Friday, March 23, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot helps Vilonia, loses third straight

Leader sportswriter

BENTON – A southpaw showdown phased into a right-handed revival as Vilonia edged Cabot 5-4 in the opening round of the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament at Benton High School on Thursday.

Lefties Hayden Weaver and Ryan Logan led their respective teams through the first half of the game with Weaver earning the win for the Eagles through four and two-third innings worth of work before giving way to a shaky Sam Woody, whose awkward sidearm style put Vilonia’s defense in some precarious situations down the stretch.

But the Eagle gloves came up with a number of game-saving plays to work their way out of the jams, while starting left fielder Brian Ayers closed it down on the mound for Vilonia in the top of the seventh inning.

“Right before the game, I told the kids we had to have a complete seven innings at all three phases of the game,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “And we were just real hit and miss. We had the one little circus inning where they scored three runs, and we threw it around. And Vilonia’s a good team – you can’t do that kind of stuff against good-hitting teams.”

The Eagles took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Cody Earnhart doubled to left field, driving in cleanup hitter Ayers and Nathan Taylor before an error at third allowed Mason Hoffnagle to come home for the go-ahead score. Cabot (5-4) tied the game in the top of the third and again in the fourth, but a RBI single from Tanner Fougurusse in the bottom of the fifth inning provided Vilonia with the winning run by nine-hole hitter Drew Estes.

The Eagles threatened to add to their lead in the bottom of the sixth with bases loaded and two outs, but Logan struck out Hoffnagle to give the Panthers one last chance to make up the one-run deficit.

“We’ve been struggling with the timely hit,” Fitch said. “Our sticks came around a little bit today, it looked a little better. It was our defense that let us down, and that’s the third game that Ryan Logan has lost by one run. He’s like 1-3, and probably the best pitcher we’ve got. We’ve got to give him some more run support and some more defensive play.”

Woody’s time on the mound started unceremoniously as he hit Panthers catcher and three-hole T.C. Carter with a pitch before committing a fielding error on a bunt by Justin Goff to put runners at second and third with two outs, but Vilonia first baseman Hunter Henderson persevered the lead for the Eagles with an unassisted play to retire the side.

Woody also hit Casey Vaughn with a pitch to start the sixth inning before Vilonia right fielder Hoffnagle turned an incredible double play when he caught Chipper Morris’ pop-up and made a flawless throw to Earnhart at third for the tag on Vaughn, who had reached second on a steal.

“Our sticks, I keep going back to our sticks when they bring those new pitchers in,” Fitch said. “Nothing was overpowering, and we did okay, but we’ve got to put back-to-back hits in. And we made a couple of errors on the bases and stuff, too, and we just have to improve in all phases of the game.”

Cabot took the initial lead in the top of the first a double by Carter, followed by a RBI double to right field by Goff, who later scored on an errant throw to third by Eagles catcher Nathan Taylor.

Kason Kimbrell doubled with a fly to left to start the third inning and was sent home two batters later with a groundout to shortstop by Goff to tie the game at 3-3. Vaughn put Cabot’s final run on base to lead off the top of the fourth with a double and scored when Vilonia shortstop Estes mishandled a hopper from DH Hayden Vincent. Vincent tried to put himself in position by taking two but was tagged at second before Logan grounded out to shortstop.

Logan made it through five innings before right-hander Kyle Kauffman came in relief in the bottom of the sixth, striking out two and forcing a groundout to shortstop by Estes.

Carter singled in the top of the seventh with two outs and made his way to second on a wild pitch, but Ayers got Goff swinging for the final out.

Vaughn was 2 for 2 with a double while Carter was 2 for 3 with a double. Goff was 1 for 3 with a double and two RBI.

For Vilonia, Ayers was 3 for 3 with a RBI while Earnhart was 1 for 3 with a double and two RBI. Cabot scored four runs on seven hits and committed three errors while the Eagles scored five runs on eight hits and had four errors.

Weaver earned the win, giving up five hits while striking out four batters. Cabot ace Logan fell to 1-3 on the season after giving up seven hits and striking out seven batters.

The Panthers finished the CAI tourney yesterday with an early game against Central Arkansas Christian in the consolation bracket and an afternoon game.

SPORTS >> A thrilling basketball season this year

Leader sportswriter

Now that spring is in full swing and everyone is off to the baseball and soccer fields, it’s a good time to reflect on a basketball season that was nothing short of thrilling in our neck of the woods.

Locally, we had two state champions and seven teams qualify for state tournaments from their respective classifications in our coverage area, and a few we thought would make it but didn’t.

The Carlisle Lady Bison went through the first half of their 2011-12 schedule as a team struggling to stay above .500 until the final month of the regular season, when the Jonathan Buffalo-led group ran the table in the second cycle of 2A-6 Conference games to win the league title, only to lose a heartbreaker to Conway St. Joseph in the first round of the East Regional.

And here’s something we haven’t been able to say in a decade or so, how about those Jacksonville Lady Red Devils? Head coach Katrina Mimms has paid her dues and then some, and finally got to taste the sweet thrill of postseason success all the way to the semifinal round of the 6A state tournament. Congratulations, coach Mimms!

Almost as big a turnaround was the Beebe Lady Badgers, who reached the quarterfinals of the 5A state tournament this year after two miserable seasons the last two years. New coach Greg Richey lit a fire under those girls, and gave the hometown fans a reason to show up at Badger Sports Arena before 7:30 p.m. this year.

But this season belonged to Carla Crowder, Charles Ruple and the Cabot Lady Panthers on the girls’ side of things. The Lady Panthers took home the first-ever basketball state title in school history, and University of Arkansas signee Melissa Wolff earned the MVP title to cap off a splendid season. Wolff is a great player and even better kid, and we wish her and her Lady Panther teammates all the best in their future endeavors.

Basketball officials get lambasted more than anyone, so we will give credit to the refs who called the Lady Panthers’ games in the state tournament and state finals. There was no apparent favoritism toward Elliot Taylor, daughter of Arkansas Activities Association executive director Lance Taylor. In fact, the junior guard came dangerously close to fouling out during the semifinals victory over Little Rock Hall, proving there was no sort of protection going on like we have seen at certain times in the past. (Remember Whitney Zachariason?)

The strangest twist of fate this season came at the expense of Jacksonville Red Devils coach Victor Joyner, who had to watch a 6A state finals game featuring two teams he went 4-0 against during the regular season. The Devils uncharacteristically fell apart in their semifinals matchup against Jonesboro, a team they torched by 30 points just a month prior. But much of the premier talent from that team will return in November, and it is quite likely Jacksonville will be a big factor again next year.

The Beebe Badgers also made it to the semifinal round of the 5A tournament under second-year coach Ryan Marshall, who takes the award for most animated coach. Marshall has brought an intensity and work ethic to the Badger basketball program that rivals that of football coach John Shannon, one of our favorite coaches in the area.

But not to digress, we will give the overachievers award to Jerry Bridges and the Cabot Panthers, who made it into a competitive 7A state tournament field with a team that had limited size, but plenty of heart. Bridges’ industrious group of seniors had no standout player, but proved that teamwork and resilience can lead to success, even when outmatched on most nights.

On a side note, although they are no longer in our coverage area, we would like to congratulate coach Brad Francis and the Harding Academy Wildcats on an outstanding season and semifinals appearance in the 3A state tournament. The Wildcats made the quarterfinals last year before losing to Earle, the same team to send them home this season.

Are we forgetting anyone?

Oh yeah, the Sylvan Hills Bears, led by longtime coach Kevin Davis and some kid named Archie.

