Saturday, May 26, 2012

TOP STORY >> Record heat forecast, but still no rain

Leader staff writer

The heat won’t hit triple digits over the Memorial Day weekend, but new records could be set.

The record high for Sunday and Monday, set back in the early 1960s, is 96 degrees. But forecasters are calling for 97- or 98-degree weather on those days, which could be harmful to the elderly.

The heat, coupled with a month and a half of dry weather, has caused most counties to institute burn bans.

March was excessively wet, but April’s rainfall was only half of normal, and the area has had only about an inch of rain so far this month, compared to the normal average of four inches.

Forecasters don’t see any significant rain chances through Wednesday. If rain doesn’t come in the next two weeks, the state could be back in severe drought conditions.

Already most areas of the state are three to seven inches down on rainfall for the year.

The extended forecast calls for highs in the 90s, lows in the 60s and a slight chance of popup showers here and there, but no significant rainfall.

TOP STORY >> NPHS holds graduation

Leader staff writer

Family and friends watched 148 North Pulaski High School seniors transition to adulthood when they received diplomas Wednesday night at the Jack Stephens Center at UALR.

The class of 2012 was awarded $1.23 million in scholarships.

Among them were 22 honor graduates, including valedictorian Austin Rodgers and salutatorian Megan Cease.

Rodgers will attend Hendrix University next fall and Cease is going to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Rodgers wrote a poem and read it aloud at the commencement.

He said, “I stand before you today, presenting words of play, attempting to keep crying moms at bay, thinking wow, seems like just yesterday. As we look back to remember, September through December seems to only grow dimmer, as it was the first semester. Of a yearlong anticipation, created by the culmination of aspiration and senior disorientation.”

“Before we step into the white light, we need to refrain from being contrite and actually appreciate how bright it is to have the limitless ability to take flight,” Rodgers said.

“We congregate to celebrate before we graduate hoping that we accelerate into a bright future full of culture minus the torture of failure,” Rodgers continued.

“I can only implore that you do not ignore any open door that gives you the floor to express yourself, to be yourself, to commit yourself, to believe in yourself. Because this generation will lead this great nation back to the original implication set by the declaration.

“So be inspired because our country is in dire need of people and politicians who will not fear or be illicit liars.

“Our dreams are allowed to gleam as long as we seem to attempt to beam into the atmosphere. It is clear that we seem to disappear after time but don’t rely on only the bad times.

“Just take your time to shine, to reach for the stars, to set the bar, to keep the world on par to make the most of every hour. Now delve into yourselves as you place this chapter of life on the shelf and let the world know there isn’t anything like the class of 2012,” Rodgers said.

Cease thanked the people who were supportive of her and told the graduates, “Make the most of everything. Look ahead. That is where your future lies. I wish you the best of luck. Life starts now.”

Principal Jeff Senn touted the school’s No. 1 choir and No. 1 band before Cease took the stage.

He joked about having to stall because the salutatorian is a member of the band that was playing at the ceremony.

The band performed “Earth Dance” by Michael Sweeney.

The concert choir sang “Do I Make You Proud?” by Mac Huff and the National Anthem.

TOP STORY >> Recount results same

Leader staff writer

A recount Friday evening of all votes cast in Lonoke County because one precinct was left out of the count on Tuesday changed the numbers of some of the close races but not the results. All the winners are still the winners.

John Staley, who got more votes than any of the four Republican candidates for sheriff, will still be in a runoff with Jason Wilkinson. The second count showed Staley with 1,382 votes to Wilkinson’s 1,241.

The winner of the June 12 runoff will take on Dean White in November. White won over Steve Rich in the two-way race for sheriff in the Democratic primary, 1,017 to 922.

Former Lonoke County Circuit Clerk Deborah Oglesby, who held the position for 10 years as a Democrat before losing it two years ago to Republican Denise Brown, still gets her old job back. Oglesby ran this time as a Republican and defeated Brown 2,145 to 2,040.

The race for Lonoke County assessor was the closest on Tuesday night. Assessor Jack McNally won over Jim Bailey 2071 to 2067, a difference of only four votes. After the recount, the gap had widened to 29 votes. McNally was the winner with 2,094 votes to Bailey’s 2065.

County Clerk Dawn Porter-field discovered the problem with the count Wednesday morning while she was comparing the sign-in sheets and lists of people who voted to the number of votes counted, a process that must be completed before elections are certified.

Then a search of bags holding voting machine printers produced the cartridges that record the ballots for counting, the PEBs or personal electronic ballots, for Magness Township in the northern part of the county.

