.

“We probably had a chance to win that first one in the bottom of the seventh,” Lady Red Devils coach Tanya Ganey said. “We just didn’t get that extra hit that we needed. We were ahead in the second game, then they tied, went ahead, and we had a really bad inning. That’s when they put up all those runs on us.”

Jacksonville will shift gears back into the 6A-East Conference. The Lady Red Devils began conference play with two victories over Little Rock Hall before being swept by league front-runner Mountain Home.

Jacksonville hosted Marion on Tuesday night and will play at West Memphis on Thursday.

SPORTS >> Cates treats pains, sprains while pushing awareness

Jason Cates, who assists Jacksonville athletes, is one of four licensed athletic trainers in the area.


Leader sports editor

First, there is a professional distinction to be made.

Jacksonville High School athletic trainer Jason Cates and his brethren are wrapping up National Athletic Trainer Month and, for Cates, that has meant explaining exactly what an athletic trainer is.

“For whatever reason we still kind of, on a day-to-day basis, have to define our role; who we are,” Cates said. “We’re not physicians, we’re not physical therapists, we’re not personal trainers.”

Cates, 36, said it is important now to sharply define the term “athletic trainer” because the simplified term “trainer” has been tainted by the Major League Baseball steroid scandals in which certain trainers have been accused of providing illegal supplements to athletes.

Cates pointed out it was personal trainers obtaining the drugs, not athletic trainers, and he said the National Athletic Trainers Association insists on the correct terminology to protect its profession.

“This is my 10th year and even every day I have to correct somebody on what my certification is and what my specialty is,” Cates said.

Cates said the athletic trainer’s specialty is sports medicine — injury treatment, awareness and prevention — with active people. He said athletic trainers are trending away from being identified strictly with organized sports in order to present a broader appeal to politicians who legislate issues affecting athletics.

“With our endeavors with the legislative efforts, we found out that there are legislators out there who would rather tear down gymnasiums and bury over football fields,” Cates said. “And we have to make sure that we’re setting the mindset of not just athletics but active people in general.”

With baby boomers easing into their later years, Cates said athletic trainers have a chance to identify themselves with a broader group of people than simply high school or college athletes.

“We no longer say that we just tend to athletes,” said Cates, a full-time employee of Ortho Arkansas whose time is donated to Jacksonville. “With the baby boomers, our generation, we’re seeing people up intotheir 70s and 80s that are still running marathons and being active.

“If they are athletic-minded, athletic-type people, that’s who we take care of. That’s our niche.”

Cates is one of four certified athletic trainers working with Leader- area schools. Newcomer Justin Shipp is athletic trainer at Beebe; veteran Randy Harriman is at Searcy and Cathy Burl is a teacher and athletic trainer at Lonoke.

If Cates had his way, every high school sports program in Arkansas would have an assigned athletic trainer. As it is, of the 332 schools under the Arkansas Activities Association banner, only 36 have the services of athletic trainers.

Cates said Arkansas can’t, or shouldn’t, mandate that schools hire athletic trainers because of the cost, but there are ways to get around the expense.

If schools can’t find the money to hire a full-time athletic trainer, time could be donated through a medical-outreach program, as has been the case with Cates and Jacksonville.

But cost is only part of the problem. Arkansas is simply not turning out athletic trainers in great numbers and there are only 107 licensed athletic trainers in the state, Cates said.

There are six undergraduate athletic trainer programs at Arkansas colleges and universities and only one graduate program.

But Cates said out-of-state students frequently claim slots within those programs, only to take their newfound skills back home.

Cates and his fellow athletic trainers are advocating secondary school athletic trainer programs like the ones that have begun or are beginning at Bentonville, Alma and Cabot. That way, students can study the field in high school, get their degree in college and keep their services in Arkansas.

Once licensed, Cates said, an athletic trainer’s job is as much about prevention and awareness as it is treating injuries. Pre-participation examinations and EKGs could have prevented many of the on-court or on-field deaths caused by sudden cardiac arrest or heat-related conditions that have made headlines nationally and in Arkansas.

“There’s no way in the world that a coach would ever put an athlete in harm’s way,” Cates said. “It’s just not going to happen, but there are coaches that push, and if they’re educated they know when to pull back instead of pushing too far.”