That’s Archie Goodwin, for those of you living under a rock the past three years. Goodwin earned MVP in the 5A title game as the Bears defeated Mills University Studies for a third time this season.

The rebuilding job ahead of Davis will be a big one with the top seven in his rotation graduating in less than two months, but the legacy left by Goodwin, Devin Pearson, Trey Smith, Dion Patton, Larry Ziegler, Jacob Gates and Daylon Jones will be talked about for years to come.

It will be hard to top a season like the one we just experienced, but we look forward to the 2012-13 season just the same. Also, we would like to express appreciation to Cabot athletic director Steve Roberts and the Cabot staff for putting on an outstanding 7A state tournament this year. The new Panther Arena provided a great atmosphere for high-school tournament basketball, and the hospitality was second to none.

SPORTS >> Leaving a legacy that’s his own

Leader sports editor

Athletic legacies in small towns aren’t unique. Many towns have multiple generations of members of the same family who excel in high school sports. There is something different, and perhaps bigger about Beebe’s most storied athletic family legacy. The Fuller family has been highlighting Badgers sports for about 40 years, and one of the best just finished his high school basketball career by leading his team to the class 5A state championship.

Beebe senior point guard Brandon Fuller has felt the weight of expectations from family members to be a standout athlete since a very young age. This year, coaches and teammates jumped on his shoulders too.

Some people crumble under that kind of pressure, others don’t. Brandon didn’t, though he admits he felt the pressure.

“I think coach made it well known,” Fuller said. “He told me I was the leader, and the team looked up to me so I had to take that on and just get the job done.”

Getting the job done is something the Fullers have done for Beebe athletics for decades, so the pressure of simply carrying that surname was already palpable for Brandon.

“And it wasn’t even just the Fullers,” Brandon said. “We have the Lockharts and others in the family that were so good. All the athletes in my family I watched as I grew up, they were getting the job done. There was so much pressure for me to live up to that.”

Tony Lockhart was the most sought-after athlete of the family in the mid-1990s. He signed as a defensive back with the Arkansas Razorbacks. His younger brother DeWayne Lockhart was a standout quarterback and 100-meter dash champion 10 years ago.

Their mother was Pam Fuller, Brandon’s aunt. She was the first Lady Badger to receive a Divison I scholarship as a track star at Arkansas State University.

Other Fullers received athletic scholarship offers at various levels of college play over the years. Brandon’s father, Les Fuller, was a standout athlete also, but knee injuries kept him from pursuing college athletics.

“My dad played the same position I do and was very successful,” Brandon said. “He’s always on me when I do bad, but he always praises me too. I think I’ve lived up to that. I think I’ve actually exceeded what he accomplished.”

This year’s Badgers are potentially the best team Beebe’s ever had. It’s the highest classification the school has ever been in, and they beat the defending state champion and No. 1 seed Alma to advance to the semifinals for the first time in at least 30 years.

In that game, Brandon scored a career high 20 points, a feat his coach wasn’t surprised to see.

“We talked at the beginning of the year about him stepping into leadership role,” Beebe head basketball coach Ryan Marshall said. “In November and December, he was still trying to figure things out. About the last week of January, he found his confidence and took it up a notch. He’s just done a great job and didn’t surprise me at all.”

Fuller carries a 3.2 grade-point average and already has a scholarship qualifying score on the ACT. He has received some interest from small colleges, but isn’t yet willing to discuss specifics. Wherever he goes, Marshall believes he’ll be an asset.

“Someone’s going to take him because of his ability but also his character,” Marshall said. “They want players, but they also want guys that are going to listen to coaching, they’re going to be good locker-room guys, and they’re going to take care of the classroom. Brandon’s going to do that and that’s going to bode well for him in the recruiting process.”

Most success stories feature good support. Brandon says he’s received that kind of support from family, coaches, teammates and elsewhere.

His last year of high school has included a new taste for numbers he never thought he had.

“This year I’d say my favorite subject is math,” Fuller said. “I never liked math but I have a great teacher, Ms. Pam White. She’s challenged me to work to get good grades because she knows I want to earn a scholarship. So she’s really helped me.”

Not all of Brandon’s athletically gifted relatives have been as committed as he is in the classroom or to the more laborious aspects of high-level athletics. The willingness to take on whatever responsibilities come with being successful is what his coach thinks sets him apart.

“His family is full of great athletes, but I think Brandon’s biggest critic is himself,” Marshall said. “I thought he learned a lot about leadership and keeping your head about you in all situations. He’s a special kid. He’s one of those you revert back to as a coach years later as an example to other kids.”

SPORTS >> Jacksonville pounds out win over 7A Springdale

Leader sports editor

JONESBORO – Jacksonville overcame a long delay to get a win in the opening round of the Xtra Innings Baseball Classic at Nettleton High School in Jonesboro on Thursday. The Red Devils’ regularly-scheduled 11 a.m. start time was put off until about 1:10 p.m. due to heavy rain the night before. Once things got going, the Red Devils came from behind to beat the Springdale Bulldogs 6-3.

Although there was not prior notification for the late start, Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows was glad for the opportunity for his team to overcome some adversity.

“I like stuff like that sometimes,” Burrow said. “The same thing happened to us in the state tournament last year and we handled it really well. We have a really young team, and there’s a lot they need to learn about things not going just right.”

Jacksonville won the game and scored six runs despite leaving 10 runners stranded in the game. The Red Devils left two runners on base in the first inning, a runner on third in the second, runners on second and third and the third inning and left the bases loaded in the fourth.

In the fifth inning, with the score tied at two apiece, Jacksonville scored four runs to take command of the game.

The Red Devils loaded the bases with no outs, bringing up five-hole hitter Courtland McDonald. McDonald hit a hard grounder, but he hit it too hard. The throw went home for the first out of the inning. Senior Ragan Jones came up next. He hit a grounder to shortstop that scored a run and left everyone safe on the base paths.

Cole Bredenberg then laid down a squeeze bunt that went back to the pitcher. The Bulldog pitcher tried to shovel it to the catcher from his glove, but the throw was late. The catcher then tried to fire to first to get Bredenberg, but the throw sailed high, scoring two more runs and giving Jacksonville a 6-2 lead.

The Bulldogs added a run in the top of the seventh inning with a double and a triple, but could get no closer.

Jesse Harbin got the win on the mound for the Red Devils. He threw all seven innings, giving up seven hits and one earned run. Harbin also went 3 for 4 at the plate, picking up a third of Jacksonville’s nine base hits. Leadoff hitter Kaleb Reeves Got two base hits while D’Vone McClure, Greg Jones and Bredenberg also pitched in one base hit each.

Jacksonville immediately turned around and played Wynne after beating Springdale. The Yellowjackets got that win 5-0 despite only four base hits.

Jacksonville also got four hits but couldn’t produce any runs.

Wynne’s first two runs came off solo homers off starting pitcher Derek St. Clair. Jacksonville then gave away three unearned runs in the fifth inning to set the final margin.

“St. Clair threw a good game,” Burrows said. “We just didn’t hit, and we made some mistakes. I’ll take it though because we’re getting better. It’s early and with a team this young, you’re just looking to get better this time of year. I We’re doing that. I see improvement so I’m pleased.”

SPORTS >> Bears topple 7A powerhouse

Leader sportswriter

BENTON – The Sylvan Hills Bears baseball team knocked off the Fayetteville Bulldogs 4-1 Thursday at Panther Field in Benton.

Sylvan Hills is one of 16 teams competing in the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament hosted by Catholic High School.

“It was a wild night, all the way around,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton about the game. “I thought Connor Eller pitched his guts out tonight. Fayetteville is a powerhouse 7A team, and he (Eller) walked out here and really just gave up some infield hits. He really did a great job.”

