Friday, July 01, 2011

TOP STORY >> Cooperative chooses board

First Electric Cooperative held its annual membership meeting on Thursday at the company headquarters in Jacksonville. First Electric members, voting by mail-in ballot, re-elected Tom Hasty and Robert Maertens to serve six-year terms on the cooperative’s board of directors.

Hasty, of Almyra, has served on the First Electric and board for 37 years, representing members in parts of Arkansas, Jefferson, Lonoke, Monroe and Yell counties. He is a life-long farmer and the recipient of the 2009 John L. Gray Forest Conservationist of the Year award.

Maertens, of Benton, has also been on the First Electric board for 37 years and represents members in parts of Garland, Grant, Pulaski and Saline counties. Before retiring, he and his wife, Tamara, owned and operated a retail business in Benton. Maertens serves as secretary-treasurer of the First Electric board of directors.

Other members of the board include Robert Hill of Perryville, chairman; Larry Wood of Lonoke, vice chairman; Jimmie Crockett, Rose Bud; Peggy Cusick, Benton; Rick Love, Sherwood; David Luebke, Scott, and B.J. Swaffar, Quitman.

Don Crabbe is the cooperative’s president and chief executive officer.

First Electric’s 2010 annual report, which was recently mailed to all members, was reviewed at the meeting. The cooperative closed out 2010 with $407 million in total assets, $22 million in net margins and returned more than $5.5 million to its members in the form of capital-credit checks. The total amount refunded to members over the years now totals more than $48.9 million.

Also at the annual meeting, members who voted in the director election were eligible for prizes. The cooperative awarded five $200-bill credits and several electric appliances to participating members.

First Electric Cooperative has 224 employees and serves more than 87,000 member accounts in parts of 17 counties in central and southeast Arkansas. The cooperative maintains five full-service offices in Benton, Heber Springs, Jacksonville, Perryville and Stuttgart.

EDITORIAL >> Politicizing ice cream

We won’t have Yarnell’s Premium Ice Cream to savor any more because the venerable Searcy creamery announced Thursday that it was closing immediately. Far too few people will mourn the loss of Yarnell’s deluxe ice cream, which is the big reason the company closed, but you would never guess by the lamentations from politicians and parties.

Yarnell’s closing came right on the heels of big layoffs at two other old Arkansas industries, which seems to have triggered the idea that there was political advantage to be had from the loss of so many jobs at old Arkansas plants.

Yarnell’s closing threw 200 people out of work. Rheem Corp., the old air-conditioning manufacturer at Fort Smith, said it was laying off 250 workers and moving the jobs to a Rheem plant in Mexico, which has a minimum wage only about 11 percent of the U.S. minimum wage. Simmons Foods, the poultry processor, laid off 223 workers at Springdale. Their work will be done at a plant at nearby Decatur at lower cost and greater profitability. Poultry executives said the high price of corn and chicken feed forced the economies. If prices go down sharply, they may hire the Springdale workers back and resume production, but probably not.

Within 24 hours of Yarnell’s announcement, the Republican Party of Arkansas and several of its state and federal lawmakers blamed it all on the Democrats, or on government, which happens at the moment to be under the control of Democrats in both Little Rock and Washington. If they were not, Democrats most probably would be the accusers.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin said the government should be creating a climate for job growth in the private sector. Let us guess how he would have it do that. Cut corporate income taxes and taxes on capital gains and investment profits. That is the Republican solution to everything. But what about the free market? Could it do anything? Business taxes and taxes on high incomes are near their lowest in 80 years, but those reductions seemed to depress the private economy, not stimulate it. Taxes as a share of the total economy are lower in the United States than in all but two developed nations. State Rep. David Sanders, the new Republican lawmaker from Little Rock’s southwest, denounced state and local governments for letting the industries go under.

But none of the businesses themselves blamed either the state or national governments.

Let’s consider Yarnell’s, whose demise caused the political breast-beating. Government had, indeed, come to the aid of the company back in the Mike Huckabee years. The company went under owing the state government some $3.5 million for loans advanced directly or indirectly by the state Economic Development Commission and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority during the 1990s or early in the past decade when a governor friendly to Republican-leaning businesses was in power. That is the kind of government meddling in the free market that many, though not all, Republicans like.

The company’s announcement said the national consumption of ice cream had been plummeting for a decade and its profits were squeezed by the rising cost of ingredients and fuel. Who knows why the country’s appetite for ice cream has atrophied—dietary concerns, the flattened disposable income of the middle class, which has seen increasing national wealth go entirely to owners, executives and investors, or something else?—but government was not to blame. Yarnell’s, of course, did not mention an even bigger factor: a resourceful competitor. Since Texas-based Blue Bell moved into North Little Rock 15 years ago with a superior marketing strategy, it has usurped much of the local-brand loyalty of Yarnell’s and much of its market share. Blue Bell is doing very well, thank you, despite the diminishing demand for frozen dairy products.

Yarnell’s tried to find buyers or new lenders. A number of investors looked seriously but concluded that they could not turn the creamery around.

We loved Yarnell’s and bought it out of a sense of loyalty even if in shrinking quantities owing to a growing concern for the waistline, but we will get along somehow with Blue Bell and feel only a slightly diminished sense of loyalty. Blue Bell ice cream is churned only a few miles south of us near the end of Highway 161, the old Jacksonville road.

But it is harder to be philosophical about the loss of 700 jobs in one week in three communities, none of which is apt to offer opportunities for many of them anytime soon. Seven hundred more families in severe distress, with all that this entails. Many of them will sooner or later join the legions who are dependent on government in some measure, for nutrition, medical care or extended-unemployment assistance.

So government is already doing something, although of a defensive nature, to prevent distress from becoming tragedy. But Griffin and his allies have a point, even if they are the wrong ones to make it. Should government have a role in creating opportunities for the 700 and all the rest who have been unemployed or underemployed for so long? Republicans always maintain, until times like this, that the market, not government, should create jobs and needs only to be left alone to do it.

Implicit in the partisan speeches is that the market is not able to do it. U.S. corporations generally are flourishing and are sitting on $2 trillion in cash that could be used to expand and hire. But they don’t because there is no demand. Efforts by the national government to prompt that demand, through traditional stimulus measures or new ones like renewable energy and green technology, were squelched by the same Republicans, often with significant help from Democrats, like Arkansas’ own.

We have no suggestions and we wait for ideas from the government critics about what our democratic institutions might do to help the dispossessed, including these 700, recapture their lives besides again reducing taxes upon the rich and those profitable corporations that still pay taxes. Alas, we expect to wait in vain.

TOP STORY >> Ward looks for new police chief

Leader staff writer

Ward Police Chief Charlie Martin turned in his badge and resigned Wednesday morning. Martin recently qualified for retirement benefits and will leave his post July 8. He has led the police department since 2006.

Mayor Art Brooke will serve as interim police chief with Lt. Eric Sims heading daily operations. Sims is the leading candidate to fill the position, if Sims chooses. Sims has been with the Ward Police Department for 15 years starting in 1996 as an auxiliary officer.

The mayor said if Sims declines, he would offer the position to other officers in the police department.