The rumor was that more than 300 votes had not been counted. But the actual number was 183.

Tim Blair, chairman of the Lonoke County Election Commission, said Thursday that poll workers at the Magness Township precinct couldn’t zero out their machines after the polls closed as they must before the ballots can be counted, so they brought them to the courthouse where a technician could do it for them.

Somehow, the PEBs were left in the printer bags and no one noticed that they weren’t included in the pile on a table with the others.

“We should have had a checklist,” Blair said.

Jerry Shepard, a member of the commission, said the problem wasn’t apparent Tuesday night because the early and absentee ballots for Magness Township were counted. The number of votes was low, fewer than 40, but not low enough to alert them to the problem.

When Porterfield told them what had happened, Shephard said, “We immediately knew as a group that we needed a recount so people would have confidence in the system.”

Blair said the commission didn’t consider only counting the votes from Magness Township because so many of the races were very close.

Shepard, the lone Republican on the three-member election commission, said the commission’s job is to maintain the integrity of the process and to make sure voters feel they can trust it.

Tuesday, the counting was carried out in a courtroom and basement room of the courthouse. Neither room is conducive to public observation of the process.

Except for the counting of absentee ballots which had to be done in the courthouse basement because that’s where the equipment is kept, the recount took place in the large meeting room in the courthouse annex across the street from the courthouse and the election commission explained the process to a full house step-by-step.

Most of the numbers changed a little from the recount, but only the countywide results changed significantly.

Republican Henry Lang is in his second term as the justice of the peace for Dist. 3, but this election was his first with an opponent. Lang said after the votes were counted Tuesday that he is has always tried to serve county residents but it has always bothered him that the voters didn’t put him in office.

Although only 13 votes separated him from Joshua McCann, Lang said, “I’m grateful that they chose me.” After the recount, Lang was ahead 15 votes.

The Dist. 1 JP race was the only one with a significant change because Magness Township is in JP Dist. 1. Brent Cannon was the winner Tuesday night over Toby Troutman in the Republican Primary 125 to 66. After the recount, Cannon was the winner 184 to 126.

The results of two close races for Lonoke City Council were exactly the same after the recount.

Just before he read the results of the recount, Blair apologized to the voters and the candidates for the mistake. An election is a stressful time and he was sorry the commission had made it worse.

“Missing a precinct is not a small thing,” Blair said, adding that their goal Friday night had been to make people feel confident that the voting process does work.

Friday, May 25, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Errors sully election night

Lonoke County election results were slow coming in Tuesday night, and they were incomplete, which is sort of a tradition at the historic courthouse. The county is usually among the last to report in Arkansas, partly because it covers a lot of territory. But human error and lack of preparation have also contributed to delays over the years.

While the secretary of state’s website was quick to post results from around the state for much of Tuesday night, Lonoke County had few results to report until close to midnight. One election official was determined to hold up the results over a nonexistent issue, while the biggest problem — forgetting to count Magness Township except for the early voting results — went undetected for some 12 hours.

It wasn’t till Wednesday morning that election officials discovered they forgot to tabulate results from Magness Township, one of the more populous precincts in the county. Although at least one person at the courthouse Tuesday night kept insisting Magness hadn’t been counted, the seriousness of the oversight wasn’t acknowledged until long after the polls closed.

You’d think with new technology, results would become available almost instantly. Thanks to new software installed at the secretary of state’s office, that notion isn’t farfetched anymore. Secretary of State Mark Martin said he would showcase this week’s primaries with his improved software program, and, sure enough, results started showing up not long after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m.

Much of the state had reported final results, including several important judicial races, around 10 p.m. Pulaski County, the state’s most populous county, had complete results about that time. But Lonoke County was still behind, along with the Delta counties, which are notoriously slow to report because that’s how the local political machines like it.

That kind of behavior has bred cynicism for years. Lonoke County can do better. Friday’s recount did not change the outcome of Tuesday’s primaries, but it’s another reminder that Lonoke County has a long way to go. Election officials need better training and should coordinate with the secretary of state for faster and more accurate counting of ballots. The voters deserve no less.

SPORTS STORY >> Opener sees win, loss for Jr. Bruins

Leader sportswriter

It took nearly a complete game for the Sylvan Hills junior Optimist Bruins to wake up against a tough opponent in the River Valley Tropics, as the Tropics won the first game 6-3 before the Bruins shut them out 2-0 in the night cap of the Central District twin bill.

Marcus Long went the five-inning distance on the mound in game two to earn the win with four strikeouts against five hits.

