Tuesday, April 17, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Honoring volunteers

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
                                          — Martin Luther King Jr.

National volunteer week is being observed this week and we wish to thank all our local volunteers for their time and effort and the blood, sweat and tears they sometimes put into their communities.

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville; St. Vincent North in Sherwood; local schools in Cabot, Jacksonville, Lonoke and Beebe, senior centers, chambers of commerce, the Boys and Girls Club, and food banks, such as Fishnet Missions and the Care Channel all depend on their altruistic volunteers.

According to research, volunteering has positive benefits for both the organization and for the volunteer, a win-win situation some would say.

The state health department has sent a thank you to its volunteers who support public health efforts in disasters and otherwise:

The Arkansas Department of Health thanks the many volunteers who support public health in our state during National Volunteer Week, April 15-21. Over the past year our volunteers have assisted in the Joplin tornado response, participated in health fairs and mass flu clinics, partnered with us during various 5K runs, hosted teddy bear clinics, had booths at preparedness fairs and participated in emergency preparedness exercises. Without volunteers, many of these activities would not have taken place.

Volunteers serve in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The MRC program, established in 2002, is a system that identifies, trains, and organizes medical and public health professionals, as well as lay volunteers to supplement and support on-going emergency response systems and personnel. MRCs are made up of people who volunteer in order to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies as well as promote healthy living in their communities.

Arkansas is plagued by natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods and ice storms. MRCs have provided valuable support to communities during these events. The Arkansas Department of Health coordinates this effort and is available to provide guidance on the establishment of teams, tools, and training to MRC teams.

MRCs are made up of both medical and non-medical individuals. These can include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, social workers, EMT’s, and lay individuals who have a desire to serve their community.

A similar program, AR SERV, administered by the Arkansas Department of Health’s Preparedness and Response Branch, works to recruit, train, manage, and deploy volunteers (medical and non-medical) to assist during emergencies and day-to-day activities by providing additional staff to meet health and medical needs.

Volunteers participate in Hometown Health Improvement Coalitions in every county. HHI brings together a wide range of people and organizations including consumers, business leaders, health care providers, elected officials, religious leaders, and educators to identify community health problems and develop and implement ways to solve them.

With much gratitude we say, “thank you” for your continued support of the Arkansas Public Health Volunteer Programs.

TOP STORY >> Sunday concert a benefit for three first-responders

Leader staff writer

Former “American Idol” finalist and up-and-coming country star Bucky Covington will headline a concert Sunday at the Electric Cowboy in Little Rock to benefit the families of three Jacksonville first responders.

Fire Capt. Donnie Jones was killed and engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel Dematteo were seriously injured when a car plowed into them March 19 while they were trying to rescue a woman who had driven off Hwy. 161 into a ditch.

Bowmaster has gone through a number of surgeries. He is improving and is expected to recover, but it will take time. Dematteo is also recovering from his injuries.

The driver, Bryce Allen, 47, has been charged in the incident.

The concert, which also features local bands: Dr. County and the Moses Tucker Band, will start at 4 p.m. Sunday at The Electric Cowboy, off I-30, in Little Rock.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at city hall, the central fire station or at www.helpthe goodguys.com, or $15 at the door.

The Help the Good Guys group, which is dedicated to easing the burden for wounded community heroes, contacted firefighter Leo Foster about doing the concert. Foster didn’t hesitate. “It’s a good thing to do.”

Foster worked with both firefighters. “Anyone who is a firefighter or police officer knows, in the back of their minds, that something bad can always happen. We try to prepare for it, but it’s not easy. But we have to keep on doing what we do, which is help the public,” Foster said.

But now it’s the public’s chance to help. “We just want everyone to come out to the concert and help these heroes.”

At Jones’ funeral two weeks ago fire chief John Vanderhoof noted, “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.”

Jones was the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Mickey Milam, a medically retired metro Nashville police officer, formed Help the Good Guys, which is offering the singing service of Covington.

He says that when a firefighter or law enforcement officer is injured, the family often suffers a devastating loss of income. Many cities and communities have limited funds to cope with these situations.

The organization raises funds through CD and merchandise sales as well as concerts.

Artists who have worked with the organization include Ronnie Milsap, Vince Gill, George Strait and others.

Currently, Covington has volunteered to headline shows for the group.