Brooke said Martin left the police department in good shape, the budget was good and he had 19 of 20 positions filled. The department has an opening for a part-time officer.

“He was in good spirits when he left,” Brooke said.

Martin is a former three-term Lonoke County sheriff. He has 40 years in law enforcement including being an officer at the Jacksonville Police Department and as a Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy.

Martin said he and Brooke had differences of opinions on who should run the police department.

“I decided to move on — it was time for me to go,” Martin said.

For the short term, Martin is going to relax.

“I’m going to spend time with my grandkids, rest up, do a little fishing and work around the house,” Martin said.

Martin said the door is still open on his law-enforcement career, hinting he might run for sheriff again.

“You never know what will come up. I still have a lot to offer the county,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Newest judge holds his first PCSSD hearing

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District was back in court Friday as the newest and latest federal judge on the decades-old desegregation case stepped in to hear where everyone was and where he wanted them to be.

U.S. District Judge Price Mar-shall, who is from Jonesboro, said he’d be prepared to start moving expeditiously once he decided whether to remain on the case. He said Friday’s court hearing was to help begin building a record, either for him or another judge.

Marshall asked the districts for formal responses by July 12 on whether they think he should recuse from the case because he had been a law clerk for another judge who had decided the case more than 20 years ago.

He took over for Judge Brian Miller, who recused himself last week after the state took over the Pulaski County and the Helena-West Helena school districts. Miller, who is from Helena and was an attorney for the school district, disagreed with the Helena-West Helena takeover and felt he could not maintain his neutrality in the desegregation case.

A month earlier, Miller had ruled that PCSSD had met very few of the required earmarks to be released from deseg monitoring, and while the North Little Rock School District had met most of the requirements, it still had not resolved all of its issues. Both districts at the time were in fiscal distress. Little Rock School District had been released already from deseg monitoring, but along with the other two districts, was sharing in $70 million annual to help desegregate the districts.

In making his ruling in May, Miller cut that funding immediately. All districts appealed, and the eight Circuit Court said Miller couldn’t stop the flow of money--at least that quickly.

Marshall was a law clerk to Appeals Court Judge Richard Arnold from 1989-91 when Arnold issued key rulings in the school case. Marshall said he had not participated in the work and didn’t recall even participating in office discussions of the case, but said he was open to turning over the case to yet another judge, if necessary.

Marshall also wanted to know if the attorney general’s office had a conflict in the case now that the state was running PCSSD. The state has opposed continuing desegregation funding to the district. Now it runs the district, which wanted to continue getting the money.

If there is a conflict then a special counsel will have to be appointed.

Chris Heller, attorney for the Little Rock district, suggested the situation could be cured by the state Education Department giving total independence, as the law allows, to the new superintendent, Dr. Jerry Guess, who starts Tuesday, or to a committee.

Guess was named superintendent by Tom Kimbrell, the Education Department commissioner.

John Walker, attorney for black children, said the state’s takeover of the district was a “farce.” He said the state was too conflicted by its obligations under the decree ending the desegregation lawsuit to bring clean hands to operation of the district.

He said the removal of a black superintendent and a number of black board members, along with school-construction decisions that favored white neighborhoods over poor black neighborhoods, amounted to further state civil-rights violations.

However, the construction decisions were made by that disposed board, which included the black members whom Walker was adamant about, with the approval of the last two superintendents, both whom were black.

The state wanted an immediate ruling that keeps the state funding for the majority-to-minority transfer program in place.

The school districts said they believed an 8th Circuit order staying Miller’s cutoff of other desegregation funding covered all financial matters, including the transfer program. That part of the case is heading to the appeals court in the fall.

Steve Jones, North Little Rock’s attorney, noted that the funding plan to encourage interdistrict transfers was devised by the 8th Circuit itself after it overturned Judge Henry Woods’ consolidation order. The school districts argue that the magnet-school program was meant to be a permanent incentive program and not subject to termination when districts had otherwise met desegregation goals. Nearly 2,000 students swap districts in the programs.

The judge also heard discussion on whether he should act on the Little Rock petition that the state has violated the settlement in creation of open enrollment charter schools in Pulaski County and on whether the Pulaski construction program should continue.

SPORTS >> Donovan has unique perspective on coaches

Special to The Leader

Billy Donovan wields unique perspectives on Arkansas’ current basketball coach and its most recent basketball coach.

New Arkansas coach Mike Anderson and now longtime Florida coach Donovan were rival assistants in the 1990s for the SEC’s two most innovative coaches.

Arkansas’ SEC arrival from the Southwest Conference under Nolan Richardson in 1992 galvanized the SEC and its style that had been transforming in 1989 under new Kentucky coach Rick Pitino and his young assistant, Billy Donovan.

Donovan had played for Pitino at Providence like Anderson had played for Richardson at Tulsa.

Both had much to compare with their uptempo styles that won Richardson’s Razorbacks a national championship in 1994 and Pitino’s Wildcats a national championship in 1996.

Arkansas vs. Kentucky was the SEC’s hottest basketball ticket in the 1990s. That was unique being so fiercely contested on the court yet with mutual respect of the coaching staffs and even the fans.

So Donovan had plenty to say during Monday’s annual SEC Media Summer Teleconference when asked about former 17-year assistant Anderson heading the Hogs after nine years head coaching Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri.

“I have had a great relationship with Mike for a long time,” Donovan said. “We were both assistants in the league. He was at Arkansas and I was at Kentucky at the time. There were some great battles when Arkansas first came into the SEC. I have great respect for Mike as a coach and as a person. He and I over the last 15 or 20 years have developed a very good relationship.”

Donovan predicted good things for Anderson and Arkansas.

“Certainly coming back home so to speak where he was there for a long time, he will do a great job,” Donovan said. “I’m sure the fan base is very excited about him being there. He did a terrific job at Missouri and I think he will do a terrific job at Arkansas.”

Ironically, Donovan had been critical of Arkansas firing John Pelphrey last March after just four years head coaching.

Pelphrey, a Kentucky player when Donovan assisted Pitino, and a rookie assistant for rookie head coach Donovan at Marshall, assisted Donovan at Florida before becoming the head coach at South Alabama and then at Arkansas. Now Pelphrey assists Donovan at Florida again.

“John has been doing great,” Donovan said. “He finally got moved in with his family last week. I think when you have as many coaches as I had leave in one year, one of the things I was looking for was a level of consistency in people knowing me and knowing Florida. John knows it as well as anybody. Also I think being a head coach at South Alabama and Arkansas he can bring some different things to the table for us. John is a great guy and I think he is a terrific coach. Having him back here with me is only going to help us.”

At the recent Arkansas High School Coaches Association Clinic, Anderson recalled a prophetic conversation with crusty veteran coach Norm Stewart when Stewart still coached Missouri and Anderson assisted Richardson.

It was after Arkansas’ dedication game opening Walton Arena and the eventual national champion Razorbacks winning by a surreal 120-68.

“It was a buzz saw,” Anderson said. “One of those nights we played well and we could not miss. I’ll never forget. I am walking with Coach Richardson and he and Norm Stewart meet. Norm Stewart looked coach right in the eye and said, ‘Either you guys are *&%@#&@ good or we ain’t worth a #*%@.’ True story. Norm Stewart must have known he was headed for better things because his team went undefeated in the Big Eight.”