Eller threw all seven innings for the Bears, striking out eight and not allowing a single walk. The only run Eller allowed was in the top of the seventh when Fayetteville freshman Andy Pagnozzi, son of former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, singled to drive in Carson Shaddy.

Pitching was solid for both teams early, as neither team was able to put any runs on the board after two innings of play. After another scoreless inning for Fayetteville (4-3, 0-2), Sylvan Hills (7-3, 2-0) started connecting at the plate in the bottom of the third.

Junior right fielder J.D. Miller singled to start the inning, and after Miller stole second, Chase Imoff moved Miller to third on a sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter Brandon Baioni then sent Miller home on an infield single.

Dylan Boone followed with a single, and Eller hit a one out double that drove in both Baioni and Boone to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

“I thought we had some key opportunities,” Tipton said of the Bears’ third-inning rally. “We got our bunts down, and they came through. Overall, I think this was a great win for us.”

Both teams were held scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings, but Sylvan Hills was able to get an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth after a Bears player stole home, giving Sylvan Hills a four-run lead.

Baioni, Eller and Miller each went 1-3 for the game. Boone was the only player for either team with multiple hits, going 2-3 with two singles.

Even though Sylvan Hills didn’t light up the scoreboard with runs, the pitching and defensive play was strong. That is what Tipton believes is the key for winning ball games.

“This is our goal. Every night we step out, we feel like if we don’t walk anybody and we don’t make an error, we’ll win,” Tipton said. “I think that goes for anybody, but tonight we played good defense and we pitched well, and we got some timely hits.

“We still have a lot to work on. We’re still young. We have to continue to get better every day. It’s just from the small things like getting some guys on when we have a guy on third with less than two outs, and just continuing to pitch well.”

EDITORIAL >> City turns to prayer

This has been a terrible week for the Jacksonville Fire Department, which saw one of its own killed while working an accident. It ended with the deaths of four children and their mother who died in their apartment under tragic circumstances.

The week started with the loss of a beloved department veteran, Capt. Donald Jones, 56, who was run over by an unbalanced driver late Monday night.

The driver, an Army veteran named Bryce Allen with a criminal record and a history of mental problems, wanted to get to the scene of a minor traffic accident involving his mother on Hwy. 161 South in Jacksonville.

Allen, who is considered delusional, slammed into three first responders after he went around barricades: Jones, who was killed at the scene; firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DeMatteo, who are recovering from surgery.

As The Leader’s Sarah Campbell reported on Wednesday, Allen is bipolar and has a record of violent behavior and psychiatric problems. He may have become unhinged when he arrived at the scene and saw emergency crews near his mother’s SUV.

Allen is in jail and could plead insanity. Many wonder why Allen was allowed to drive a vehicle considering his mental state.

In any event, the victims’ families and the fire department still can’t make sense of the tragedy.

There was more terrible news a few days later, when the department responded to two more fire calls only a mile or so apart, one at Northeastern Avenue on the edge of the Foxwood subdivision near Hwy. 67/167 and the other at Max Howell Place, which houses low-income families.

The first fire at Foxwood was supposedly put out the night before, but it restarted early Thursday.Fortunately, no one was at home, but the smoke from that blaze may have confused firefighters when they answered a call at Max Howell Place after a resident complained about smoke in the building where Marilyn Beavers lived with her four small children.

Firefighters soon left, thinking that the resident smelled the smoke from Foxwood, when in fact a mother and her four children were overcome with smoke inhalation in their apartment.

Firefighters were still in shock from the earlier tragedy when they responded to the apartment fire. The latest tragedy has brought in a team of state investigators to determine what went wrong and find out why the blaze was not detected earlier.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, hurrying from one crisis to another, felt the need to pray after emergency workers removed the bodies of Marilyn Beavers and her young children from their apartment.

A complete investigation should determine why the horrors at Max Howell were not discovered sooner.

TOP STORY >> Cypert starts push to extend sales tax

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert kicked off his drive to ask voters to extend the city’s existing one-cent sales tax with a presentation to the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission Thursday night.

If all goes as he hopes, a tax election to support about $30 million in bonds will be held in April 2013.

The list of possible projects supported at least in part by the tax includes a north highway interchange, expansion of parks and recreation, wastewater improvements, a dog park, an addition to the community center, a new fire station and equipment on Hwy. 5, drainage improvements in the Highlands subdivision and major improvements on Lincoln and Locust streets.

Cypert asked the commission to be ready in July with a list of sewer improvement projects as well as how much of the cost would come from the city sales tax and how much would be funded through an increase to sewer rates or possibly through improvement districts in which property owners would pay for improvements each year on their property taxes.

There are currently about 3,000 households inside city limits with no sewer hookups, and the city needs an automated sludge removal system for the sewer treatment plant.

“I would like a draft document for consideration by July 1, 2012,” the mayor told in lockstep with your commission to do the right things for the rate and tax payers,” Cypert said.

“All funding considerations for this project must be given fair and equitable consideration, appropriate priorities and due diligence,” he said.

Technically, city leaders will ask voters to “refund” the existing sales tax, which was passed in 2005 to pay for the railroad overpass connecting Hwy. 367 to Hwy. 38, the sewer treatment plant, community center, animal shelter and improvements to city streets.

In passing that tax, voters approved refunding a tax passed about six years earlier to pay for the well field that supplies most of the city’s water now. So, for practical purposes, the city has had the same sales tax to pay for different projects for more than a decade.

Cypert repeated to the commission a line borrowed from former President George H.W. Bush that the mayor has used more than once when talking about extending what he calls the city’s infrastructure tax: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

He told the commission that he believes if voters understand that the tax isn’t new, and if they are told how city leaders want to spend the revenue, they will pass it.

“We’ve got to be transparent with them, but they’ll buy into it, and they’ll support it,” the mayor said.

The mayor was an original member of the commission he addressed Thursday night and is very familiar with the issues the commission faces.

Next week, he will address the parks commission which had considered asking voters for a new tax for its projects but now has agreed to wait and work with the mayor on extending the existing tax.

TOP STORY >> Fallen firefighter is buried

Leader staff writer

Funeral services began at noon Saturday at McArthur Assembly of God Church in Jacksonville for Capt. Donald Jones, who was killed while responding to an accident.

About 250 people attended Thursday night’s candlelight vigil in his honor at the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial at the Arch Street Fire Station in Little Rock.

Jones, 56, was killed Monday night after Bryce Allen, 47, of Jacksonville drove around emergency vehicles and struck him, firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo as they were working the accident at 8411 Hwy. 161.

His is the first death in the line of duty for the Jacksonville Fire Department.

The other two men are in stable condition.

Bowmaster’s wife, Ashley, said at the vigil, “None of them deserved this. He knows about his captain. He keeps thinking it’s happening to him over and over again every time he wakes up.”

The couple has a 7-year-old daughter named Bailey.

She said her husband’s injuries include a collapsed lung. Bowmaster was put back on a ventilator Thursday morning and will be taken to Tulsa for surgery.

Capt. Kenny Boyd, public information officer for the Jacksonville Police Department, said DiMatteo is doing well.

“He is recovering from (Thursday’s) surgery. He’s got a long road ahead of him, but he’s doing well,” he said.

Jones’ 17-year-old grandson, Tanner Hancock, flew in from California when he heard the news.

At the vigil, he said that the last memory he has of Jones is saying goodbye to him at the end of Christmas break. They liked to hunt and fish together.

“He was a great grandpa,” Hancock said.

Jones’ younger brother, Bruce, thanked everyone for being supportive of the family.