Blake Maddox came away with the biggest hit of the night for Sylvan Hills with a triple smash to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Maddox scored when Tropics second baseman Seth Siebenmorg tossed the ball into the dugout trying to send it to third.

“I was highly pleased with the second game,” Bruins coach Chris Foor said. “We came ready to play and had a little enthusiasm. The first game it was kind of like the end-of-school doldrums. This group has a lot of returners from last year. They’re looking to compete for a championship, and we just kind of had to remind each other of that.”

The Bruins scored their first run in the bottom of the third inning when Dawson Heslip singled and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by leadoff hitter Nathan Thomas. T.J. Burrows then sent Heslip in with a single shot to right to give Sylvan Hills a 1-0 lead.

Time was a factor in the first game, as the Bruins did not get going offensively until the bottom of the sixth inning just as the hour-and-50-minute time limit was about to expire. Three-hole hitter Brandon Baioni doubled to left and Hunter Heslip walked before Maddox sent both runners home with a double to deep left field. Maddox advanced to third on a single by Jacob White and scored on an error at first base.

“We started getting our sea legs under us so to speak,” Foor said. “We’ve had a week off. We had a long high-school season – JV, a lot of freshman games, and all of them dressed varsity as well. So you’re looking at over 60 games that those boys have dressed for. After the week off, they came back, and I think they were just flat. The hitting in the sixth inning, it kind of reignited them.”

Sylvan Hills experimented with its pitching in the first game as Connor Poteet threw the first two innings before giving way to Charlie Roberts in the top of the third inning.

Choudry Rehman made a brief appearance on the mound in the top of the sixth, but Matthew Dixon quickly replaced him after a hit by pitch and a walk to start the frame.

Long also had the benefit of a defense that appeared more in tune than the first game, as the Bruins sent their Clarksville-area opponents three up and three down in the top of the first inning and turned a double play in the next frame to keep runners out of scoring position.

Long did his part by striking out Chance Stinez to retire the side in the top of the second with a runner at third. Only Dalton Neus got multiple hits off of Long, going 2 for 2 with a triple.

“I expect Marcus to throw well,” Foor said. “As an eighth grader on this same team, he was one of our top two or three pitchers. He started the state tournament for us, he started the season for us – anytime he’s on the mound, I expect him to just throw strikes, and that’s exactly what he does.”

The split gave the Bruins a 1-1 record and moved the Tropics to 3-1.

SPORTS STORY >> A farewell to spring seasons

Leader sportswriter

Spring sports teams in our coverage area came up short when it came to claiming state championships, but there were plenty of memorable performances, some for the better, and some….well….not so much.

We had two teams make the state finals in baseball with Lonoke and Carlisle. The Jackrabbits backed up their strong performance in the regular season with a No. 3 seed out of regionals and plowed their way through the 4A state tournament, earning a trip to Baum Stadium to take on Shiloh Christian in the championship game.

The Saints were not any more impressive at the plate than Lonoke, but those guys played defense better than any high-school team I’ve seen in quite some time. Not only did they not commit a single error, but never came close to making a mistake. Winning Shiloh pitcher David Petrino (no relation to disgraced former Hogs coach Bobby Petrino) shut the ’Rabbits down at the plate for the most part, giving up a couple of late hits that ended up stranded.

On a side note, the victory for SC marks the third time a Saints team has defeated a Lonoke team for a state championship dating back to the girls 4A state basketball title in 2008, and the infamous Josh-Floyd led football team, which beat Doug Bost’s football Jackrabbits a year later. Love them or hate them, the northwest Arkansas teams always show up for the big games.

The Bison, led by fifth-year coach B.J. Greene, had an equally impressive run through the postseason and found themselves pitted against Woodlawn in the 2A championship game.

Carlisle had never been past the semifinal round whereas the Bears had been to the state finals four times in the past five years, winning the big game two of those times.

Unfortunately for Carlisle and Woodlawn, the game will forever be remembered for Bison senior Haydon Hoover flipping out and losing his composure in the bottom of the fourth inning.

I am not going to defend young Mr. Hoover nor tear him down, but I will say that I had the chance to talk to him and the other five seniors on Thursday before they walked through their final practice in preparation for the trip to Fayetteville.

I found him, as well as the other five seniors, to be pleasant and well mannered. Yes, he did step over the line, and yes, tantrums such as the one he threw have no place on the baseball field, but let’s remember this is a kid who missed his high-school graduation to play in a baseball game nearly four hours from home where the kids he grew up with were walking to receive their diplomas.

The score was 12-2 in favor of Woodlawn, and it was evident at that point the game was not going to go a full seven innings when the umpire made the call. The debate on whether or not the call should have been made has been constant throughout the week, but calling a kid out on a play like that with a score that out of control is simply pouring salt in an open wound.