Stewart and Anderson be-came good friends during Anderson’s five Missouri years.

No doubt their friendship was helped by the relationship Richardson and Stewart established from their annual early-season nonconference game.

“Coach Stewart was great to me,” Anderson said. “I always liked his teams. They were tough and hard-nosed defensively when we played them here at Arkansas. He did a great job at Missouri and is a legend there. He was the face of Missouri basketball. He was great to me and very complimentary of what we did.”

Both Richardson and Stewart barked on the court but are all heart off the court, Anderson said.

“He and Coach Richardson were both competitors and both givers,” Anderson said. “Coach Stewart started the Coaches Against Cancer. And course Coach Richardson with all the charity work he has done, they are both great coaches and great people.”

SPORTS >> Strange seedings in Zone 3

Leader sports editor

The Zone 3 Junior American Legion tournament is set to begin at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Burns Park in North Little Rock, with a little twist.

An added wrinkle to this year’s postseason play is the sudden addition of Pine Bluff to the Zone 3 tournament, even though they didn’t play Zone 3 games in the regular season. The team, which actually consists primarily of players from White Hall, has only played seven games, but they are 7-0 and were awarded the top seed and a first-round bye in the tournament.

“They (state American Legion officials) told us that we could play with our five teams and get one spot in the state tournament, or add Pine Bluff to our zone tournament and get two bid,” Sylvan Hills coach Chris Foor explained. “We figured, even if Pine Bluff runs the table, we’re still all playing for the same thing.”

The zone that Pine Bluff plays in consists of nearly two times the number of teams in Zone 3, so the decision was made by state officials to move Pine Bluff into the central zone. No explanation could be gathered concerning why the team played so few games against the other teams in its own zone during the regular season. The Pine Bluff team played a large part of its schedule in Zone 3 at the season-opening tournament at Burns Park, where they won four games and the tourney title.

Cabot went 5-2 against zone competition and got the second seed and the other first-round bye.

Sylvan Hills will open the tournament as the four seed, and will face Rose Bud at 5 p.m. Sunday. That game will be followed by third-seeded North Little Rock facing Jacksonville.

Sylvan Hills and North Little Rock finished the season with identical 4-3-1 records, and a strange ending to a game earlier in the season helped lead to the Colts getting the nod for the higher seed.

NLR beat Sylvan Hills at Burns Park, and the two teams tied at Sylvan Hills due to a somewhat controversial time-limit stoppage to the tied game.

Had the game been allowed to continue and Sylvan Hills won, it not only would have had the higher third seed, but would’ve been tied with Cabot for second place and may have been awarded the bye.

Foor believes his team, which won the Gwatney Chevrolet Memorial Day Classic, has a great chance to make some noise in the event and advance to state.

“Our hitting and pitching has improved immensely since we started,” Foor said. “Our offense has really come around and our pitching has been really steady, especially from our second-tier guys. They have really improved. Guys like Kyle Roberts, Marcus Long and Connor Poteet, I’ve been able to bring them in for relief in some of our big games and we’ve not seen any drop off. I’d say those boys are not far off from what I’d call the top of our rotation.”

With good hitting and good pitching, Foor says the key to a successful zone tournament for Sylvan Hills is smart play.

“We came into the season as a very young team,” Foor said. “When you have that there’s going to be bumps in the road. If we can eliminate mental mistakes, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament.”

Jacksonville enters the event as the bottom seed, but coach Bob Hickingbotham feels good about how his team has played late in the season.

“We haven’t played since Monday so we’re going to have a chance to get everybody ready to pitch,” Hickingbotham said.

The game on Monday was a big win against North Little Rock, Jacksonville’s first-round opponent, and it was one of the team’s better games.

“We have some momentum going in,” Hickingbotham said. “We swung the bats finally against North Little Rock. We had that one big inning and we hadn’t been able to do that most of the year. We’re going to have to do it again. We’re going to have to hit good pitching because they have two good ones and I’m sure one of them will be on the mound against us.”

The addition of two players late in the season has helped Jacksonville as well.

Arvie Crudup, who played first base for Magnolia’s class 5A state championship team, joined the team when he came to Jacksonville for summer visitation with his father, Arvie Sr. who is a Babe Ruth coach for the Jacksonville Youth Baseball Association.

Gwatney also got help from Eric Moore, a pitcher for Abundant Life in high school who spent much of the baseball season playing summer hoops.

“Those two are going to help,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re both pretty good players and we needed some depth. We just don’t have very many this year.”

Sunday’s first-round winners will play again Monday afternoon. Sylvan Hills-Rose Bud winner will get Cabot at noon Monday, while the Jacksonville-NLR winner plays Pine Bluff at 2:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Sharks’ growth aids dominance

Leader sports editor

The Sherwood Shark swim team, members of the Central Arkansas Swim League, is bucking a trend that has seen swim team-member numbers drop over the last few years. Sherwood has all-time high numbers this year, with around 330 team members, making it unofficially the largest sports team in the state.

Team organizer and one of the eight coaches on the team, Mary Jo Heye, says the key to the team’s success has been the instruction.

“It’s all about providing as much opportunity for instruction that we can provide,” Heye said. “We try to have the best coaches possible and they teach the kids really well. We’re such a big team, but we keep practice sets so they’re manageable. No coach coaches more than one lane at a time, and we’re able to give lots of kids that one-on-one instruction.”

And there is lots of practice time available. The Sharks practice eight times a week, with evening practices available Mondays through Thursdays, and morning practices available Tuesdays through Fridays. But there aren’t 330 swimmers at each practice.

“We do not take attendance at practice,” Heye said. “We try to be family friendly, and really just let the parents determine when they can get their kids to practice. We have people who only show up on certain evenings, and we have morning people. Practices are open and there’s no head count.”

Unlike some of the other programs in the CASL, the Sharks do emphasize competition. Team members are required to compete in at least two meets every summer.

“That’s because part of our program is promoting competitive swimming,” Heye said. “We want them to try it because that’s part of it. We’re not just here for swim lessons. We’re part of a team, part of a community.”

The growth, coaching, plenteous practice time and emphasis on competition has led to an impressive run for the Sharks over the years.

The team is undefeated after three meets this year, keeping alive a streak of 51 straight meets without a loss; that’s eight consecutive seasons of six meets per season.

The Sharks consist of a lot of crossover athletes who compete in various other sports, and the community’s other coaches are in support of the program.

“This sport really goes hand-in-hand with a lot of other sports and the coaches are seeing that and wanting them to swim,” Heye said. “This works everything from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet; it greatly helps conditioning and it makes kids stronger. It also helps develop and strengthen the lungs and really helps cardio.”

The team is holding its firth annual silent auction on July 6 and 7. The fundraiser benefits the Sharks’ program. It will be held at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center and will include over 100 items from gift certificates to tickets to theme parks.

For more information about the swim team or the fundraiser, contact Tina Potts at 834-3130, or visit the website at

SPORTS >> Home runs drive Gwatney victory

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s senior American Legion team made it 3-1 against Cabot this season, beating the Centennial Bank squad 8-5 Thursday night in the second round of the Fourth of July Classic at Dupree Park.