SPORTS >> Patrick still belle of ball

Leader sportswriter

Where is the line between chauvinism and simple hatred for the hype machine?

Don’t ask Danica Patrick fans, or her detractors for that matter.

The 28-year-old Illinois native drives for Michael Andretti in the IZOD IRL series and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the NASCAR Nationwide series. She has caused quite a stir in her part-time move to stock cars at the beginning of the season.

Everyone in the racing world took notice — especially ESPN.

That was evident with the network’s coverage of the Nationwide race at Fontana, Calif., in late February. Patrick’s 31st-place finish three laps down was the lead story, complete with an interview and rundown of her highlights throughout the day.

And after the Danica debriefing was finally completed, ESPN was then able to inform us that, in fact, Kyle Busch had won the race.

But it’s not just the shamelessly self-important people over at ESPN who are caught up in Danica mania, it has affected all areas of racing in this country, most notably from a marketing standpoint.

Anyone who has seen the cheesecake-laden commercials featuring Patrick and a number of tarts jiggling around in spandex shorts and ripped T-shirts has come to understand the marketing angle. At this moment, Patrick’s image is by far the most popular in all of racing, open wheel or NASCAR.

But is it really a matter of being overrated? I don’t hear any of these people who are giving Patrick all this attention making claims she will be the next Bill Elliot or Rusty Wallace, who by the way has a niece named Chrissy Wallace entering the world of NASCAR after a successful five seasons in asphalt late models.

I think it’s simply a matter of being overexposed because of her attractive looks. Did you ever see Sarah Fisher in a string bikini for an antifreeze advertisement? How about Erin Crocker ripping off her shirt in a Website domain commercial?

No, you didn’t, because Crocker and Fisher lack the physique required for such promotions.

But yet Fisher, an 11-year veteran of open-wheel racing, continues to struggle with sponsorship for her under-funded team while Patrick’s GoDaddy money seems to have no limit.

But there is another way to look at Danica mania. If you’re an American open-wheel fan, Patrick is one of your few choices for a native racer.

Patrick and Fisher, along with Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal, are the only Americans currently in IRL. And as for NASCAR, I don’t know about you, but anything that takes camera time away from Jimmie Johnson is cool with me.

Whether you are offended or tantalized by Patrick’s promotions featuring the scantily clad, you have to admit the girl at least seems to have more personality than the reigning four-time Sprint Cup champ. And Patrick does not have a unibrow.

But if you absolutely despise Patrick and know in your heart you will never be able to learn to accept her, fear not.

On March 25, 2012, Patrick will celebrate her 30th birthday.

And we all know that any female ceases to be considered attractive once she hits the big 3-0, at least in popular culture. So unless she sets the world on fire here in the next two years, her time as America’s favorite racing hottie is set to soon expire.

SPORTS >> Red Wolves start spring drills late

ASU sports information

Arkansas State opened its 2010 spring football camp Monday afternoon, taking the field at ASU Stadium in shorts and helmets for their first of 15 spring practices scheduled for the next four weeks.

The Red Wolves return 50 lettermen, including 27 players who started at least one game last season. Arkansas State also has four mid-term junior college transfers in defensive back Darron Edwards, wide receiver Dwayne Frampton, defensive end Brandon Joiner and linebacker Michael Lombardo.

The Red Wolves began the first stages of implementing a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze, with highly touted redshirt freshman quarterback Phillip Butterfield, of Lake Hamilton, taking snaps with the first team.

“I thought everyone did an excellent job as far as effort is concerned,” coach Steve Roberts said. “But we have to go back and watch film and we already know there are a lot of things we have to clean up before we put new stuff in on Wednesday’s practice.”

Ryan Aplin, who started three of the last four games at quarterback last season, is taking part in the practices, but is unavailable for any passing drills or team sessions because of injuries.

With the departure of Reggie Arnold, Arkansas State’s second-leading, all-time rusher, the Red Wolves will have a new feature running back as well. Junior Derek Lawson, who gained 949 rushing yards his first two seasons, and Jermaine Robertson are currently listed atop the depth chart, but several players will be in the mix during the spring.

Arkansas State will also welcome a pair of talented running backs in Frankie Jackson and Sirgregory Thorton in the fall.