He described his brother as “always kind and generous.”

“He was a great outdoors man. He and his wife did that together. They were a great match. They had so much in common. They were kindred spirits,” he said.

Jones had three brothers and he was the eldest.

His youngest brother, Jon, a Jacksonville engineer/firefighter, said, “He inspired me to become a fireman. It was a tragic loss of a great firefighter, a great father, a great person.”

Jones’ widow did not make it to the vigil because she is dealing with a lot right now, Jacksonville Fire Chief John Vanderhoof told the crowd.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said he has spoken to Vanderhoof, who has been with the department for more than 40 years, about what he wants his “legacy” to be when he retires.

Vanderhoof’s enrollment under the Deferred Retirement Option Program ends in a year and a half.

Fletcher said the chief wanted his “legacy” to be getting a better fire rating for the city and he has done a good job at that.

“But (Vanderhoof’s legacy) will be the department he built. Under the stress and strain, our firefighters have not compromised the quality or integrity of their work. There are three things I tell people they need to know. God is God, God is good and Jesus is Lord,” the mayor said.

Allen was charged with second-degree murder and criminal attempt to commit murder. He pled not guilty in district court Tuesday.

Boyd said Allen claimed that his accelerator had stuck.

The police report said the investigation showed that Allen made no attempt to brake, accelerated before hitting the three men and appeared to be aiming toward them.

“In reality, we had one accident and that was the one they were working. The other was not an accident,” Boyd said.

Allen has a violent past and a history of mental problems, including being bipolar, delusions about the Ku Klux Klan and hallucinations.

Allen is being held at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility on a $750,000 bond.

If he makes bail, he will be released to a State Hospital. His case will be tried in the Pulaski County Circuit Court.

The tragedy occurred after police officers and firefighters responded around 10:30 p.m. Monday to a single-vehicle accident.

Bryce Allen’s mother, Thelma Allen, left the roadway and struck a gas main. She was not seriously injured. The cause of her accident has not been determined yet, Boyd said Friday.

Police officers would like a man who was driving a red or maroon pick-up truck southbound on Hwy. 161 on between 10:30 and 11 p.m. Monday to speak with detective Stallings at 501-982-0277, ext. 2236.

Boyd said other witnesses told them about the pick-up truck.

There aren’t any other agencies involved in the investigation, he said.

Boyd said the department is looking into safety procedures and providing more education on the dangers of working accident scenes.

“We always evaluate situations like this to see if anything could have been done differently,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Duplex deaths raise questions

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Fire Department is in mourning and under pressure as one tragedy after another unfolds following the death of a veteran firefighter.

A mother and her four children died Thursday from smoke inhalation after a fire at their duplex at Max Howell Place, 3A S. Simmons Drive.

As the state fire marshal and local investigators gather evidence, residents at the complex blamed firefighters who had come to the residence earlier that day and didn’t find anything.

The victims — whose deaths went undetected for several hours — are Marilyn Beavers, 30; her son, Dequan Singleton, 10; and her three daughters, Sydni Singleton, 9, Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4.

Earlier, firefighters battled another blaze about a mile away across the freeway at 3400 Northeastern Ave. It left a vacant home a total loss.

Firefighters went to Max Howell Place at 5:50 a.m. Thursday because Jennifer Gray, who lives in 3B, reported smelling smoke next door. “It burned my nose,” she said.

Gray called 911. She said firefighters who came out told her smoke had drifted from the other fire across the freeway.

The police and the firefighters did a walkthrough of Gray’s apartment the first time they came to the duplex. They did an external walk around duplex, but no sign of smoke or fire was found. Firefighters left the scene after 30 minutes.

A thermal imager—a device that detects heat—was used.

Capt. Kenny Boyd, public information officer for the police department, said he didn’t know if the fire department was checking to see if the imager malfunctioned.

Tom Vanhoveln and Bobby Snow, maintenance men for the Jacksonville Housing Authority, which manages the duplexes, entered 3A around 7 a.m. in response to another call from Gray.

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

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

Both said they tried to revive the mother and her children with CPR, but “it was too late.”

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

Boyd said the state crime lab’s office is investigating.

Unlike the Northeastern house, the fire at the duplex didn’t leave obvious damage to the front of the building.

Aside from police tape, patrol cars, an evidence truck, the coroner’s van and news crews, everything looked normal Thursday morning.

“It hits me with the babies and it could have been my babies. It’s crazy. One day everything is fine. The next day it’s not,” Gray said.

“Common sense was telling me something was wrong. I couldn’t have busted the windows because I would have gotten in trouble. I would have (if I had know what was happening),” she said.

She works at a daycare and has two children, a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old. They were at their father’s home when the fire happened.

Gray said firefighters knocked on the door of 3A, but they left when no one answered and didn’t walk around to the back of the building.

She said that is where damage from the fire is most obvious.

The walls separating Gray’s apartment from her neighbor are thin, she explained. She said she was always hearing the children laughing and playing through them, but didn’t hear the smoke detector going off inside her neighbor’s home.

The detector on Gray’s side didn’t go off.

She said she didn’t believe the smell was from the Northeastern blaze.

The fire department first responded to that house at 6:36 a.m. Wednesday. They left at 8:41 a.m., thinking the flames were doused.

The house caught fire again at 4:09 a.m. Thursday and firefighters were there until 8:41 a.m.

Fire Marshal Mike Williams said, “The initial cause may have been the wiring,” but the fire is still being investigated because substantial damage can make the cause harder to identify quickly.

He explained that it was an older home and the owners had been away for a few weeks went to Max Howell Place when the blaze started. No one was injured.

Barbara Brooks, Marilyn Beavers’ best friend of nine years, went to Max Howell Place Thursday morning after a customer told her a woman and four children had been killed in a fire. Brooks is a sales associate at Walmart.

She said her friend worked at North Metro Medical Center, where she cleaned offices at night.

Brooks had just helped throw a birthday party for Emily Beavers, the youngest child, and the family had recently found a new house to move into.

Brooks said they were very active and had enjoyed going to the circus and monster truck rallies.

Neighbors Marqualin Scott and Cavin Kelso said they played football and basketball with Dequan Singleton, Beavers’ son.

They said his dream was to be drafted by the NFL. The whole family was very athletic and all the children loved playing outside when the weather was nice.

Their father did not live with the family because he is a truck driver, Scott and Kelso said.

They said the father visited almost every weekend and was there as often as he could be.

Brooks told friends that she had spoken with their father.

“He asked if they were all gone. I said, ‘They’re gone.’”

The tragedy at the duplex came on the heels of the city’s first firefighter death in the line of duty.

Capt. Donald Jones, a 31-year veteran of the department, was killed Monday when he was hit by a car while working an accident scene.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

EDITORIAL >> How base impacts us

Little Rock Air Force Base pumped more than $780 million into the central Arkansas economy in fiscal year 2011. That figure includes the 189th Air National Guard Wing assigned to LRAFB. The Guard’s economic impact alone was $66 million last year.

The economic impact at the air base has more than doubled since 2000, when it was estimated at $351 million.

According to the Pentagon, the military payroll last year, including military members, civilian employees and contractors, was $457 million. The air base was also responsible for 3,317 indirect jobs worth $19 million, or about $39,000 per job.

The fiscal year ran from July 2010 through June 2011.

According to the report, the military spent $37 million on construction projects during the last fiscal year, another $37 million on material, equipment and supplies and $19 million on services.

There are more than 90 C-130s assigned to the base, as well as 5,506 active-duty members, plus 131 reservists and another 2,497 trainees or cadets. An additional 370 active-duty airmen are to be assigned to the 19th Airlift Wing this fall, and some 650 reservists will arrive in the next year or so—for a total well above 9,000 military members.