The Gwatney team got two home runs from leadoff hitter Jacob Abrahamson, and another from Patrick Castleberry to aid the win. It also got another good performance on the mound from Jesse Harbin.

“We didn’t do much most of the game, but we swung the bats pretty well early and then again late, so we got something,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said.

Indeed, Cabot pitcher Cole Nicholson gave up just three hits in the first five innings, but two of them were solo homers in the first.

Abrahamson started the game with a shot to right-center field, a spot that seemed like a black hole for baseball early in the game.

Two batters later Castleberry sent one out to almost the same spot.

Cabot wasn’t without its own power. To start off the next half inning, Centennial second baseman Tyler Erickson sent one out to the exact same spot. Andrew Reynolds walked two batters later, and an error by Abrahamson at shortstop allowed Reynolds to score and tie the game.

It was the first of four errors at shortstop for Jacksonville, all of which combined to give Cabot four unearned runs in the game.

The score stayed 2-2 until the fourth, when a pair of Cabot miscues aided a two-out rally that led to two Gwatney runs. Nick Rodriguez drew a two-out walk, and an error at third base on a groundball left Alex Tucker and Rodriguez safe.

Austin Allen then hit a hard single to left that should’ve just loaded the bases, but the ball got past Bryson Morris, allowing the base runners to score and putting Gwatney back up by two runs.

Cabot got one back in the top of the fifth when Dillon Wilson’s double to left scored Reynolds, who had reached on an E6, but Jacksonville added four in the sixth to take a five-run lead.

Colt Harmon started it off with a blooper between shortstop and left field. Cabot’s Matt Evans made a diving stab but couldn’t make the grab, and Harmon was able to stretch the blooper into a double on a close play at second. Xavier Brown then walked and Rodriguez got another dinked single to second base that scored Harmon from third.

Tucker sacrificed the runners over and Allen grounded out, but that brought Abrahamson back to the plate, where he hit his second home run of the game, this time a three-run line drive right down the third baseline.

Cabot rallied in the seventh with the help of two Abrahamson errors sandwiching a double by Evans, but Erickson was thrown out at second after the second error, Chip Morris grounded out to third and Harbin fanned the last batter to seal the win.

Harbin gave up five hits and one earned run in the win. He struck out seven and walked five.

Hickingbotham liked what he saw offensively.

“That kid they had on the mound is a good one,” Hickingbotham said of Nicholson. “He shut us down when we played them over at their place. We didn’t light him up, but we were able to get some good swings and get some runs.”

Cole Nicholson went the distance and took the loss for Cabot. He gave up seven hits and six earned runs, striking out four and walking three.

The win left Jacksonville to 12-3 on the season while Cabot fell to 11-7.

The tournament is a short one this year, with Searcy dropping out a few days before the event and Russellville canceling its appearance at 11 p.m. the night before the event began. The championship game will be at 2 p.m. Sunday.

SPORTS >> Crazy first round at Fourth Classic

Leader sports editor

Cabot won a wild affair in the opening round of the Fourth of July Classic American Legion baseball tournament at Dupree Park in Jacksonville on Wednesday, beating Sheridan 17-16.

Cabot led 10-3 after two innings, but had to come from behind in the final inning to get the win. Sheridan began to swing the bat and drew plenty of walks to get back into the game, and came up with six runs in the sixth inning to take to turn a 15-10 deficit into a 16-15 lead.

The comeback was complete, but the Yellowjackets couldn’t hold the lead.

Justin Goff tied the game with a solo home run in the seventh. Matt Evans then singled and Andrew Reynolds doubled to drive him home for the winning run.

Cabot’s big inning came in the second when it scored seven runs. Brandon Surdam highlighted the frame with a grand slam that capped the scoring.
Sheridan wasn’t without its power moments. Zach Perkins and Landon Moore each sent shots over the wall.

Sheridan took the early lead with two runs in the top of the first, but Centennial Bank came back with three in the bottom of the frame. After Sheridan tied it in the top of the second, Cabot got the big bottom half to take control.

Each team scored a run in the third. Sheridan got one back in the fourth with two runs to Cabot’s one. That made it 12-6.

Sheridan scored four in the fifth to cut the margin to 12-10, but Cabot added three more in the bottom of the frame to reclaim control.

That brought the Yellow-jackets to bat in the sixth where they scored six to take their first lead of the game.

In the other first-round game, Benton got past Sylvan Hills 8-5, but not before the Bruins rallied in the final inning to make it interesting.

The Sports Shop team led 8-2 heading into the final inning, but the pitching fell apart and the Bruins got key hits to add three runs to the board. In all, the Bruins drew seven walks and three batters were hit by pitches to go along with their five hits. But the squad failed to capitalize in most situations, and left 10 runners on base throughout the seven innings.

Lance Hunter got the Bruins on board in the fifth inning with a two-run shot over the wall that drove in Korey Arnold.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

EDITORIAL >> New leader for PCSSD

The Pulaski County Special School District desegregation case gets more complicated every day, but at least now there’s a longterm superintendent in place to succeed Bobby Lester, who stepped in temporarily last week to replace Charles Hopson. Lester was an emergency fill-in when the state Education Department took control of the failing district and fired Hopson and the school board.

Jerry Guess, a former Arkansas superintendent of the year, is the new man in charge. He was the superintendent of the Camden Fairview district in Ouachita County for 15 years. He’ll be around here for a while: The state could run PCSSD for several years before there’s local control of the schools again.

Almost every day, there’s a new twist to this never-ending saga. The judge overseeing the court case walked away from it Friday evening, hoping the media wouldn’t notice as reporters and most everyone else headed home or to the lake.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller, who last month abruptly ended desegregation funding to the Pulaski County districts, didn’t help matters when he decided he had a conflict of interest since his brother was fired from the Helena-West Helena School District after the state took it over the same time PCSSD became a ward of the state. Miller didn’t disclose that he served on a bank advisory board in Helena which funds local public and charter schools.

He had a bad time of it last week, which started out with the state taking over the two districts. The next day, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Miller’s ill-considered order ending desegregation funds for the Pulaski County districts. The appeals court will let the state aid continue at least until September, when the court will then hear arguments from the districts to keep the money flowing.

Miller didn’t have a grasp of the issues. He ruled on matters that he had no business deciding — such as ending support for magnet and majority-to-minority transfers — which makes you wonder why he took the PCSSD lawsuit in the first place.

If Miller’s decision to suddenly end desegregation aid was one of the worst of the last 25 years — that’s how long the suit has been in the courts — you have to applaud the better judgment of the appeals court that halted Miller’s muddled ruling and let state aid continue at least for a few more months.

The problems of the failed schools in Helena-West Helena and Jacksonville will take decades and lots of money to fix. It costs a lot of money to educate disadvantaged kids — $1 billion in deseg money for the Pulaski County schools — with no guarantees of success. But what else can the state do? Let 14-year-olds drop out of high school?