On the softball side of things, we had several teams make it to the state tournament, but few who advanced past the first round.

In soccer, the Sylvan Hills teams represented the 5A Southeast Conference well by reaching the quarterfinal round of the 5A state tournament. The Lady Bears ended their season with a tough loss to a dominant CAC team while the Bears boys’ team fell just short to Greenbrier in a classic defensive struggle.

The conference realignment will pit the Hillside teams with much tougher competition the next two years, but I will tell you right now, those Lady Bears are going to be loaded. It would not surprise me at all if they rose through the ranks and made it to Fayetteville in a couple of years.

That does it for another school year, and if we don’t die from the heat of summer Legion baseball, we will do it all over again in the fall.

SPORTS STORY >> All Stars split pair of games at UALR

Leader sportswriter

LITTLE ROCK – The top high school baseball players in central Arkansas came together Thursday for an exhibition doubleheader in the annual Metro All-Star game at UALR’s Gary Hogan Field.

Cabot, Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills, Beebe and Lonoke combined to bring nine players to the honorable postseason classic. All of whom contributed in both games whether it was at the plate or on the mound as the South team beat the North 7-2 in game one. North earned the victory in game two, winning by a close 4-3 margin.

Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton and Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery coached the North team along with Mayflower coach Joe Albritton. Tipton had three recent graduates representing the Bears, who finished the year with another state tournament appearance.

Lane Moore represented Lonoke in the classic less than a week after the Jackrabbits competed in the class 4A state championship game, losing a competitive 4-0 game against three-time state champion Shiloh Christian.

“It’s always an honor any time you get around 50 talented players in central Arkansas,” said Tipton about coaching the North team. “This gives these kids a chance to play and any time, as far as a coach, it’s always an honor to be around such a great group of guys.”

Moore scored the first run of the day for North after singling in the gap in right field to lead off the second inning of game one. One batter later, Dylan Boone of Sylvan Hills grounded out but drove in Moore with the sacrifice.

Jesse Harbin and University of Arkansas signee D’Vone McClure represented Jacksonville in the game. McClure went 1 for 2 with a single at the plate in the first game, and walked in game two in limited action. Harbin pitched the second and third innings of game one, striking out two in his time on the mound.

McClure was the leadoff hitter in game one and Harbin, who didn’t get to the plate in the first part of the twin bill, was the leadoff man in the second game. Harbin scored the first run for North in game two after starting the bottom of the third with a leadoff single to left field.

Sylvan Hills’ Lance Hunter followed with a single in the left gap, and Maumelle’s Ryan Brown singled two batters later to drive in both Harbin and Hunter to put North up 2-0.

Connor Eller of Sylvan Hills pitched the first two innings of game two and set the tone early for North by not giving up any runs in his time on the hill.

The South team scored six of its seven runs in the first two innings of game one that helped put the game out of reach.

Moore came in to relieve Eller in the third and pitched the next two innings, but gave up two runs in the top of the fourth after Harbin and Hunter scored the previous inning.

Ryan Scott of North Little Rock, who was named North’s Most Valuable Player, put his squad back on top in the fifth with a single that drove in two runs. Scott also had the hit of the day his previous at bat when he hit a hard fly ball off the top of the wall at the 390 foot mark in straightaway centerfield that helped him earn the award.

Boone earned the win in game two after coming in to relieve Moore in the fifth, striking out one while not giving up any runs in his inning of work.

South gave North a scare in the final inning as closer Connor Gilmore of Little Rock Catholic walked in South’s third run of the day with two outs.

Gilmore was able to pick up the save after the next batter, White Hall’s Chris Bryan, hit a hard chopper to the mound. Gilmore bare-handed the ball and tossed it to first for the final out of the game.

“It’s great that they do something like this for these schools to get some exposure,” said Lowery. “It definitely shows that we have some guys that can compete at any level.

“I think it’s huge. It’s not just northwest Arkansas or any other region around here. We’re all pretty competitive, and I think it’s great for the state.”

Dakota Lovston and Zack May represented the Beebe Badgers for the North. Cabot catcher T.C. Carter walked his only at bat in game one for South, and caught all seven innings in the second game.

SPORTS STORY >> Malzahn helps club banquet

Leader sports editor

Arkansas State head football coach Gus Malzahn drew a large crowd to the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club banquet at the Jacksonville Community Center on Wednesday. It wasn’t the club’s first banquet, but it was the club’s first banquet in seven years, and the first banquet as an independent entity separate from the Central Arkansas Boys and Girls Club organization. That made this year’s banquet important for the survival of the club, and it was one of the most successful fundraising banquets in many years.