“I am honored to be a part of this organization. Firefighters and police officers risk their lives to protect our families and communities…running into burning buildings, chasing down wanted fugitives…they make what I do look easy. If I can sing a few songs and raise money for a family in need, I consider it a small thing compared to what they do every year.”

Covington’s current hit song is “I Want My Life Back.”

TOP STORY >> Academy touts achievement

Leader staff writer

Phillis Anderson, Lighthouse Academies vice president for the southern region, touted achievements made by the students and staff of the Jacksonville campus despite its high teacher turnover rate of 44 percent.

Anderson said last week that 14 of the 25 teachers at Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy have been employed for one year or longer. That means 11 teachers left the school after a year.

The charter school has also been criticized for frequent changes in leadership. That campus has seen three principals in the three years since it opened in 2009.

Anderson said the school is addressing the high turnover rate. “As much as possible, those things that are within our control. We can’t control if somebody gets (military) orders. We can’t control if somebody moves out of the area. Because we do know that (our teachers) work harder, we do try to reward them,” she said.

At their weekly town hall meeting Friday in the school’s cafeteria, the academy’s scholars chanted, “We will, we will, work hard, get smart” to the tune of Queen’s “We will rock you.”

A class is chosen every week to present information to the rest of the school on a college, and last week’s pick was the University of Miami.

Anderson said the mission of the charter school is to move each student up 1.5 grade levels each academic year. It has done that with 70 percent of the students.

Their scores on the Northwest Evaluation Association exams, which are given to the students twice every year, measure this growth.

The North First Street campus was recently recognized for that progress by the Arkansas Public School Resource Center with the annual $2,500 School Academic Growth Award, which is sponsored through a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

The school’s Benchmark scores aren’t much better than those of Pulaski County Special School District students. Anderson said the charter school does get students from PCSSD and other districts that may be lagging when they arrive.

She said it is possible that, for some teachers, a year is not enough time to instill the Lighthouse way in those students and bring them up to par.

Any student in the state can enroll at the charter school if there is space. When there are more applications than spaces, then a lottery is held.


Anderson said teachers:

Relocate because they are military spouses.

Relocate for family reasons. Anderson said, “A lot of times, people just make the best decisions for their families. Whatever that may be, it may be closer to home, a shorter day. We just respect the fact that people have to make decisions that are right for their families. Whoever we lose, we’re sorry to lose them and we wish them well.”

Lighthouse provides 160 hours of professional development as opposed to the 60 hours public schools provide and the state requires. Teachers also work eight hours and 10 additional days a year.

– Seek jobs in the Cabot School District because it offers salaries the charter school can’t compete with, although the Lighthouse offers teachers the opportunity to earn merit pay based on student growth each year and is giving about $18,000 in teacher bonuses this year. Anderson said the school also pays at least $1,000 a year per teacher for professional development.

“We feel like that ($1,000) is an investment,” she said.

All certified Lighthouse teachers, excluding administrators, make between $30,000 and $39,000.

Most Cabot teachers, excluding administrators, earn between $40,000 and $60,000.

– Leave because they find the high standards the Lighthouse expects aren’t for them.

– Find jobs elsewhere after they are certified because no one, except a charter school, can hire staff members who have expertise in their fields but haven’t been certified or don’t have previous experience with teaching.

After one year at the charter school, teachers become fully certified, Anderson said. “Sometimes that happens (they leave after that year). But we haven’t had too many incidences of that,” she said.

– Discover teaching doesn’t suit them.

– Are let go because they do not meet Lighthouse standards after one year.

Anderson said, “We have a rigorous teacher selection process. The teachers don’t just come in for an interview. They have to do a model lesson and then we get feedback from the scholars and how they thought the lesson went. If you’re not mission-minded like we are, it’s going to be evident early on.”

She said the school anticipates less than a 5 percent change in its teaching staff and no changes in leadership. Anderson also said six new teachers are joining the school because they will add a ninth grade next year.


Whitfield said teachers are evaluated twice a year. A green teacher is an instructor who is on target concerning the year and a half growth for each student. A yellow teacher is one that is approaching that goal while a red teacher is not meeting Lighthouse standards.

A teacher who is categorized as red twice could be dismissed.