You could say the Arkansas Delta starts at the entrance to Jacksonville High School and ends on the west bank of the Mississippi River. But that doesn’t mean poor kids don’t have a right to a first-class education. Doing nothing would save the state billions of dollars, and maybe Miller would approve, but it no longer matters what he thinks. A new judge has replaced him, and perhaps he’ll make wiser decisions.

Miller is no Judge George Howard, his predecessor on the court, or even John Walker, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the long-running case that has provided a good living for Walker. He will stick around and so will this endless lawsuit, but at least Judge Miller, who was the wrong person to hear the suit, is now off the case.

Walker, who has litigated the lawsuit since before public school students were born, is demanding the state rescind its takeover of the district. Even if he doesn’t get his way, the parties should come together and agree to make genuine improvements in the failing schools.

This is a good time for the school districts to negotiate a deal with the state that might guarantee them $70 million through the next school year. Miller’s order, as flawed as it was, should bring the sides to the negotiating table and reach a settlement they and their students must live with.

TOP STORY >> A good, long life for centenarian

Leader staff writer

Opal Burns of Beebe was born before the First World War and worked in an ordnance plant in Jacksonville during the Second World War.

The house where she was born in Lonoke County’s Wattensaw community was lit with kerosene lamps, and when telephone service finally came to her area, she was the operator who connected her neighbors to a doctor who made house calls in the middle of the night to deliver babies.

Opal, as she prefers to be called, retired from a Lonoke nursing home where she had worked for many years and moved to Beebe 28 years ago to be near her only child, Bobby.

He needed help chauffeuring his children to their various activities and she was beginning to have a few aches and pains which she believed were the first signs of old age.

Reflecting on her life one week before her hundredth birthday on Friday, she laughed about the years that had passed since that time.

“I don’t know why I’m still here at 100,” she said. “I’ve asked the Lord why I’ve lived this long, but He still hasn’t told me.”

On June 23, she found a birthday card from President Obama and his wife in her mailbox. Wikipedia says it’s tradition for the president to send best wishes to centenarians.

Opal doesn’t Google, so she didn’t know about the tradition, but she was clearly as much amused as flattered by the acknowledgement.

According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the U.S. has the greatest number of centenarians in the world, an estimated 70,490 on Sept. 1, 2010.

The great number is partly the result of a large population 100 years ago, the nation’s large farm population and an emphasis on long-term care, the encyclopedia says.

Opal doesn’t have a computer, so she has never Googled and come across Wikipedia. But she does know what Facebook is and she knows about texting and she’s not a fan of either one.

About texting she said, “I want to hear them talk.” And as for Facebook, “Everybody knows your business but it excludes people like me.”

Opal is also not a fan of the offerings these days on cable TV that seem designed to break down the barriers of decency that were the standards she grew up with.

“There’s too much evil in it,” she said.

She used to watch ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and the news. Now she mostly watches the news. When the news is off, she reads a tattered, big-print Bible that belonged to her mother and goes to bed, her own bed in the home she shared with Emmett, her husband of 63 years.

But Opal’s proclaimed distaste for technological advances and changes in entertainment standards should not be taken as an indicator of her zest for life.

As a teenager, she attended dances at the homes of neighbors who were willing to take down the beds in their living rooms to make more space available.

She even participated in a new style of dancing, round dancing, in which the partners held each other a little too close for parental approval.

She was in her early 70s when she accepted a cousin’s invitation to ride behind him for more than 10 miles on his motorcycle. She was in her late 80s when she flew to California. Until she was 90, she was the cook who made chicken and dressing and banana pudding for the family on Sunday.

And though she still misses the wood cook stove that she left behind when she moved from the farm to Beebe, that doesn’t mean she abhors all things modern. She grew up with an outhouse and she says, “I’m proud of my commode.”

Emmett lived in the Bethlehem Community while she lived in nearby Oakdale, so they always knew one another.

She found him pleasant enough, but he was “just one of those Burns boys” until he came home on furlough during the Second World War.

She went with a friend to visit him and they spent the evening talking. Since she worked at an ordnance plant, they had the war in common, she said.

Eight months after the war ended, they got married. He was 32 and she was 35 and to their friends and family they were no longer the bachelor and old maid.

By today’s standards, Opal’s life was full of hardships. As a child, she walked miles to school. The barn on the dairy farm that she and her husband worked together before Bobby graduated from high school in 1965 had electricity long before the house did. And in 1952, the tornado that destroyed Judsonia also leveled her home.

Asked what she would have changed, she said, “Not a thing.”

In her long life, she has had friends who were as close as family; family that made a point of staying close, and a husband who was the friend she could talk to about anything.

A widow for almost two years, she has adapted to living alone with the help of friends, family and neighbors who help her with the few things she can no longer do for herself.

For example, no one else could possibly buy her groceries because she doesn’t even know what she wants until she sees it on the shelf. But someone does have to drive her to the store. And there are times when her joints don’t feel like she can make it to the mailbox by the road, so her neighbor brings the mail to her.

She still cooks a big breakfast of sausage, eggs, toast, juice and coffee.

Nights get lonely sometimes. But she says she knows death comes to everyone. When it’s her time, she said she wants to die in her sleep with family beside her.

TOP STORY >> Area ready for July 4th celebration

Leader staff writer

Several Fourth of July celebrations are planned around the area.


Cabot will host a patriotic celebration beginning at 4:30 p.m. July 3 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. Entertainment will be Lindsay McCaul and Mikeschair. Activities will include a car show, games, inflatables – which may include water slides – and more. Special guests include Reps. Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford and Mayor Bill Cypert.

Zion Hill Baptist Church will host a church and community picnic beginning at 5 p.m. July 3. There will be games, food and a fireworks display.

There will also be volleyball and horseshoe toss, weather permitting. A fried chicken supper will be served, as well as popcorn, homemade desserts, cotton candy and snow cones. Magician and balloonist sculptor Gene Berry will provide entertainment.

A contemporary worship service, led by The Switch, will be held. The church is located near the intersections of Hwys. 89 and 107 on Zion Hill Road. Fore more information, call 501-988-4989.


Sherwood’s July 4 events will begin at 6 p.m. at Sherwood Forest with fireworks starting at 9 p.m. Doors will open at 6 p.m.

There will be free hot dogs and water while supplies last. Additional food and drinks will be available for sale. There will be indoor and outdoor stage entertainment.

No pets, skateboards, bikes or coolers will be allowed.

A free shuttle service will be provided from Sylvan Hills High School parking lot. Sherwood Forest is located at 1111 W. Maryland.

For more information, call 501-835-8909.


Ward will host festivities July 2 at the Ward Sports Complex located on Hwy. 319/Peyton St., behind the Ward Fire Station.

Vendor booths and car-show registration will open at 1 p.m., with opening ceremonies presented by an honor guard at 2 p.m.

There will be a tractor pull at 2:30 p.m., followed by Carla’s Dance performance at 3:30 p.m. Car show awards will be handed out at 4:30 p.m.

The city will serve free food beginning at 5 p.m. and entertainment will be provided by Final Straw. Fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m. Other activities include a water slide, bouncy house, horse-shoe tournament and arts and crafts.