“No doubt it was successful,” Boys and Girls Club chairman Jody Urquhart said. “Just the fact that we had it makes it successful. We haven’t had one in several years and when we did, being a part of the Central Arkansas Boys and Girls Club charter meant the money was divided up about eight ways. This time, 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to the program for our community and our children.”

More than 200 people were in attendance. Individuals paid $50 per ticket and sponsorships for tables of eight were sold at different prices for platinum, gold and silver sponsorship levels.

Final numbers weren’t available on Friday, but amounts already exceed $5,000 raised, with money from the auction still to be counted.

Attendance at the club is doing well also. The weeks immediately following the end of school are usually the busiest for registrations to the summer program. Capacity for the program is 250, and over 100 have already registered.

“We cut it off at 250, and it looks like we may have to turn people away this year,” Jacksonville Parks and Recreation director and club volunteer Kristen Kennon said. “We reached capacity last year too, and we may have to turn away even more this year. So it’s a very important part of our community. People really want and need this club.”

Malzahn’s presence played a big role in drawing the large crowd. Unlike other speakers in the past, Malzahn arrived early and was personable to anyone who approached him.

He gave a light but lengthy speech about the importance of Boys and Girls Clubs and his plans for ASU Red Wolves’ football.

But the highlight of the evening came after Malzahn’s speech, when Kennon showed a film presentation put together by her and the Jacksonville A&P Commission.

It featured supporters, volunteers, and former and present students who benefited from the Jacksonville club and parents whose children are a part of the club.

The film brought home with touching effect the positive impact the club has on Jacksonville’s youth, and brought to light the deep commitment and care for those youth that the volunteers all share.

The time sacrificed and energy put into helping the children seemed like little to no sacrifice at all to the volunteers featured in the film, instead viewing their volunteer work and those they’re helping as a joy.

“That’s what drives this whole thing,” said Urquhart, who emceed the event. “Me for example, I’m not a great speaker who has a lot of eloquent comments prepared. I just have a passion for this club, and that’s what everybody involved in this shares.”

Of course many came to see Malzahn, and he did not disappoint. After his introduction by Urqhart, Mayor Fletcher presented Malzahn with a key to the city and declared May 23 as Gus Malzahn day in Jacksonville.

Malzahn opened his speech recognizing a few local people he’s been associated with, including Jacksonville girls basketball coach Katrina Mimms former and longtime Jacksonville head coach Johnny Watson, and current assistant football coach Barry Hickingbotham.

Malzahn recalled his softball playing days in his younger years, and remembered Hickingbotham as being a renowned power hitter.

Watson was instrumental in getting Malzahn involved in the banquet. Watson was president of the Arkansas Football Coaches Association for several years, and was the high school coach of standout running back Michael Dyer, who went on to play for Malzahn at Auburn and won the 2011 national championship game’s Most Valuable Player Award.

He also recalled his membership at the Fort Smith Boys Club in his youth, and that his coaching days started there.

“At about my sophomore or junior year, I started coaching soccer at the boys club and that was my first coaching experience,” Malzahn recalled. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but we were enjoying it and that’s where it all started in coaching for me.”

Malzahn briefly recapped his entire career, starting with an anecdote about his first paid job, the head coaching position at Hughes High School.
“I got the call that they wanted me to be the head football coach and Hughes High School,” Malzahn said. “My wife and I danced around the room and celebrated. Got to work that next Monday and found out I was the only one who applied.”

Despite taking over a tiny, very basketball-minded school in poverty-stricken east Arkansas, Malzahn showed early signs of his coaching prowess by taking the Blue Devils to the class 3A state championship game in his third year. That team lost 17-13 to the Lonoke Jackrabbits and Malzahn was hired at Shiloh Christian Academy in Springdale, where he began to build his local fame.

He talked about his time at Shiloh, Springdale High, the University of Arkansas and Tulsa, but saved his next best anecdote for his last stop, Auburn.