The first time a teacher is designated as red or yellow, administrators work with them to develop an action plan they can follow to become green.

Whitfield also said, “The majority of our staff members have children. It’s a very family-oriented atmosphere. We have a potluck next week for birthdays. We go off to summit every year as a group. You take some people from Arkansas to Chicago, you become close.”

Anderson said, “Sharing a heart for this mission brings people together. When you get the right people on the bus, it’s an amazing ride because everybody realizes that what we’re trying to do is no ordinary thing.

We’re trying to do something extraordinary, what the school systems that have been in place for years have not done. The expectations for our performance are so much. It seems to be so much higher and it also seems to be a much higher level of accountability for us.”

She also said the University of Central Arkansas is placing student teachers at the academy and this is the first time UCA has partnered with a charter school for that.


Anderson expressed the school administration’s gratitude toward the city too.

“I cannot say enough about this community and that is what makes this school so special. This school came about as a result of the desires of the parents of this community to have another option, to have another choice. Parents really are our partners. They make up our board. They’re here every day.

“They are so much a part of who we are. This school couldn’t be what it is without the parents in this community. I think Jacksonville is such a model community. You just don’t see people saying we want a sound, great educational system and then going to work to get it,” she said.


The first principal was Nigena Livingston, who had been the principal of a Lighthouse community school in Cleveland.

She moved back to Ohio because she was planning to marry and her fiancé lived there.

The second principal was Ryan Dean, a Harvard graduate from a military family. He previously worked at a private school in Virginia and at a charter school in Massachusetts, but he had second cousins living in Arkansas.

Anderson said Dean got married mid-year and moved to San Francisco, where his new wife lives.

Whitfield is a Fort Smith native who worked at Teach for America in Mississippi as a program director in the Mississippi Delta.

He was hired as a first-grade teacher in the second semester of the 2009-10 school year and then was promoted to director of instruction for the upper academy – or vice principal – last school year.

Whitfield said, “One of the first things I told those scholars and their families is that I would be around until they graduated. I don’t make promises to kids that I can’t keep.”

Felicia Kelly of Forrest City was hired last fall to help start up the College Prep Academy, which will open in 2012-13 with the addition of a ninth grade at the First Street campus. Lighthouse opened two other campuses, the Flightline Academy on Little Rock Air Force Base and one in Pine Bluff last year.

A new high school building is planned for 2013-14 and the charter school will add one grade level each year until 2016, when it will see the first graduating class.

Anderson said Kelly didn’t stay on as principal because the commute was too far and she wasn’t successful in relocating closer to Lighthouse.

Chris Carter has been selected for the position. He worked with Whitfield in the Mississippi Delta and is an Indiana native. He has lived in Helena for the past seven years.

Anderson said changing leadership isn’t a problem that is unique to Lighthouse.

Jacksonville High School has seen four principals in the past two years. Jacksonville Middle School, Northwood Middle School and Pinewood Elementary School all had new principals this year too. But none of them were new to PCSSD.

Adkins Elementary, Arnold Drive Elementary, Cato Elementary, Warren Dupree Elementary, Taylor Elementary and North Pulaski High School have had the same principal for the past three years.

Bayou Meto and Tolleson Elementary schools have had the same principal for two years. Jacksonville Elementary had the same principal for two years before it closed this year.

Tolleson’s principal re-tired and the principal from Jacksonville Elementary took over there.

TOP STORY >> Next House speaker sets agenda

Leader staff writer

Education will be the top priority at the state legislature, Rep. Darren Williams (D-Little Rock) said Tuesday.

Williams, an attorney, is the House speaker-elect for 2013. He spoke at the third annual joint meeting of the Cabot and Jacksonville chambers of commerce at the Jacksonville Community Center.

“Education is our number one priority,” he told the crowd of about 200. “Forty-six percent of our budget goes to education and in our last fiscal session we added about $56 million to the education total. Every dollar we spend in education is truly important.”

He said the state spends more than $6,000 per student per year. Add in the state lottery scholarships for students wanting to attend college—that’s $4,500 for 320 Pulaski County students and 240 Cabot-area students—which Williams said was all good news.

The bad news is that the state is spending $20,000 a year per inmate and the state’s prison system is jammed with around 16,000 prisoners.

“There is a relationship between a lack of education and prison time. We are one of the top five states in sending people to prison and for lengths 196 percent above the guidelines,” Williams explained.