Because of several injuries last season, a large number of players return to an offensive line that gained valuable experience a year ago. That group includes all-Sun Belt Conference selection Derek Newton.

Arkansas State also brings back starting tight end Kedric Murry, while sophomore Taylor Stockemer went through drills as the Red Wolves’ leading returning receiver.

Arkansas State’s defense, No. 1 in the Sun Belt last season, returns 10 players who started at one point in 2009. Among the defensive returnees are all-Sun Belt selection Bryan Hall, leading tackler Demario Davis and interceptions leader Kelcie McCray.

“We got a beautiful day for our first practice and it was great to get back on the field,” Roberts said. “I thought our effort was outstanding. Obviously, everything is new offensively and the defense also has to adjust to a whole new set of circumstances with the offense it is facing.”
It is the latest the Red Wolves have ever started spring camp during the Roberts’ era.

“We’ve normally started earlier and tried to get six or seven practices in before spring break, but we’re still trying to get as many guys as possible out on the field,” Roberts said. “I think we still have 14 players that are out, but we may get a couple of those guys back during spring camp.

“Neely Sullivent was cleared to practice Friday. Ryan Aplin still can’t throw the ball so he won’t be involved in any of the team sessions, but he was cleared today for some limited stuff.  With several guys out, that gives a lot of people a lot of opportunity.”

ASU will hold its second practice today at 3:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Pop at plate propels Devils

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville didn’t take spring break off, but its hitters had a picnic last week.

The Red Devils went 2-1 in the Extra Innings Tournament in northeast Arkansas, beating Wynne 12-7 and Pine Bluff 17-3 while taking a 9-5 loss to Lake Hamilton.

“Overall we swung it like we’ve been swinging it, pretty decent,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said.

The 16-team, non-conference tournament was held over three days on fields at Jonesboro and Nettleton High School and at Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field on the Arkansas State campus.

Burrows, whose team was coming off an error-filled, 4-1 loss to non-conference rival Cabot, didn’t want the Red Devils to get rusty during the week off from school and was happy for the chance to get in some games despite a rainy weekend.

“You get to play some different people than you’re accustomed to playing,” Burrows said. “During spring break you definitely don’t want to sit and do nothing. They take care of us pretty good up there. Once again we got three games in.

“You just don’t want to stop momentum in the middle of the season by taking off.”

Jacksonville (8-3) certainly kept its momentum going at the plate.

With the run cushions, Jesse Harbin picked up the victory against Wynne while Nick Rodriguez relieved Noah Sanders to get the win against Pine Bluff. Mike Lamb took the loss against Lake Hamilton, as the Devils committed four errors in a game that unfortunately reminded Burrows of the five-error outing against Cabot.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played against Lake Hamilton,” Burrows said. “We felt like we gave away some at-bats and their pitcher was a little bit better than the others we faced down there. When we got in there and competed we hit him pretty good too. Ithink we out-hit them. It looked like the Cabot game.”

But if the Red Devils have had trouble hanging on to the ball at times, they haven’t had much trouble hitting it.

Leadoff man Jacob Abraham-son had five hits and a home run in the three games while No. 2 hitter D’Vone McClure, a sophomore, had seven hits. No. 9 hitter Logan Perry also had seven hits.

“He’d been scuffling a little bit, good to see him come on,” Burrows said of Perry.

Perry, Abrahamson and McClure are also the Devils’ fastest base runners.

“Perry at No. 9 hole, that sort of gives us three guys that can run back to back to back,” Burrows said.

With the speedy hitters setting the table, catcher Patrick Castleberry has thrived at the No. 3 spot. He had eight hits and 10 RBI during the tournament to run his season RBI total to 31.

“I think 30 led us last year,” Burrows said.

Castleberry, a junior, may be setting himself up for a baseball scholarship to a solid program, Burrows said.

“He’s getting it done. We’re hoping he’s going to sign pretty good next year,” Burrows said.

But Burrows said the key to Jacksonville’s big numbers might be the underclassmen.

McClure is batting .500 and Harbin, a sophomore who has also hit No. 2, is batting over .400. Burrows said he expected experienced juniors like Castleberry and senior Caleb Mitchell to produce.

The sophomores have been a pleasant surprise.

“I expected them to hit. I don’t know if I expected them to hit this early,” Burrows said. “I expected them to come on at the end.”