“Quick story about the national championship game,” Malzahn began about Auburn’s 22-20 victory over Oregon in 2011. “We celebrated on the field for about 30 minutes, and I was back in my locker, and I was exhausted. Rhett (Auburn quarterbacks coach Rhett Lashlee) was with me and coach (Auburn head coach Gene) Chizik’s phone was on a wood chair sitting there and it was just blowing up, buzzing. I said, Rhett silence that phone. He reached over and silenced it. It started up again, I said Rhett silence that phone. He reached over and silenced it. It started right up again just as coach Chizik walked in. He answered it and said, ‘well thank you, Mr. President.’ I had hung up twice on the President of the United States.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012



Dean White-D........... 997

Steve Rich-D........... 918

James Kulesa-R........... 584

John Staley-R........... 1,360

Steve Finch-R........... 1,003

Jason Wilkinson-R........... 1,216


Robert Batton........... 1,113

Marshall Nash........... 1,108


James Stanley-R........... 530

Bob Johnson-R........... 575


Jeff Rollins-R........... 646

Karilyn Brown-R........... 768


Jack McNally-R........... 2,071

Jim Bailey-R........... 2,067


Larry Clarke-R........... 2,535

Lisa Goodman-R........... 1,481

Circuit CLerk

Deborah Oglesby-R........... 2,143

Denise Brown-R........... 2,024

. 3

Henry Lang-R........... 171

Joshua McCann-R........... 158

DIST. 13

Larry Odom-R........... 207

Tim Yarboro-R........... 156

TOP STORY >> Aldermen face off in November

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville will have five contested aldermen races this year, Lonoke will have three, while Sherwood will have just one. Filing ended Monday.

In Jacksonville and Sherwood, candidates do not declare their party affiliation, but run as independents in the November general election.

However in Lonoke, candidates run as party candidates.

In Jacksonville, two longtime aldermen announced their retirement and a third opted not to run, opening up those seats for newcomers. Each of those open seats garnered two candidates each. Two other aldermen filed for another round and both have opposition.

In the race for Ward 1, Position 2, Alderman Marshall Smith is retiring and Jim Moore and James Bolden III have filed for the seat.

For Ward 2, Position 2, Alderman Terry Sansing filed for re-election and has drawn Rizelle Aaron as an opponent. In Ward 3, Aldermen Linda Rinker opted not to run again for her Position 2 seat. Trying to gain that seat are Barbara Mashburn and Derek Evans.

Alderman Bob Stroud is retiring from his Ward 4, Position 2 seat, opening it up to a race between Mary Twitty and Freddie Booker. In Ward 5, Aldermen Bill Howard filed for re-election and his opponent will be Roger Sundermeier Jr.

The Jacksonville candidates will square off in November.

In Lonoke city, three members of the city council have competition for their seats but only the race for Position 5 was decided Tuesday when incumbent Efrem Z. Jones faced Lloyd Whitaker in the Democratic party primary.

In the race for Position 2, incumbent Pat Howell faced Danny Whitehurst in the Democratic primary. The winner faces Republican Stacey Pennington Moore in November. The winner of Position 1 also will be decided in November when Jane Derning, the Democratic incumbent, faces Republican challenger John D. Robinson.

In Sherwood, of the four seats up for re-election there is only competition for Dr. Steve Fender’s seat. Fender recently announced that he was not seeking re-election for his Ward 4, Position 2 seat. The two candidates vying for that seat are Bob Ferguson and Mike Sanders.

Aldermen Charlie Harmon, Ward 1, Position 2; Kevin Lilly, Ward 2, Position 2; and Marina Brooks, Ward 3, Position 2 have no opposition and will automatically be re-elected in November.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke superintendent, deputy quit

Leader staff writer

Lonoke Superintendent John Tackett has resigned to work for the Pulaski County Special School District as its director of secondary education. Additionally Janice Warren, the former District superintendent, has been named PCSSD’s director of primary education.

The Lonoke School District will begin its search for new leadership this week. The school board accepted his resignation after a few hours in executive session at its meeting on Monday.

Tackett’s last day will be June 30. He’ll start at PCSSD July 1.

Assistant Superintendent Melissa Tash also resigned. She has been hired as the director of curriculum and instruction and federal programs for the Bald Knob School District. This was her second year at Lonoke.

Tackett, who is in his late 40s, is leaving after 17 years of service there.

Both PCSSD directors will report to deputy superintendent Linda Remele. They will oversee principals and direct the implementation of common core standards, the new state curriculum standards being implemented in kindergarten through eighth-grade next school year, according to the district’s website.

“He was a great administrator and took the district to new heights,” according to Lonoke School Board member Mike Brown. “He was efficient, effective and communicated well with the board.”

Tackett resigned recently at Lonoke, but did not say at the time what his plans were.

What will Lonoke do for a superintendent on short notice?

“We’re going to go to work,” Brown said.

Tackett said Monday that his family would continue to live in Lonoke, where he and his wife have spent 28 years together.

“This has been a wonderful place to work. My family still has a vested interest in what happens here,” he said.