“What we do in education will have a significant impact on our prison numbers,” he said. “What we do in education will have an important role in the prison numbers.”

He said he’s proud of his recent prison-reform bill that tackles the problem from a number of sides. “Financially, we can’t sustain what we were doing,” he warned.

Williams said Arkansans should be proud that the state has a balanced budget. “Yes, I get told that all states are supposed to have a balanced budget, but we are one of the few that actually do it,” he said.

He added that in this year’s 19-day fiscal session, legislators approved 287 financial bills and increased the overall state budget by 3.5 percent, but did not raise taxes.

“We’ve not raised taxes since 2004. Also last year 46 states had to cut services. We didn’t,” he pointed out.

The speaker-to-be added that shortfalls in Medicaid are looming. “The estimates are between $250 and $390 million, and that will have a significant impact on the budget.

The governor and others are looking at innovative ways to cut down the shortfall, and we have to look at changing our model—the way we handle costs and expenditures in Medicaid.”

Williams said the state is initiating pilot programs in six Medicaid areas to see if they’ll curb expenses without cutting services.

He took time to salute the military for its service and dedication and told everyone that Little Rock Air Force Base was not just a strong part of the community, but also a strong part of the state.

He also said state Representatives Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) were outstanding leaders and would play an active role in state leadership in the coming year.

That said, there is a slight chance that House leadership could change in January.

His peers, mostly Democrats, elected Williams in the last session, but after November’s election, Republicans could control the House.

The House has to reaffirm the Speaker choice in January.

“We’ve never had a change, but it is possible. But we are less about partisanship and more about what’s best for the people,” Williams told The Leader.

A change could be costly to the state because it might add days to the session, he said.

“Each day we are in session cost about $30,000 and to have someone in January to learn everything that I’m still learning would cause delays and disruptions,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Department hears ideas from PCSSD

Leader staff writer

The state education commissioner met with two factions of the Pulaski County Special School District on Tuesday to determine how to shave $13 million or more from the beleaugered district’s budget.

Tom Kimbrell met in the morning with representatives of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff.

Then later that afternoon, he met with the district’s superintendent, Dr. Jerry Guess, and other district officials.

If the cuts can’t be worked out, then the state Board of Education has the authority to make other plans for the district, from a range of options that include dissolution, consolidation, reconfiguration and even assignment to management by a charter organization.

Negotiating for most of this year, the two sides fairly quickly agreed to about $7 million in cuts, but then the give-and-take stalled.

Negotiations and mediation between district officials and the unions came to an impasse about a month ago. Kimbrell acted after a final mediation attempt failed to make progress.

“If there’s not something that happens to get this into balance by the end of the month, we have concerns about the ability to get the district out of fiscal distress,” he said.

Changes must be made by May 1, when there is otherwise an automatic renewal of employment in contract terms, according to Guess.

According to paperwork submitted to Kimbrell by PACT president Marty Nix, the district superintendent is painting the unions in a negative light. Nix wrote that Guess is trying to convey to the Arkansas Department of Education that “we are unwilling to collaborate with him and his surprisingly single race negotiation team.

“It was even a greater surprise that a district consistently criticized for its exorbitant attorney fees has a negotiations team composed of two district-paid outside attorneys and one district-paid outside consultant.”

Nix said the union has been asked to cut the teachers work contract from 192 to 190 days, but the administrators’ 244-day contracts aren’t being cut. “Teachers can account for every single one of their 192-work days; can the 244-day administrators account for every single one of their work days?” Nix wrote.

District officials claim the unions are ignoring the fact that $15.1 million in property tax revenue for this school year was a one-time payment and without cuts the district will still have a multimillion dollar deficit. “Doing nothing is not an option,” Guess wrote in his letter to Kimbrell.

To date, district administrators and union leaders have agreed to forego pay raises or experience step increases, not replacing buses, eliminating 77 positions through attrition or reduction in force, changes in benefits, eliminating 19 bus routes and keeping a number of unfilled positions vacant.

The administration wants to cut teacher contracts by two days, cut pay for non-instructional duties, revamp how teachers get credit for professional growth for raises, cut severance pay, cut incentive pay for national board certification, cut longevity pay, cut attendance incentive pay and have employees pay a larger share of their health benefits’ costs.