Add to that 6,505 dependents, 668 civilian jobs, 49 contract employees and 54,474 retirees, and you realize there are more military-related folks in central Arkansas than there are people in Jacksonville and Cabot combined.

The base has been modernizing its cargo planes, having added 26 new C-130Js to the flightline—almost one third of its fleet. They cost approximately $98 million a piece, or about $2.5 billion all told.

We’ve often added up the construction projects on base and noted that they can approach $100 million in just a couple of years. The base certainly needs that much just to repair the damage from last year’s tornado.

Projects have included new headquarters for airlift wings and squadrons, new air-control towers, dorms, gyms and dining rooms, runway repairs, fiberoptic cables and much more.

But we’re talking about more than just impressive numbers when it comes to our base. As significant as those figures are, it’s the thousands of men and women flying over our neighborhoods and deploying overseas who make the LRAFB the center of excellence for C-130 airlift and training.

Combat airlift crews have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade, putting lives at risk and straining relationships.

The tempo has been nonstop since 9/11. But as the wars wind down in Southwest Asia, those airmen will finally catch a break.

Their sacrifices cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Their courage and patriotism come from the heart, for which we are more than grateful. We would be much diminished without them.

TOP STORY >> Cabot gets out of cutting grass

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s new tall grass, weed, trash and general exterior untidiness ordinance passed the city council Monday night, but without the emergency clause, which means residents have 30 days to clean up or be fined.

The main reason for the new ordinance, according to the mayor and council, is to get the city out of the mowing business, which has lost a lot of money in the past two years.

Alderman Kevin Davis told the council that the city paid $10,491 in 2010 and $6,681 in 2011 to cut grass and collected only $640. The current grass ordinance allows the city to mow when residents won’t and then the city bills them for the expense. If they don’t pay, the city files a lien in the hope of getting paid if and when the property sells.

Mayor Bill Cypert said he has heard that between mowing the grass themselves, hiring it mowed or letting the city do it, property owners prefer to leave the job to the city. It’s cheaper for them.

When the new ordinance goes into effect in 30 days, letting the city mow won’t be an option. Instead violators will be fined $100 to $500.

Ordinances must be read three times during consecutive meetings before they are approved or voted down unless the council suspends those rules. Ordinance No. 5 of 2012 was on its second reading Monday night, but the council said the mild winter and early spring has led to an early grass mowing season and they wanted it passed now.

Five of the six alderman present from the eight-member council voted to approve the emergency clause, making the ordinance immediately effective. But all six votes were needed and the emergency clause failed which means fines for violations aren’t possible for 30 days.

Alderman Patrick Hutton voted against the emergency clause after the mayor said code officers would not enforce the new rules immediately. Hutton said he didn’t want enforcement to be an option until residents had been given the opportunity to read about it in local newspapers.

In addition to requiring that grass is cut in yards, the ordinance requires residents to mow their ditches, bans outdoor storage of appliances, furniture and inoperable vehicles and requires residents to get rid of essentially everything that could be perceived as unsightly such as stagnant pools of water, rubbish, brush, and construction wastes.

In other business the council:

Rezoned four residential lots to commercial. The lots are located at 204 S. Pine St., 206 S. Pine St., 210 S. Pine St. and 15 St. Francis St. Engineer Tim Lemons said the owners do not have a buyer for the property at this time.

Passed a resolution appointing Ken Kincade to the Cabot Parks and Recreation Commission.

Discussed a continuing project to link schools and business areas with sidewalks and awarded the contract for this year’s work on First Street to Gene Summers Construction for $64,376.64.

EDITORIAL >> City mourns a firefighter

Jacksonville is mourning the loss of its first firefighter to fall in the line of duty.

Capt. Donald Jones, 56, a 31-year veteran of the Jacksonville Fire Department, was killed Monday night in a tragic accident that could have been avoided if a reckless driver had stayed away from the scene of an accident.

It started as an almost routine wreck around 10:30 p.m., when Thelma Allen swerved off Hwy. 161 South in Jacksonville and burst a gas main on the side of the road.

Jacksonville police and firefighters quickly responded. They had hoped to keep motorists away and blocked off the area as they were working the accident on the southbound lane of the highway not far from the North Belt Freeway. Allen was not hurt.

A few minutes later, her son, Bryce, 47, heard about the wreck and decided to drive around the barricades and emergency vehicles on the highway.

Ignoring the first responders, he slammed into Capt. Jones, who died almost instantly. Also hit were fellow firefighter Jason Bowmaster, 37, and Police Officer Daniel DiMatteo, 39. They were in stable in condition on Tuesday.

This senseless tragedy need not have happened if Bryce Allen, who has a long police record, had just stayed a few yards away from the first accident, which turned out to be not that serious.

There was a similar accident last spring on Hwy. 67/167 near I-440 involving a grandmother who had driven there after hearing about her grandson’s multi-car pileup. They were fine, but she was killed crossing the freeway.

Bryce Allen’s criminal past and possible mental impairment could complicate this case. He pleaded mental incompetence in a previous altercation with police. A similar verdict in Monday’s fatality would hardly comfort Capt. Jones’ family and his fellow firefighters. We mourn with them.

TOP STORY >> Williams paid his way

Leader staff writer

Sen. Eddie Joe (R-Cabot) came under fire recently for not reporting a cultural exchange trip arranged by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians in Little Rock that he took to Turkey last summer with four other state lawmakers.

But Williams says he and the others paid for the trip themselves. And he reported it only as a precaution not because he thought the law required it.

In the past, the trip was funded by the Turkish TCAE, but not last year. Williams said he paid more than $3,300 for airfare for himself and his wife. During the 10-day trip, they stayed with local residents, who prepared most of their meals. When he was out, he bought food for himself and his wife most of the time, he said.

The TCAE website says its mission is to “promote the cultural, educational, academic, business, social and arts relations and to organize events and activities to bring together the American and Turkish, Turkic and Eurasian communities within the U.S.”

Williams said he is required to report expenditures by others on his behalf on his statement of financial interest when those expenditures exceed $150. But he had many hosts during his visit, and he thinks it unlikely that any of them spent more than $150.

Rice is a significant part of the Turkish diet and the main reason he made the trip, Williams said.

Turkey was the third largest importer of American rice in 2010, according to Chuck Wilson, director of Arkansas field services for the USA Rice Federation in Stuttgart.

Arkansas produces 60 percent of the rice grown in the United States and much of it is grown in the district to which the senator was elected in 2010.

“There are more than 1 million acres of rice in Arkansas,” Williams said. “And last year half a billion dollars worth of rice was exported to Turkey.”

Turkey is so important to Arkansas that growers are now trying to accommodate Turkish tastes with medium-grain rice that they prefer for soups.

Arkansas farms typically grow long-grain rice because that type is better suited to the conditions in Arkansas. California grows a variety of medium-grain rice called Calrose that suited Turkish tastes but lost part of that market because of high prices, Wilson said.

Now Arkansas farmers are growing Jupiter, a medium-grain rice developed about five years ago in Louisiana that is doing very well in Turkey. Medium-grain rice contains more gluten which makes it stickier.

Wilson said rice growers want legislators to visit their export countries to help promote their products. Those visits create goodwill and also give the legislators a better understanding of their needs.

Although Turkey consumes a lot of rice, it’s not grown there because of the lack of water, the senator said. Turkey also lacks trees and the market for trees here is so bad that it’s not worthwhile to sell them, he said.

“We’re actively exploring the export of lumber to Turkey,” he said.