The city of Beebe will host a 4th of July celebration beginning at 7:30 p.m. at 321 N. Elm St. Entertainment will be provided by the Kimberlie Helton Band. Union Valley Baptist Church will provide hot dogs and hamburgers.


The Jacksonville Patriotic Spectacular will be held on at 6:30 p.m Friday on Jacksonville High School’s football field.

Radio Disney will be in the kids’ fun area from 6:30 to 8.

The local entertainment at 6:30 will be performances by Gloryland Pastor’s Youth Choir, Angie Umflett, Huff N Puff Dance Co., Alan and Jerry, Price Crew and New Beginnings Lyrical Dance Group. Those will be followed by the patriotic presentation and awards at 7:30.

Susan G. Komen’s Pink Warrior, Candy Coburn, will perform at 8. The finale at 9 will be a fireworks display and a performance of “We Will Stand” by all the entertainers.

TOP STORY >> New chief appointed for PCSSD

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has a new leader—at least for one year—and he’s Dr. Jerry Guess, the superintendent for the Camden Fairview School District.

Guess will take over Tuesday. He will continue in his job as Camden Fairview superintendent through this week before reporting to PCSSD.

Interim Superintendent Bobby Lester is on vacation and will return Tuesday.

Dr. Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, said Lester would stay on part-time for a few weeks to help with the transition.

Guess, 60, who has headed Camden Fairview for the past 15 years, will be paid $215,000 a year to head the fiscally distressed PCSSD for the state, which took over the district about two weeks ago and removed the superintendent and dissolved the school board.

State-ousted Dr. Charles Hopson was making $205,000.

Guess, who was making $115,000 a year as the Camden Fairview chief, will soon move to central Arkansas, but his wife will stay in Camden and continue her job as that district’s fiscal officer.

Kimbrell introduced Guess to the media at a press conference at the state education building in Little Rock on Tuesday, saying he had the personality and skills to lead PCSSD.

Kimbrell said Guess was so surprised at the job offer, he stuttered when Kimbrell called to ask him to consider the job. He sang Guess’ praises as an admired leader who will bring stability to a district that needs it.

Guess, who was driving back Tuesday afternoon to Camden and enjoying the first rain south southern Arkansas has seen in about two months, said he has known Kimbrell a long time and has often talked about state and education issues with him.

“I know him and trust him,” Guess said. “The fact that he felt a need to call me about the position says a lot.”

Guess added that he is not just another new face. “I may be new to PCSSD, but I’m not new to Arkansas and not new to being a superintendent.”

He called the PCSSD job a challenge but vowed not to come in and shake things up right away.

“I’ve seen too many people come in to districts and do too much too quickly,” he said. “You have to understand the history, the background and the people. There are a lot of good things going on in the district and a lot of great things are happening for the students.”

Guess said, “I’ve been at Camden Fairview for 33 years. I would like the new challenge. Without a doubt, the problems at PCSSD are significant, but there will be a great deal of help from the people at the department and from any number of qualified people at the district.

“Right now, the biggest challenge is getting ready for the first day of school,” Guess added.

He said he wants to be part of the solution that brings good news in the district back into the newspapers.

Guess said he viewed Kimbrell as the “school board,” as law provides, but in weighing, for example, the need for state financial aid, he’ll consider students’ needs first.

But Guess is not without his detractors in Camden Fairview as a number of blogs indicate and had some controversies in his old district, including that both he and his wife held high administrative posts, a federal lawsuit when he would not let a white student transfer to another district, and an incident where a student was made to wear a shirt with a U.S. flag inside out so the flag wouldn’t show.

Guess began his educational career in 1978 as a language arts teacher in the Fairview district, which later consolidated with Camden.

He later served as the district’s coordinator for gifted and talented students, as assistant principal and principal of Fairview Middle School, and as assistant superintendent and associated superintendent of the Camden-Fairview district. He rose to his current post in 1996. 

Guess graduated from Chidester High School, not far from Camden. He received a bachelor’s degree from Southern State College in Magnolia, a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

Guess was the Arkansas superintendent of the year in 2008 as voted by the Arkansas Association of School Administrators. He is now president of the Arkansas Association of School Administrators, a post formerly held by Kimbrell.

TOP STORY >> Specialist: Industry benefits everyone

Leader staff writer

Joey Dean of Metro Little Rock Alliance emphasized the importance of a collaborative marketing strategy and told those in attendance at Tuesday’s Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce luncheon a little more about MLRA.

“It (MLRA) was the brain child of some of the business leaders in central Arkansas,” he said.

Dean explained that the organization found marketing individual communities, cities and counties wasn’t effective at recruiting businesses to locate to the area. He said MLRA is now composed of 12 counties within a 60-mile radius of Little Rock that have a population of more than 1 million.

The organization talks with site consultants companies hire when they are thinking of building a new location or relocating. Dean said offering many locations for companies to come to throughout the region, rather than a few in one community, city or county, is appealing.

“It helps them because we’re a one-stop shop…It helps all of us to put all these products on the table. The more we offer the more likely companies are to come here,” he added.

Dean stressed the importance of forming relationships with those consultants, who bring in 60 to 70 percent of the projects MLRA wins when a company decides to move to the region.

He also showed the audience MLRA’s award-winning website and shared the importance of companies already here praising the region.

“I think the best way for us to tell our story is for companies here and that relocate here to tell it,” he continued.

Dean talked about some of the successes MLRA has had, including the recruitment of companies like Dillard’s, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and LM Windpower. He said if the organization had responded as a city or county to the search consultants handled for those companies, they would have been eliminated early on in the selection process.

Dean said the number-one infrastructure that a place can market to businesses is the workforce.

The region has an advantage because MLRA has done a workforce assessment of 24 central Arkansas counties and because of the right-to-work law that allows workers to choose to not unionize even if over 50 percent of the employees at their job do.

He said the deficit found by that evaluation of the workforce was a lack of science, technology, engineering and math skills.

Dean said educational institutions are already using that information in encouraging more emphasis on those areas.

He also told the audience that the state is one of three or four that do not have a budget deficit and that is attractive to businesses that may need to relocate from states like California that have high taxes because of their economic difficulties.

Dean’s main point was that all the success MLRA has experienced is because several entities were united under the common goal of improving the area economically.

“I think one of the biggest successes we’ve had is joining our economic-development efforts and having our chambers of commerce, economic-development organizations and elected officials understand that we are not competing against each other,” Dean said after the luncheon.

“All the communities in central Arkansas are our best and only allies,” he added.

SPORTS >> Piranhas program growing

Leader sports editor

On Saturday, the Cabot Piranhas swim team completed its third meet of the season. About 90 swimmers make up the team this year, which is a bit below average from recent years, and makes the Cabot squad one of the smaller teams in the Central Arkansas Swim League.

Head coach Debbie Skidmore, who started the team in 1999, has watched, and overseen, the program’s development since those first days.

The program didn’t even have a home pool for the first several years, and practiced in the city’s non-regulation public swimming pool on Ritchie Road in Cabot.

Now the team practices at the Cabot Community Center’s regulation-sized indoor pool, which has also played a role in the program’s development.

The Cabot team isn’t just a CASL competitor.

“We are now sort of a developmental program for the Dolphin-Lasers program in Little Rock.”