Earlier, Kimbrell said he would review the proposals, but the district must “build a plan that we can recommend to the state board that can allow its release from the fiscal-distress designation.”

Because the district is currently bound by the terms of a desegregation agreement, federal District Judge Brian Miller would have to sign off on some sort of reconfiguration, Kimbrell said earlier.

Leader staff writer John Hofheimer contributed to this report.

SPORTS >> Lady Devil bats better in road win at WMHS

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devil softball team pulled even in league play on Monday with a 9-0 road win over West Memphis. The 6A East victory followed a 1-2 performance at a tournament in Woodlawn over the weekend.

“We didn’t play badly, but we didn’t play lights out,” Jacksonville coach Kevin Sullivan said. “I think we have improved throughout the year. West Memphis made us earn our runs this time. We run ruled them earlier because they were messing up routine plays. They didn’t do that this time. They’ve gotten a lot better, but so have we. We’re hoping to be playing our best ball right at the end. That’s what you shoot for.”

The Lady Devils (6-10, 5-6) got three runs in three different innings, starting in the bottom of the first. Haley Hickingbotham doubled to reach in the first. Cojya Hood and Mailani Walker got RBI base hits and Bailey Mallison got an RBI on a sacrifice grounder to make it 3-0.

In the third inning, Bailea Jones, Alexis Goodman and Whitney house were responsible for Jacksonville’s three runs that made it 6-0.

In the top of the seventh, Keke Alcorn singled, Shyrel McKinney and Walker then picked up RBI base hits, and House came through with another run-scoring double that set the final margin.

House was also good on the mound. She went the distance, giving up just four hits while striking out six and walking one.

“The good thing is we’re getting good at bats up and down the lineup,” Sullivan said. “Earlier in the year, if we didn’t get it at the top, we were in trouble. We struck the ball very well, we just hit it right at people a lot and like I said, West Memphis wasn’t making the mistakes they made the first time. But I’m very pleased with how we’ve improved down the lineup.”

One constant for Jacksonville has been Hickingbotham, who is hitting for a .560 average this season. She went 1 for 5 against West Memphis and the Lady Devils scored nine runs.

“I know she was about as frustrated as I’ve ever seen her,” Sullivan said of Hickingbotham. She even struck out for the first time all year. Everyone has bad games now and then, but for us it was a good sign. For her to struggle like that and we still score nine runs is good for us. It’s real evidence that we are getting more production from other people. I’m encouraged by the way we swung the bats.”

In Friday’s games at Wood-lawn, Jacksonville beat McGehee 10-0 then lost 8-0 to Woodlawn. The loss put them in the third place game against Rose Bud on Saturday. Jacksonville lost that game 8-5.

“McGehee just wasn’t very good to be honest,” Sullivan said. “Against Woodlawn I was very disappointed in the fact that I just didn’t feel like we competed. There was no energy. Woodlawn is a good team, but I just didn’t feel like they got our best, and that’s disappointing as a coach.

“I was very pleased with how they came back on Saturday and played Rose Bud. Rose Bud was an impressive team. They’re going to compete in their classification. We really battled in that game. We didn’t win, but I at least felt like we gave our best effort and competed well with a very good team.”

Jacksonville also got Whitney House’s twin sister Alexis House back on the field in JV action on Monday.

She missed the last two seasons with two separate knee injuries. She returned on Monday, pitching three innings in junior varsity action and getting one hit on one at bat.

“We don’t know exactly how much she’s ready to contribute, but it’s a good start,” Sullivan said. “Having her would help us. It gives us more pitching depth and she adds a pretty good stick to the lineup. She’s been very frustrated not being able to play, so we’re all really hoping she can come back and be a part of things this year.”

Jacksonville played Searcy at home on Tuesday, and will host Hall next Tuesday in another conference matchup.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville earns victory on road trip to West Fork

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville got a needed win over the weekend at West Fork. The team makes a near annual trip for a weekend game in northwest Arkansas every year and takes in a Razorback baseball game while there.

This year’s trip went well for the Red Devils, they beat the West Fork Tigers 13-3, invoking the 10-run sportsmanship rule in the sixth inning.

It was the first win for Jacksonville in nearly two weeks, but the most important thing was that the bats were sharper.