But economics aside, the senator said he and his wife enjoyed the trip a great deal. He met the Turkish equivalent to the secretary of state, toured the legislature and the capital’s “Rose Garden.”

He toured schools and met friends of his hosts.

He hadn’t expected the Muslim country to be so westernized and so diverse at the same time, he said. Most of the people he met, including women, were barely distinguishable in dress and attitude from Americans. But he met some women who wore traditional Muslim garb and wouldn’t look him in the eye much less talk to him.

Turkey is an important NATO ally and the United States has an air base there, Williams said. Turkey has a growing economy and it needs products that Arkansas produces.

The trip that he mostly paid for was about building relationships to improve the Arkansas economy, the senator said.

“It starts with the relationship,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Driver has criminal past, mental problems

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville man with a violent past and mental problems was charged with second-degree murder and criminal attempt to commit murder after he allegedly drove around emergency vehicles and struck two firefighters and a police officer Monday night.

One firefighter, Capt. Donald Jones, 56, was pronounced dead at the scene after he was hit by 47-year-old Bryce Allen’s van, which was traveling south on Hwy. 161 around 10:50 p.m.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, is the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Firefighter/engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo were in stable condition Tuesday afternoon, according to Fire Chief John Vanderhoof.

The tragedy occurred after police officers and firefighters responded around 10:30 p.m. to a single-vehicle accident at 8411 Hwy. 161 South between Rixey Road and Intertstate 440.

Bryce Allen’s mother, Thelma Allen, was driving an SUV, which left the roadway and struck a gas main. She was not injured.

Police Capt. Kenny Boyd said at the scene late Monday night that the cause of her accident had not yet been determined.

The three victims were working the scene when Bryce Allen arrived.

“A van came around the fire truck and the police car that were on (the right side coming from Jacksonville) of the highway. The single-vehicle accident that they responded to had busted a gas main, so they had parked a little ways back. They were standing off the side of the road behind (Thelma Allen’s) vehicle when the van came across and struck all three.”

The police department said its investigation showed that Bryce Allen made no attempt to brake and even accelerated before hitting the three men. He also appeared to be aiming toward them, the report says.

Bowmaster was med-flighted to a Little Rock hospital, and DiMatteo was taken to UAMS by ambulance. They were both in critical condition when they arrived at the hospital.

Allen was booked at the police department and is being held without bond.

An Army veteran, Allen was arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, Allen was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

Allen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions. His evaluation said he did not take medications as prescribed.

Some of the delusions included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

Allen, who was an Army corporal from 1983-1986, told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

He was arrested again in September for fleeing and reckless driving. Allen was found guilty of the charges in Jacksonville District Court in February but appealed the decision to Pulaski County Circuit Court.

He was arrested for a third time last November for aggravated assault, but that charge was reduced to third-degree domestic battery. Allen is expected to appear in district court April 11.

The most recent incident before the fatal wreck occurred at 113 Stevenson St. The victim, a male relative, said he was in his room playing a video game when he heard what sounded like a pellet gun being fired.

He then felt a round hit him in his shoulder blade.
Allen cursed at the victim when he asked if Allen had shot the pellet gun through the wall.

Allen said he didn’t do anything wrong, but police saw a red swollen mark on the victim’s shoulder blade and the hole in the wall.


Vanderhoof said in a news release about Jones’ death: “A fire chief’s worst nightmare is the loss of a fellow firefighter who has been killed in the line of duty. He started his career with the Jacksonville Fire Department on Dec. 24, 1980.

“He served for 31 years of dedicated service with the Jacksonville Fire Department. He will be missed by his family as well as his firefighting family. He will always be in our hearts and memories.”

Jones worked his way up from managing a hose to captain.

He spent the last several years at Station 4 at 4008 S. First St., which is only a couple of miles from where he was killed and where South First Street turns into South Hwy. 161.

Battalion Fire Chief Eddie Hill said, “He was a very solid guy. He would never say anything bad about anybody, and you could never find anybody to say anything bad about him. He was an excellent firefighter.”

Vanderhoof told The Leader, “We fished together for 30-something years. He was just a darn good guy. He was always faithful. He was a super good guy. He will always be a part of the Jacksonville Fire Department. He’s become part of our history.”

Before Jones became a firefighter, he painted houses on Little Rock Air Force Base, where he spent much of his life because his dad was in the Air Force and retired in Jacksonville.

Jones and his wife, Betty, had four children together. He also had a daughter from his first marriage.

Jones had several grandchildren. He loved hunting and the outdoors.

His brother, Jon, is also a Jacksonville firefighter.

The family was waiting on Tuesday for the coroner to release his body. A funeral service had not been scheduled yet.

Bowmaster, 37, has been with the department for 13 years.

SPORTS >> Panthers, Bears play Thursday

Leader sports editor

While most baseball, softball and soccer teams took the week off from competition, Cabot, Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills baseball teams get back to action mid-week in a pair of large baseball tournaments.

Cabot and Sylvan Hills are taking part in the three-site Central Arkansas Invitational hosted by Catholic High, while Jacksonville plays in the Xtra Innings Classic split between Jonesboro and Nettleton High School.

The Panthers and Bears are getting back to action after suffering close losses in their most recent games. Each team has struggled at the plate at times this season. Sylvan Hills is coming off a 3-1 loss at Searcy on Friday while Cabot enters the tournament on a two-game losing streak that opened conference play.

Sylvan Hills has the tougher draw, facing Fayetteville High School in the first round at Little Rock Christian Academy, while Cabot takes on Vilonia at Benton High School.

Vilonia is no easy out. The Eagles took third in the Red Devil Classic earlier this month and are currently 2-0 in the tough 5A West Conference.

Other first-round games include Catholic taking on Hot Springs Lakeside at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. Also at Lamar Porter Field, Lake Hamilton will face Alma, Searcy will take on Kickapoo, Mo., and Springdale Har-Ber will face Arkadelphia.

Benton will face Central Arkansas Christian on its home field with the winner facing the Cabot-Vilonia winner. At Little Rock Christian Academy, Russellville faces LRCA with the winner of that game taking on either Sylvan Hills or Fayetteville.

Second-round games are also scheduled to be played on Thursday with the tournament concluding on Friday and Saturday.

In Saturday’s final games, all consolation-bracket games will be played at Benton, while all winners’ bracket games will be played at Lamar Porter Field.

SPORTS >> Beebe fifth at Panther track meet

Leader sports editor

Beebe and Lonoke turned in solid performances at the recent Panther Relays track meet in Heber Springs last week. North Pulaski also took place in the event as part of a 23-school contingent. The Lady Falcons had an impressive showing while the boys team was unable to secure any points.

Vilonia took the overall win as the girls finished tops with a score of 115.83 while the boys took a close second with 152.00 total points to give the Eagles track program 267.83 points to win by a comfortable margin.

Host Heber Springs was second overall after the boys team took a narrow points victory over Vilonia with 153 points. The Lady Panthers track team struggled and accumulated just 48.33 points to finish seventh, bringing the overall team score to 201.33.

Beebe took fifth overall as the boys placed fifth with 41 while the Lady Badgers claimed eighth place with 36.00 points to give the Badger track team 77 total points.

Sophomore Austin Dupio finished sixth in the boys 800-meter run with a time of 2:06.05, while junior Jake Schlenker finished 10th after completing the run in 2:10.98.

K.J. Maples ran a 4:41.89 in the 1600-meter run to finish second, while sophomore Alan Kirk ran a 5:05.49 to earn a ninth-place finish. Kirk also finished the 3,200-meter run in 11:39.37 to finish eighth. Dillon Bell finished 10th in the 110-meter high hurdles with a time of 19.10 and took sixth-place in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 46.19.