Tackett said he believed “completely and wholeheartedly” that the school board would continue to move the district forward in the right direction.

He also said he will work with the board on a smooth transition to a new superintendent.

The position will be posted this week on the district’s website, the state Education Department’s website and the website for the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators.

Tackett has worked for Lonoke for 17 years, including as high school principal and assistant superintendent.

He was employed with the district as the high school principal for one year and as the middle school principal for six years before that.

But he’s no stranger to PCSSD. He began his teaching career at Jacksonville Junior High South in 1988, where he taught for six years before becoming an assistant principal for the district.

Tackett has other ties to PCSSD. Before graduating from Jacksonville High School in 1979, he attended Sylvan Hills Junior High School and Sylvan Hills High School.

He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1984 with bachelor of arts degree and received his teacher license from the University of Central Arkansas. His master’s and doctoral degrees are from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Tackett has an undergraduate degree in French and international studies, a master’s degree in education administration and a doctorate from UALR.

Warren, a retired educator, has worked in education for 33 years as an elementary teacher, principal, elementary supervisor, federal programs coordinator, assistant superintendent and superintendent – all in the Crossett School District.

Warren is a graduate of Crossett High School and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where she received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She received a master’s of science degree from the University of Arkansas and a doctor of education degree in curriculum and supervision from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Tackett was promoted to Lonoke superintendent in 2008, taking over for Sharon Havens when she retired. He was her assistant superintendent from 2002 to 2008.

Under his leadership as superintendent, the new $8.4 million, 61,598-square-foot high school that was built with matching funds from the state opened its doors in August and the groundbreaking for the new Gina Cox Center was held in March.

The center is a $9.6 million, 54,000-square-foot multipurpose facility that will seat more than 2,000 people and be used as an arena for performing arts, band classes, physical education, athletics, graduation and other school-related activities. The project is set for completion in fall 2013.

Tackett was also at the center of a controversy that had Lonoke residents up in arms last fall.

In October, he withdrew his recommendation to the school board that high school Principal Phynaus Wilson be terminated for refusing to cooperate with the district’s school-improvement consultant.

The principal had been suspended with pay on Aug. 25 and officials were silent about the reason for more than a month.

Many Lonoke residents and students protested, demanding his return to school.

A rumor that circulated in the small town via Facebook proved true. The rumor was that Tackett asked Wilson to let outside consultants observe classes at the high school, but the two disagreed on bringing in those consultants.

In other business, the school board voted to approve the first reading of a few policy revisions.

The intent of one of the revisions is to embrace technology and focus on teaching students to be responsible when using their cell phones at school.

Matthew Boyle abstained from the vote. He said he disagreed with the district allowing students to have cell phones on campus.

Boyle said, “They’re not using it for education.” He suggested banning them on school property.

Principal Wilson said, “It’s not enforceable to say they can’t bring a cell phone to school.”

He explained that students use their cell phones in the classroom to do things like looking up words when they are writing a paper. Some teachers even incorporate the optional use of smart phones in their lessons.

Also, if the revisions to the board’s cell phone use policy are implemented, drivers will not be allowed to use cell phones while they are on a school bus, except in emergency situations.

Other proposed revisions included raising the number of days students could be absent from 8 to 10, allowing the district to make electronic payments (as long as that payment is not withdrawn automatically) and stating that the principal of a school who has knowledge a student may commit an act of violence can call the police and then central office.

The board accepted the resignations of high school employees Randy Phillips, Danny Wright, Josh Brown, Odes (Tuck) Choate, elementary school employees Christen Blythe, Maegan Chaffin, primary school employee Brenda Moore and middle school employee Kay Mooney.

The board hired Clint Shadwick as the new assistant high school football coach and classroom teacher; Thelma Hawkins, a new bus driver who previously resigned but wanted to be re-hired, and new bus driver Dean Fritz.

Leader staff writer John Hofheimer contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Board zones are redrawn for balance

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville schools east of Hwy. 67/167 would be in school board Zone 7, those west of the highway in Zone 6, and Sylvan Hills/Sherwood schools in Zone 4, according to Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess’ preferred alternative for redrawing board zones to balance the number of patrons in each.

Federal law requires that after the census, every school board zone should have a starting population within 5 percent of the mean average zone in that district by Aug. 1.

With a population of 152,855 divided by seven zones, that would be 21,836 people per zone, plus or minus 5 percent.

The current preferred alternative — which Guess described as the result of an evolution of proposals — will have 21,082 population in Zone 1, in southeast Pulaski County, to 22,768 residents in Zone 7 in the Jacksonville area.