“We’re swinging better,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “We weren’t seeing the kind of pitching we’ve been seeing, but we were swinging better in practice all week. I thought our preparation for this game was good. We improved last week in practice and it showed on the field in that game.”

Jacksonville got a quick lead with two runs in the top of the first inning. They were held scoreless in the second and West Fork got on the board in the bottom of the second frame.

That set the stage for the turning point of the game, a five-run rally by Jacksonville in the top of the third.

Kaleb Reeves started things off by reaching on a hit-by-pitch and Jesse Harbin walked. Both runners advanced on stolen bases to set up an RBI groundout by Greg Jones. Harbin then scored on a single by Cole Bredenburg and David Williams walked to put runners on first and second base. A passed ball advanced both runners into scoring position, and freshman Derek St. Clair singled to drive in both runners for the third and fourth runs of the inning.

Tanner Burks then singled to put runners on the corners for Razorback signee D’Vone McClure. He doubled to centerfield to score St. Clair and give Jacksonville a 7-1 lead.

Jacksonville’s Blake Perry started on the mound and got the win. He gave up just four hits in four innings. One was a two-run home run in the bottom of the third that made it 7-3, but that’s all West Fork was able to muster.

St. Clair pitched the fifth and sixth innings for Jacksonville, striking out four batters and giving up just one hit in his two innings of relief work.

“We pitch good enough and we get enough defense most of the time to stay in it,” Burrows said. “We just have to get the sticks going a little bit more. We execute pretty well, we just haven’t been able to get anybody on. With the bats the way they are this year, the key is to throw strikes. We’ve done that. I think our hitting improved last week so hopefully we can keep improving and start getting some more wins.”

McClure and Harbin led Jacksonville offensively. Each senior got two hits and one double. Ragan Jones, Burks and St. Clair each had two RBIs in the win.

The Red Devils (7-14, 2-6)will resume conference play on Wednesday when they travel to play a doubleheader against Little Rock Hall.

SPORTS >> Tourney title goes to Beebe

Leader sportswriter

After handling Trumann 7-0 and squeaking by Jonesboro Westside 1-0 in the semi-finals of the Beebe/Searcy Softball Invitational Saturday at Beebe High School, the Lady Badgers edged 5A East foe Nettleton 1-0 in the championship game with another shutout performance from standout freshman pitcher Ellie Reaves.

Reaves threw three complete games for the Lady Badgers, and showed nothing but consistency and resiliency as she didn’t allow a single walk or run all day.

“She said she was a little tired there at the end,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers about Reaves after the championship game. “She did real well today. She stayed focused, and she didn’t bat today for us so I think that might have helped her a little bit. But she’s just a freshman, and she’s going to be pitching for someone at the DI level.”

Beebe scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the first. Calah Hill normally bats in the leadoff spot for the Lady Badgers, but was out for the remainder of the tournament after being hit in the arm during her first at bat against Westside.

Madelyn Poe, Beebe’s two-hole hitter, moved into the leadoff spot for the title game and started things off with an infield single.

Makenzie Bingham followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance Poe to second.

Brittany Gentry then grounded out to short, but picked up the game-winning RBI as Poe scored on a close play at the plate after rounding third and sliding home to give the Lady Badgers the 1-0 lead.

Reaves kept Nettleton at bay for the remainder of the game, allowing just four hits.

Beebe’s defense was stellar as well, but the Lady Badgers had as hard a time as the Lady Raiders did connecting at the plate, something Chambers would like to see improve before postseason tournament play begins.

“We’re not really stroking the ball very well,” Chambers said. “We’re not hitting it like we should be, and I think they’re just a little young and indecisive. Other teams come in here against Ellie, and they swing the bat, because they know she’s going to pitch it at them, and they come in swinging. We need to get that way also, but we’re young and we’re getting better.”

Poe, Sarah White, Lannie Reaves and Courtney Shepard all singled for the Lady Badgers. In the semi-final game against Westside, Beebe had the same formula for success, scoring a run early and allowing Reaves to take control of the game while providing defense when needed.

Bingham had a huge impact in helping the Lady Badgers advance to the title game as she scored the game’s only run and prevented Westside from scoring late.