The Dolphin-Lasers is a year-round USA Swimming competitive team. It’s a combination of the old and storied Little Rock Dolphins, and the more recent Lasers program. Its home pool is at UALR, and a few Cabot team members compete for the program on a year-round basis.

Skidmore would call Cabot’s Piranhas program less of a competitive team, and more like an instructional program.

“We’re kind of like a swim academy,” Skidmore said. “We have four coaches and some days we’ll focus on younger boys, or older girls. We spend time with individual groups and giving different people more focused training.”

The program also has a peewee team and a novice team for individuals who aren’t interested in competition, to go along with the Piranhas competitive squad.

But it’s not always all work at Piranhas’ practices. On Wednesdays, team members play water polo, and different equipment like flippers and kickboards are brought out for different activities.

“We want to make them better swimmers, but we want them to have fun with it too,” Skidmore said. “It’s really a program for any level you wish to be at. If you want to seriously compete, or if you just want to have fun and become a better recreational swimmer, we have something to offer.”

For more information about the Piranhas swim team, or to get involved, contact Dawn Beckley at

SPORTS >> Centennial juniors defeat Bruins

Special to The Leader

Sylvan Hills had some bad luck and the Cabot Centennial junior team took full advantage of that in a 5-0 win in American Legion action Friday night in Sherwood.

The game was a pitchers’ duel between Sylvan Hills’ 14-year-old Hunter Heslep and Cabot’s Lee Sullivan, with both pitchers dominating in different ways.

Unfortunately for Heslep and Sylvan Hills, it didn’t turn out to be a defensive duel as the Bruins committed four errors. Add in five walks and Cabot’s two hits were all it needed.

Meanwhile, Cabot was playing error-free defense with just one walk from Sullivan. The little lefty kept the Bruins off balance all night with great movement on his fastball, a sharp breaking curveball and a circle-change that seemed to stop and just run away from right-handed batter.

“Lee does a good job out there keeping the ball down and mixing up his pitches,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross. “His fastball has so much movement that sometimes right-handers just can’t reach it.”

Heslep is a more traditional looking, tall and lanky pitcher. Despite his young age, Heslep stays around 80 mph with his fastball to go with a hard curve.

“He’s young, but he’s going into the zone tournament as my number one,” said Sylvan Hills coach Chris Foor. “He’s really come a long way; it’s just too bad he didn’t have any help out there today, but that happens.”

Heslep threw four-and-a-third innings, giving up just one hit and striking out six.

Cabot held a 1-0 lead going into the top of the fifth when Cabot’s first two batters, Josh Dollarhide and Nick Thomas, reached on errors. Instead of two outs and nobody on, the Bruins faced two on with nobody out.

A sacrifice fly by Tristan Bulice scored Cabot’s first run of the game, while Devin Burke’s double made the score 2-0. Burke came around to score on a passed ball after stealing third.

Cabot’s Jonathan Latture walked and scored on a wild pitch in the sixth inning to set the final margin. Latture also walked and scored back in the second inning.

Sullivan went the distance on the mound for Cabot, pitching six innings and scattering five hits while striking out five. Burke’s double led Cabot. Charles Roberts led Sylvan Hills with a double, while Cody Hattabaugh and Reid Fawcett singled.

SPORTS >> Teenager cruises, takes checkered flag

Special to The Leader

Dallas Everett gave himself the best graduation present a guy could ask for by winning the ninth-annual running of the Scrapp Fox Memorial modified race with a near flag-to-flag sweep of the top spot to collect the $1,500 first-place prize at Beebe Speedway on Friday.

Everett, a 17-year-old recent graduate of Beebe High School, proved to have the dominant car early on in his two heat races to earn the top-qualifier spot, and forced veteran drivers Mike Bowers and Casey Findley to run his race during the 30-lap feature.

Outside polesitter Donnie Stringfellow of Heber Springs held pace with Everett for the first two circuits, and led the second lap by half a car length before Everett took over the point and cruised to the checkers.

“I was just pretty much holding on to the bottom, and (thinking) don’t gas it too much,” Everett said. “Don’t bobble; keep your cool on restarts and everything else, because they’ll try to rattle your cage. You’ve just got to stay calm and get her done – hang around there on the bottom.”

Everett’s smooth, consistent run in the low line kept Bowers and Findley in constant search of a groove that would pull them back up to the young phenom, with no success. Bowers pushed by Stringfellow on lap 4 and stayed in the runner-up spot for the duration while Findley, who started sixth on the grid, had a lengthy battle with Stringfellow for third place until getting by just before a lap-15 caution for a three-car incident involving Randy Weaver, Keith Craft and Dustin Billingsley in turn two.

As the driver setting the pace on restarts, Everett brought his Marple’s Auto E26 machine to the line slowly and didn’t give in to the pressure behind him.

“They used to, but now, I’m just ready to race with them,” Everett said of being intimidated by more experienced drivers. “I’ve waited for this moment for a long time, and now I’m finally there.”

Greenbrier’s Lane Cullum finished behind the top three drivers with a quiet fourth-place performance. Cullum took fourth away from Stringfellow on lap 21 as a result of a four-car battle with Jon Stinson and Romance driver Todd Greer. Stringfellow finally settled in to finish fifth while Greer ran sixth and Chuck McGinty came on late to take seventh in the final rundown. Brint Hartwick finished eighth while Searcy’s Robert Davis and Cabot driver David Payne completed the top 10.

Five-time modified track champion and 2008 Scrapp Fox winner Weaver appeared to be on his way to salvaging a decent finish after mechanical woes plagued the Fox racing team the entire night. Weaver broke in hot laps and again in his first heat, and his F1 car appeared to have tremendous handling issues despite a third-place run in his invert heat.

That resulted in a B-main appearance where “The Big Show” advanced into the third and final transfer spot before pulling into the infield midway through.

Weaver took advantage of a track-champion’s provisional and entered his backup car shotgun in the 21-car field.

Once the backup hit the track, Weaver took off and began overtaking spots until he tried to thread the needle between Patrick Linn and the lapped car of Brad Buck entering turn three on lap 22.

Linn passed Stringfellow for fifth place on lap 20, and Weaver was close behind after using the outside line to pass McGinty, Stringfellow and Greer in half a lap. Weaver’s abundance of momentum finally backfired, however, as Linn got out of shape coming out of turn three and tried to correct his car in the line Weaver was already committed to running. That resulted in contact between the two cars, and Linn’s already unstable machine tumbled wheels up on the upper banking. He got out of the car alright, but the incident was enough for Weaver to retire himself from the event with what appeared to be minor damage.

For Linn, it was his second scary accident in the last three years after crashing straight into the wall with a hung throttle in the 2009 Scrapp Fox race.

And for Everett, the big victory made up for the disappointment of spinning out while leading the recent USCS modified event at Beebe two weeks ago. But Everett, now with five modified victories to his credit, was quick to point out that mechanical issues played a part in his misfortunes that night.

“Might I remind you that the reason I spun was because I hit a rut and broke the left-rear down,” Everett said. “So, I just wanted to clear that up.”