The Badger boys relay team finished fourth in the 4x400-meter relay after completing the event in 3:43, and was also fourth in the 4x800-meter relay with a time of 9:02.10.

Brandon Lercher and Jordan Huffstickler finished fourth and sixth respectively in the pole vault event as Lercher cleared 11-0 to tie Clinton’s Corey Lambeth, while Huffstickler cleared the 10-0 mark.

Jared Gowen was third in the discus throw with a measurement of 115-9 followed by Tyler Love, who took eighth place with a throw of 103-7.

Madison Richey was sixth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.43. Richie also won the high jump when she cleared the 5-0 mark. Stormy Taylor finished ninth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:49.46, while teammate Katie McGraw finished one spot behind in 10th with a time of 2:49.75.

Cecily Brock took eighth in the 3,200-meter run when she completed the course in 15:01.26. The Lady Badgers relay team was the only local girls team to place in a relay event as they finished third in the 800-meter relay with a time of 11:18.67.

Senior Alexis Miguel took fifth place in the pole-vault event by clearing the 8-0 mark while Richey finished second in the long jump, going a distance of 16-8 3/4. Richey ended up placing in all of the jumping events, taking sixth-place in the triple jump with a distance of 30-11 3/4.

Lonoke was 11th overall with 36 points thanks to a great day on the boys side. The Jackrabbits finished sixth on the boys board with 32 while only one Top-ten finish on the girls side left them with just four points.

Junior Eric Williams finished second in the boys 100-meter dash with a time of 11.25 just behind James Sax of Vilonia, who won with a time of 11.17. Williams also finished fifth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.54.

The Jackrabbits won the boys 4x100-meter relay with a time of 44.92, and took eighth in the 4x800-meter relay with a time of 9:39.11. Blake Mack finished fourth in the boys high jump by clearing the 5-8 mark.

Williams and Mack also placed in the triple jump as Williams reached the 40 3/4 mark to tie for sixth while Mack jumped 38-9 for a ninth-place finish. Justin Carpenter finished ninth in the shot-put event by reaching the 37-2 1/2 mark.

Senior Derrika Mays was the only Lady Jackrabbit to place in any event as she finished fifth in the shot put with a distance of 31-3 1/2.

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons finished ninth with 21 points, while the Falcons tied for last place, as the school finished 16th overall with 21 points.

Yasmine Wilson took seventh in the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.43. Wilson also finished third in the 200-meter dash with a time of 27.84 while NP teammate Jacqueline Moragne finished 10th after completing the sprint in 29.13. Wilson ended up placing in all of the dashes as she also finished fourth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:03.01.

Reagan Lear took ninth-place in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 6:21.05, and she finished sixth in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 14:16.59.

Moragne also placed in the long jump with a distance of 15-7 good for fifth place.

Courvoisiea Allen finished 10th in the boys 400-meter dash with a time of 55.13. The Falcons took sixth in the boys 4x100-meter relay with a time of 47.12.

SPORTS >> Lady Badgers finish hectic week

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Lady Badgers had a busy ending to last week, playing five games in three days. The rapid succession of games began with a doubleheader against Greene County Tech on Thursday to open conference play. The Lady Badgers swept the series, winning game one 4-3 and taking game two 2-0.

Beebe has a youth-laden roster, with as many as six freshmen filling the starting lineup on a given night. In game one against Greene County Tech, freshman Ellie Reaves started and got the win on the mound. The Lady Badgers were down 3-2 going into the bottom of the last inning before pulling out the victory.

Junior Annlee Glass got the win on the mound in game two, starting and throwing four innings. She gave up just two hits before yielding to Reaves for the remainder of the shutout win.

Beebe got a tough draw for the first round of the Tournament of Champions at Burns Park in North Little Rock. The Lady Badgers faced tournament host NLRHS and lost 9-2 to fall to the consolation bracket.

There they met defending class 4A champion Atkins in the second round on Saturday morning. The Lady Red Devils lost 12-3 to defending 6A champion Searcy in the first round. Things started poorly for Beebe against Atkins. The Lady Red Devils scored two runs in the first inning to grab an early lead. After that, Glass settled in adn took control.

The Lady Badgers got things going in the top of the second when cleanup hitter Sarah White led off with a single. Five-hole hitter Lannie Reaves reached on an error at shortstop that put runners on the corners.

White then scored on a wild pitch and Lannie Reaves scored when Megan Davlin hit a sacrifice grounder for an RBI. Atkins didn’t get another hit until the final inning, but Beebe continued to put runs across the plate.

The Lady Badgers added a run in third on another wild pitch. Two-hole hitter Calah Hill reached on a bunt single and moved to second on another bunt single by Brittany Brittany Gentry. White then laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners up, setting up the score that gave Beebe a 3-2 lead.

The fourth inning was the only inning after the first in which the Lady Badgers failed to score, but they added two more in the fifth.

With one out, leadoff hitter Madelyn Poe singled to centerfield and Hill followed with an infield single. Poe scored on an error at second base and Hill scored on an RBI single by White. That made it 5-2, but Atkins cut into that margin in the bottom of the same inning.

Lady Devil leadoff hitter Emily Ward walked with two outs and scored one batter later on an error at second base.

Then came Beebe’s big inning. The Lady Badgers started a five-run rally when eight-hole hitter Courtney Caldwell walked and stole second base. Glass singled to drive the run home, bringing Beebe back to the top of the order.

Poe got a bunt single and Hill loaded the bases when Atkins tried to get the lead runner at third and failed on Hill’s grounder back to the pitcher. Gentry drove in one run with an infield single to third base, and a throwing error on the play allowed another run to score. Lannie Reaves got the final RBI with a single to left field.

Beebe moved into the final of the consolation bracket to face the Hope Bobcats and lost 2-1 in the bottom of the last inning. Hope pitcher Jamie Davlin roped a line drive to deep centerfield to drive in the game-winning run.

The weekend’s games left Beebe with an overall record of 6-4 and a 2-0 conference mark.

SPORTS >> JHS girls get split in league matchup

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s softball team got its first win of the season and opened conference play with a doubleheader spilt against Mountain Home on Friday at Dupree Park. The Lady Red Devils won game one 5-4 with some late heroics, then fell 6-2 in game two.

Whitney House was on the mound for the duration of both games for Jacksonville while Katie Paul did the same for Mountain Home.

Jacksonville led 4-2 after five innings in game one, but the Lady Bombers tied it with two runs in the sixth. It could have been more if not for an incredible double play that ended the Mountain Home rally.

The visitors started the inning with back-to-back triples to score one run. They squeezed in the second run that tied the game with one out and left the batter safe at first base. Another base hit went to centerfield, where Malani Walker made a great throw to home plate.

Catcher Alexis Goodman took the throw and tagged out the Mountain Home runner trying to score, but also spun up out of the tag position to throw out the batter that singled trying to sneak into second base. It was a very rare 8-2-4 double play

“That was a huge play,” Jacksonville coach Kevin Sullivan said. “If we don’t execute that, they’re up a run and still have two on base with just one out. That was great execution.”

In the bottom of the same inning, Bailey Mallison led off with a double over the head of Mountain Home’s centerfielder. Cojya Hood sacrificed her to third base and Kiki Alcorn got the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice grounder to second base.

House put the Lady Bombers down in order in the top of the seventh to seal the victory.

Jacksonville jumped out to an early lead and held it for four innings before things fell apart in the fifth.