After singling to start the bottom of the second, Lannie Reaves put down the sacrifice bunt to move Bingham to second. Shepard grounded out, but that allowed Bingham to advance to third. Bingham then scored on a passed ball at home plate to give the Lady Badgers the lead.

Beebe’s only scare came in the fifth when Westside’s Sharon Bishop hit a triple to start the inning. Tosha Geror followed with a long fly ball to center. Bingham caught the fly ball, and hurled it home as Bishop tagged from third.

Gentry caught the ball inside the left batter’s box, and dove at the plate to tag out Bishop just as she was sliding in.

“I thought they really played well,” Chambers said about the team’s overall performance in the tournament. “I thought we pitched well the whole day, and we beat a really good Westside team that beat Benton earlier.

“Those two teams were probably picked to win the whole thing, and for us to play as well as we did, I was proud of them, and they did a good job.”

The Lady Badgers (17-6, 6-2) will see the Lady Raiders (12-5, 4-2) again tomorrow, as they’ll travel to Nettleton for a doubleheader starting at 5:00 p.m.

SPORTS >> Searcy rallies to beat Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers dropped a nonconference baseball game Monday at Searcy, losing 8-2 to the Lions. Timely hitting and excellent defense lifted Searcy to the victory. The loss came three days after the Panthers snapped a seven-game conference losing streak. On Friday Cabot beat Van Buren 4-3 to get its first win in 7A Central play.

“We did some really good things against Van Buren,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said after the Searcy game. “We have a couple of players that are starting to hit the ball pretty good. But we’re just playing so-so baseball right now. You can see we made some errors in this game and we’re still not getting the sticks working up and down the lineup like we need to.”

In Monday’s game, Cabot grabbed an early lead with a run in the top of the first inning. Cole Thomas walked with one out and scored two batters later on a double off the wall in centerfield by Casey Vaughan. The knock should’ve been a triple but Vaughan lost his footing rounding second base and had to retreat back to the bag.

Searcy put runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the first but failed to produce any runs.

Searcy’s Conner Carlisle led off with a double that also should have been a triple, but he tripped at second base. Cabot pitcher Cason Kimbrellthen struck out Corey Webb be-fore walking Reed Haggard. The runners advanced on a passed ball, but Kimbrell fanned Brandon Zomant and Joey Davis to end the threat and strike out the side.

The Lions tied it in the bottom of the second. After Kimbrell’s third-straight strikeout put away Jay Bona, Justin Holtz singled to left field. He advanced to second when the throw back to the infield was fielded by no one. Will Dunavan bunted back to Kimbrell, which caught Holtz between second and third.

Kimbrell’s throw to second wasn’t in time and left everyone safe. Kimbrell got his fifth strikeout in two innings when he fanned nine-hole hitter Colby Crossen, but gave up an RBI single to Carlisle. The hit was also the last at bat of the inning. After a throw to home was not in time to get Holtz, Cabot catcher T.C. Carter threw to third and Justin Goffe applied the tag to get Dunavan trying to sneak an extra base.

Searcy took control of the game in third with four runs, three on one swing. Webb led off with a walk and Haggard flew out to left field.

Zomant grounded to short, but the throw got by first base, leaving everyone safe. Joey Davis then walked to load the bases and Bona tripled to centerfield to score three runs. Holtz then hit a fly ball to centerfield that was deep enough to score Bona. Dunavan then walked, but was thrown out on the base paths for the second time when he was caught stealing.

Cabot’s final run came in the top of the fourth. Scott Burnett reached on an error at second base and Bryson Morris singled to right field to bring him home.

The Panthers got just two base runners in the final three innings, an infield single by Thomas and a walk by Burnett, who reached base on all three at bats without getting a hit.

Searcy got its final three runs in the bottom of the fifth off relief pitcher Zach Patterson.

The Lions led off with a single and a bunt single, then loaded the bases on an error by Patterson on another bunt attempt. Holtz then walked to bring home one run.

Dunavan hit a sacrifice grounder to second and Crossen hit a sacrifice fly to center to set the final margin. Cabot got just four hits, but had 11 base runners in the game. The Panthers drew six walks and Searcy committed one error, but they left seven runners on base.

“We showed pretty good discipline at the plate,” Fitch said. “We walked a lot. We’re just not getting that timely base hit.”