In other classes, Terry Brooks took the checkered flag in the factory-stock feature over Devon Andrews and Danny Garringer while Cabot’s Mike Burr won the mini-stock feature over Searcy driver Gaige Raines and Mike Millwood of Cabot.

Jeff Porterfield took a thrilling victory over Gravel Ridge driver Mike McDougale in the hobby-stock feature in a race that also had an on-track park and protest by driver Chad Isbell prior to the finish. Isbell disputed a lineup change prior to a restart and let his disgust be known to officials by leaving his 86 machine parked at the entrance of turn one as he walked into the pits.

SPORTS >> Cabot defense spurs victory over Conway

Leader sports editor

The bats weren’t working, but the pitching and fielding were, and it was enough to lead Cabot’s Centennial Bank senior team to a 2-1 victory over the Conway Cougars on Monday night at the Cabot city park.

Conway’s fielding left a lot to be desired. Cabot scored only one unearned run, but it was all Cabot pitcher Chipper Morris needed. Morris went the distance, giving up eight base hits. He struck out just two in the first five innings, but grew stronger in the final two, fanning four more in the last two, including striking out the side in the sixth, to secure the one-run lead and the win.

Cabot fill-in coach Craig Niborg was impressed with Morris’ performance.

“He wasn’t even scheduled to pitch tonight,” Niborg said. “The guy who was said he didn’t think he was quite ready to go. Chipper stepped in there, said he could do it, so we put him on the mound. I didn’t expect him to throw the whole game, but he did a good job of getting the pop ups and the strikeouts when he needed them. And Andrew (Reynolds) did a great job of throwing a couple of runners out that got on base.”

In the second inning, Reynolds caught a lone runner trying to steal second for the second out, but the big one came in the final frame with Conway trying to rally.

The Cougars put together back-to-back, one-out base hits, but Reynolds got the speedy Conway leadoff hitter at second for the second out. The very next batter grounded out to third to end the game.
Morris pitched out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth, Conway put runners on second and third with no outs. Morris got a ground out to first base, where Casey Vaughan was playing in and kept the runner at third from advancing.

The next batter popped foul down the first baseline, between first and home. Reynolds made the catch for the second out.

Home plate was left uncovered, but the Conway runner failed to seize the opportunity to score. Morris struck out the next batter to end the threat.

The next inning, Conway got three straight base hits to load the bases with one out. A groundout to short scored a run, and a fly ball to right field ended the inning.

Cabot’s two runs came in the third. Matt Evans walked and Morris laid a bunt down the first baseline that should have been a sacrifice to advance the runner, but no one covered first. No one covered third either, allowing Evans to advance all the way to third on the bunt. Brandon Surdam then hit a fly ball to right field deep enough to score Evans.

Reynolds walked to put runners on first and second. Tyler Erickson then grounded to short for what might’ve been an inning-ending double play, but the shortstop flubbed the play, allowing Morris to score for the 2-0 Cabot lead.

Dillon Wilson then laid down a bunt and Conway again failed to cover the corners, leaving everyone safe, but Vaughan hit into a 5-4-1 double play that got Conway out of the jam.

The two runs in the fourth were the last Cabot threat. The Centennial squad’s last nine batters from the fourth through the sixth went down in order.

The win, combined with a weekend loss at Russellville on Saturday, leaves Cabot 10-6 overall and 4-2 against Zone 3 competition. Cabot was scheduled to play Sylvan Hills last night after Leader deadlines, and begins play in the Jacksonville Fourth of July Classic at 5:30 today against Sheridan. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s Leader.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville gets revenge

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet AAA American Legion team put it all together Monday night in an 8-0 mercy killing of a very tough North Little Rock Colts squad.

Jesse Harbin pitched a gem on the mound, the defense made some great plays behind him and the offense flexed its muscles with a pair of homers.

“That was a real big win for us,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We hit the baseball better tonight and that was really the key for us.”

The win still wasn’t enough to get the Chevy Boys back into first place because of an 8-0 loss to Russellville on Saturday. Jacksonville had just beaten Russellville 13-0 earlier in the week before dropping the mercy-rule loss at home this weekend.

“Just one of those games,” Hickingbotham said. “We just couldn’t hit the ball for some reason.

The Chevy Boys got all the runs they needed Monday with one swing in the bottom of the first inning.Kenny Cummings came up with one out and launched a no-doubter over the wall in left center for a solo homer. The outfielders didn’t bother taking more than a step toward the ball as it cleared everything quickly and easily.

Gwatney’s starting pitcher Harbin had set the tone in the top of the first for the way he would pitch the whole game.

Harbin worked quickly and fanned the side around a seeing-eye single.

Harbin finished with a complete six innings pitched, giving up just two hits while striking out eight and walking two. Harbin didn’t have to worry about pitching the seventh when Jacksonville scored in the bottom of the sixth to win by the eight-after-five rule.

“Jesse was just outstanding tonight and he’s been that way almost every time out there,” Hickingbotham said. “He got in a good rhythm hitting his spots. He’s been doing that all season. He’s a good one.”

Jacksonville broke the game open in the third inning when the Colts’ pitcher couldn’t find the plate and got knocked around when he did.

The inning looked like a disaster to start with after Chris McClendon was hit by a pitch to lead off the third. The top of the order, Jacob Abrahamson and Cummings, both had come backers to the pitcher. The first got McClendon to second, but Cummings’ hit was too hard and McClendon was thrown out at third for the second out.

That’s when things started getting interesting.

Patrick Castleberry and Harbin both walked, setting up Colt Harmon for a two-run single. Nick Rodriguez walked, followed by back-to-back singles from Brown and Alex Tucker, as Jacksonville took a 6-0 lead.

Castleberry came back up in the fourth inning with a solo homer to push Gwatney’s lead to 7-0.
Cummings led the way on offense, going 2 for 3 with a single, homer, walk and three runs. Harmon had a pair of singles and three RBIs in the win.

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior American Legion team has had some ups and downs this season, but that is to be expected with a team using several players fresh out of the 8th grade.

Monday night was one of the big ups of the year, with a come-from-behind, 9-5 win over the Colts.
A few singles sprinkled with an error each of the first three innings had the junior Chevy Boys down 5-0 going into the bottom of the fourth inning. That score could have been worse, but Gwatney was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth thanks to an inning-ending double play.

Jacksonville turned it around in the fourth with the two batters leading off the inning being hit by a pitch, followed by a walk to Greg Jones to load the bases.

A pair of strikeouts made it look like the Colts might get out of the inning, but a walk to Derek St. Claire forced in Jacksonville’s first run of the evening.

Back at the top of the order, Troy Allen roped a double that cleared the bases and cut North Little Rock’s lead to 5-4. Alex Broadwell tied the game with an RBI single, followed by what turned out to be the game-winning RBI on a triple by Austin Allen.

Josh Cook came in to pitch relief and slammed the door in the top of the fifth, allowing Jacksonville to bat until time was called in the bottom of the inning. Another walk to begin the inning was followed by singles from Jones and Tyler Mogish.

All three would score in the inning after a pair of walks and an RBI single by St. Claire to set the final margin at 9-5.

Broadwell led Jacksonville with two singles, while Troy Allen did the damage with four RBIs in the contest.