Jacksonville led 2-0 in the fifth. Mountain Home had the bases loaded and two outs. Jacksonville should have gotten out of the inning, but a bad throw on a routine grounder allowed a run and opened the flood gates. Another error scored two more runs and the Lady Bombers led 4-2 before the inning ended.

Mountain Home’s bats came alive in the final two innings as the Bombers added two more runs to the total. Mountain Home compiled 12 base hits to go along with three Jacksonville errors.

“I think we just got tired,” Sullivan said of the late collapse in game two. “Whitney threw 77 pitches in game one and turned around and threw 88 in game two. In the first game she did a great job of controlling her pitches. She threw her off speed stuff for strikes and stayed ahead in the count. Later on in the second game, there just wasn’t as much on her pitches, and they started hitting her pretty good.”

Jacksonville moved to 1-1 in conference play and 1-3 overall. Mountain Home is also 1-1 in the 6A-East and is now 2-3 overall.

Jacksonville is off this week, but will travel to Marion on Tuesday and host West Memphis next Thursday, March 29.

SPORTS >> Cabot equestrian climbing rankings

Leader sportswriter

Jordan Payton of Cabot is currently the nation’s seventh-ranked rider in Preliminary Junior Division of U.S. Eventing.

Equestrianism is the art of skillful horseback riding. Eventing is the triathlon of equestrian riding, which consists of three different challenging events or phases. The events are categorized as dressage, show jumping, and cross country.

Payton and her thoroughbred horse, Slew’s Aftershock, a descendant of Seattle Slew, known for being the tenth of eleven horses to win the U.S. Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing, and the only horse to accomplish the feat while remaining undefeated, have completed three of five qualifying rides to participate at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.

The NAJYRC, otherwise known as the Junior Olympics, will be held in Lexington, Ky., in July. Payton’s next qualifying event will be her first international event, which will be held in Hamilton, Ga., at Poplar Place Farm this weekend.

“It’s a little bit bigger than some of the other required shows I have to have to get qualified for the Junior Olympics,” Payton said about this weekend’s event, “and so, just the events for the horse and rider are going to be a bit more difficult, and the jumps will be bigger. I feel we’re going to do really well. Dressage is definitely our weakest phase of the three, and it has been coming along well, a lot better than usual. Mike (Huber) has been helping me a lot by helping me keep my horse from getting too tense, and keeping him nice and relaxed, because the more relaxed he and I are, the better score you can get in dressage.”

This weekend’s event will be a different challenge for Payton, but preparation won’t be an issue for the young rider. Payton rides six days a week as part of her and her horse’s training. The cross country category comes easiest for her and her horse, so when training, Payton and her trainer, Mike Huber, put more focus on dressage and show jumping, while also emphasizing conditioning.

“When conditioning, we do several different sets, such as trot sets, to help build up not only his stamina and muscle strength, but mine as well,” Payton said.

Dressage, which is considered the most difficult of the three phases of eventing, consists of an exact sequence of movements ridden in an enclosed area (20 meters x 60 meters for international eventing, but usually 20 x 40 for a one-day event). In the dressage phase, judges look for balance, rhythm, suppleness, and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider.

The challenge of dressage is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner.

The next phase, cross country, requires both horse and rider to be in excellent physical shape and to be brave and trusting of each other. This phase consists of several lower and higher level fences that are set up on a long outdoor circuit.

Cross country fences are usually natural and solidly-built objects, such as telephone poles and stone walls, with other various obstacles such as ponds, streams, ditches, drops and banks, and several other objects and sites one would see in the countryside. Speed is the factor as the rider is required to cross the finish line within a certain time frame.

Show jumping tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. In this phase, 12 to 20 fences are set up in a ring with elements that can be knocked down.

This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time. In addition to normal jumping skills, show jumping tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider.

Scoring is based on the number of penalties the horse and rider tally during a phase. Knocking down an obstacle, jumping an obstacle out of order, disobedience, fall of horse or rider, errors on course not rectified, and exceeding the time allowed are some of the mishaps that result in penalties. The winner is the horse and rider with the fewest penalties.

Payton’s most recent qualifying event was almost four weeks ago, where she competed at Rocking Horse Farm in Altoona, Fla. That event consisted of three different winter trials, where she and Slew’s Aftershock finished seventh overall in the first trial, second in the second trial, and eighth in the third trial.

She has been living and training in Bartonville, Texas, where she has been finishing her schooling since January to prepare for the Junior Olympics. Payton trains at Gold Chip Stables, a training facility that focuses on eventing, and is owned and operated by her trainer, Huber.

Huber is a former U.S. Equestrian team member, and has served several positions within the sport ranging from Olympic selector to Chairman of the USEF Eventing High Performance committee. Although Payton is currently being trained by one of the best in the world, it took years of dedication, interest and hard work that started a decade ago. She first got into riding at the age of 7 and started eventing around age 10.

“My grandmother owns horses and she always has, so I’ve grown up around horses my entire life,” Payton said. “I had friends that were into riding, English riding and jumping, and so I finally begged my parents enough to let me start taking lessons at a nearby barn. Then a few years later after lots of begging and pleading, I got them to buy me my own horse.”

Payton has owned two other horses prior to Slew’s Aftershock, a 9-year-old, 17.1 hand, grey gelding, registered thoroughbred. Payton has only been riding Slew’s Aftershock for two years. Previous to Payton owning him, he trained as a racehorse in Shreveport, La.

Considering the little time Payton has had to train with her current horse, just getting to the preliminary level has been a huge accomplishment.

“My greatest accomplishment is just getting to the point of competing at the preliminary levels, because I’ve worked so hard to even get here,” Payton said. “I was quite close to moving up to prelim, and starting to qualify for Young Riders, which is the Junior Olympics of our sport, when the horse I was riding before got injured.

“So, I had to buy my horse I currently have now, and start from ground zero. He had no training, so the fact that two years later we’re competing at prelims is a big accomplishment for both of us.”

Eventing isn’t a sport for the weak, and it’s not only the horse that’s subject to injury. The horse and rider have to be in the best shape possible to be able to handle the physical strain that comes nonstop during events, and at times the sport can be as dangerous for the rider as it is for the horse.

“I’ve fallen off countless times,” Payton said. “I can’t even tell you how many times, but it can be very, very dangerous. It’s very hard physically on the horses, and it’s also dangerous for the riders as well. There are all kinds of certain requirements. We have to wear a helmet and a vest to help protect our internal organs.

“For both of our jumping phases we have to wear an armband with all of our medical information in case something happens. They’ve come out with several innovations that have helped make the sport safer for both the horses and riders. Thankfully, I haven’t been a part of a rotational fall or anything like that, but I do have friends that have experienced it.”

Payton would like to continue eventing for as long as she can, but after a decade of riding under her belt, she has recently been experiencing back problems and has developed multiple bulging discs in her lower back. In other words, her physical limitations will decide how much longer she will continue the sport, but Payton doesn’t believe she will be finished any time soon.

Even though Payton is proud of how far she has come after a decade of riding, there is still a goal out there she would like to reach above all others. Eventually she wants to earn a trip to the Rolex Kentucky three-day event in Lexington

Rolex is the only four star, Olympic level event available in the U.S.

In the summer, Payton plans to stay in Texas to continue her education, where she is deciding between North Texas University and Texas Christian University. She has put a lot of work into the sport of eventing over the years, and although it has been tough and physically demanding at times, her passion and love for the sport is still strong.

“I enjoy it so much,” Payton says of eventing. “Honestly, with the amount of work and the amount of money that’s put into it, if you didn’t enjoy it and you didn’t really love it, there’s no way you could do it. But I wouldn’t have it any other way honestly, even with all the work and the dirty chores that go into it.”