Fitch’s team did get that timely hit in Friday’s victory. Vaughan, who went 2 for 3 with two doubles against Searcy, came up huge on Friday.

The Panthers and Pointers were tied at three when Vaughan hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run in the bottom of the fifth.

“He’s swinging it really well right now,” Fitch said of Vaughan. “He had two doubles today and had that big hit against Van Buren. That’s proof that if you keep plugging away good things can happen. He hasn’t been swinging like this all year. Hopefully we’ll have some other guys that’ll find that swing and get things going for us.”

Cabot 4, Van Buren 3

Friday’s game wasn’t without some controversy. Trailing 3-0 in the third with runners on first and second, Van Buren hit a looping line drive down the first base line.

The ball landed fair, but rolled under the fence on the baseline in right field. Vaughan threw his arms up to indicate the ball was out of play, but the umpire made no call. Vaughan then reached underneath the fence and managed to retrieve the ball.

By the time his throw came in, it was an inside-the-park home run. After some objection by Fitch, the call was changed to a ground-rule double and only one run was allowed. That brought objection from the Van Buren coach and a long delay ensued. Cabot won the argument, but Van Buren got the runs across anyway.

On the next at bat, a dink hit to shallow left field scored both base runners to tie the game, setting up Vaughan’s game winner in the fifth.

Junior pitcher Chipper Morris was outstanding on the mound. The two hits in the third were the only ones he allowed in seven innings of work. He also struck out 13 Pointers while walking three.

Cabot (7-13, 1-7) has two conference road games later this week on successive days. The Panthers travel to first-place Russellville on Thursday, then take on Conway on Friday.

SPORTS >> Bears get two in seventh to beat Central

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills and Little Rock Central had a difficult time putting any runs on the board in their nonconference game Monday due to excellent pitching and defensive play. The Bears took advantage of Central’s lone error in the final inning to put two runs on the board in the seventh to beat the Tigers 2-0 at Buddy Coleman Field in Little Rock.

David Carrasquillo picked up the hard-earned win for Sylvan Hills (16-6, 7-1) with a complete game shutout performance. Carrasquillo struck out two and walked just one in the outing, and the defense behind him was just as solid as the Bears didn’t commit a single error, and made play after play through all seven innings.

“If we don’t walk anyone and we don’t make errors, we’re going to win. That’s the key to the game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “They’re (Central) good. They were the hottest team to start, and started the year 9-0. They’re senior-laden and very good.”

Central (10-11, 3-5) proved to be a much more competitive team than its record indicates as the Tigers have a stable of pitchers, three of whom are expected to play major college ball after they graduate. Central’s Achilles heel this year has been its inability to score. In this game the Tigers left seven runners stranded on the bases.

“They have been struggling a little bit,” Tipton said of Central’s troubles this season. “They’ve been struggling a little bit getting guys home, but we knew it was going to be a good ball game. I knew we’d see a good quality guy on the hump.

“Our varsity hasn’t gotten to play since last Tuesday, and I didn’t really know how we’d be after a little layoff. I was pleased with our pitcher. David (Carrasquillo) pitched a great game, and I thought our defense played really well.”

University of Central Arkansas signee Clayton Booth, Central’s number three pitcher, made it very difficult for Sylvan Hills to get anything going at the plate. Booth didn’t allow a run, and gave up only three hits while striking out six and walking one through six innings of work.

However, Sylvan Hills showed some signs of life at the plate in the sixth when leadoff hitter Brandon Baioni doubled off the wall in left field to start the inning. The Bears couldn’t capitalize on the base hit, but gained a little momentum going into the final inning.

Carrasquillo was hit by a pitch from Booth to start the seventh, and Lance Hunter followed with a well-executed sacrifice bunt. As Hunter sprinted to first, Central’s third baseman, Joey Abraham, rushed the throw and overthrew it to first.

The wild throw allowed Carrasquillo’s courtesy runner, Nathan Thomas, to advance to third, and kept Hunter at first with no outs. After singling his last at bat, Dalton Freeling grounded out to third, and Abraham held Thomas on the base to prevent the go-ahead run, but Hunter advanced to second on the throw to first.

Connor Eller then came to the plate and hit a one-out double that drove in both Thomas and Hunter to set the final margin. Baioni, Freeling, Eller and Dylan Boone each had a base hit for Sylvan Hills.