That’s within legal guidelines and a great improvement over the current boundaries in which 9,927 residents shared a board member in southeast Pulaski County, but 34,361 residents shared a single board member in western Pulaski County. Rapid growth in the western part of the county accounts for most of the disparity, Guess said.

Currently in fiscal distress, PCSSD has been taken over by the state. Education commissioner Tom Kimbrell dissolved the district’s board and serves as a one-man board in its place.

Guess said the redrawn zones are mandated by the results of the 2010 census and are unrelated to the state takeover of the district.

The possibility of an eventual Jacksonville school district did not factor into the way in which boundaries for the proposed new zones were drawn, he said.

Guess said he had three priorities in developing new board zones:

 An absolute one-man, one-vote mandate — that is each board member would represent about the same number of constituents.

 It must preserve minority representation on the board, which was a challenge since the minority population of the entire district is only about 21 percent.

 It must be a reasonable configuration reflecting common sense if possible.

Working with Metroplan public policy analyst and GIS planner Jeff Runder, Guess and his staff worked through four different map proposals before coming up with one that put each of the six high schools in a separate zone, accompanied by the schools that eventually feed students into that high school. Because they have seven zones, the sparsely populated northern Pulaski County — Zone 5 — has no schools within its boundaries, Guess explained.

Preferred alternative 4(a) would anchor Zone 4 with Sylvan Hills High School with the feeder schools of Sylvan Hills Middle, Sylvan Hills Elementary, Oakbrooke, Clinton and Sherwood elementary schools all in the zone.

Zone 6 would be anchored by North Pulaski High School with feeder schools Northwood Middle School and Cato, Arnold Drive, Tolleson and Bayou Meto elementary schools.

Zone 7 would be anchored by Jacksonville High School and fed by Jacksonville Middle School and Dupree, Pinewood, Taylor, Adkins and Harris elementary schools.

Other than staff, reporters and Runder, only about four people attended the Monday night meeting, the first of three.

Anyone familiar with the current zones will find that the old zone numbers and boundaries and those of the proposed new boundaries differ greatly.

After the last of the three public hearings, Guess and his staff will make a recommendation Kimbrell and he’ll approve or disapprove it.

A second meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Maumelle High School and a third at 6 p.m. May 29 at Jacksonville High School.

The final piece of the puzzle was placed by Brenda Bowles, director of equity services for the district, when Harris Elementary was moved into Zone 7, Guess said.

Other alternatives split up schools in a district, had problems with an increase of minority concentrations, created five larger zones instead of seven smaller and had problems with dilution or concentration of minority populations or the likelihood of minority representation on the board.

Other alternatives split up schools in a zone, had problems with over dilution or over concentration of minority populations, or with the likelihood of minority representation on the board.

TOP STORY >> Batton in tight re-election battle

Leader staff writers

Longtime Jacksonville District Judge Robert Batton apparently survived a strong push by local attorney Marshall Nash on Tuesday, tentatively winning his position for another four years by just five votes.

Batton garnered 50.5 percent of the ballots, or 1,107 votes, compared to Nash’s 49.5 percent, or 1,085 votes.

In another too-close-to-call race, Lonoke County Tax Assessor Jack McNally apparently edged out Jim Bailey in the Republican primary by four votes, 2,071 to 2,067.

Another tight race in Lonoke County was between Republican Charles Evans and party mate Tate House for justice of the peace in Dist. 8. Evans clipped House by seven votes, 189 to 182.

Also in Lonoke County, the crowded Republican field for sheriff dropped to two as none of the four candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote.

Top Republican voter-getters were Austin Police Chief John Staley with 1,360 votes and accountant Jason Wilkinson with 1,216 votes. They will face each other in a runoff in three weeks for the chance to face Chief Deputy Dean White, a Democrat, who bested Steve Rich, a former deputy, by 79 votes. White received 997 votes, or 53 percent, while White received 918 votes, or 47 percent.

In Jacksonville, Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson survived a close challenge from fellow Republican James Stanley. Johnson got 575 votes, or 52 percent, while Stanley got 530 votes, or 48 percent.

In Sherwood, Republican Karilyn Brown beat back a challenge from party mate Jeff Rollins, 768 votes to 646.

In a Pulaski County Republican primary, Former Hill Township Constable Dennis Sobba of Jacksonville lost his bid to regain his position from current Constable Frederick “Rick” Scott of Maumelle. Scott received 3,969 votes, or 65 percent, compared to Sobba’s 2,100 votes, or 35 percent.

Former Lonoke County Circuit Clerk Deborah Oglesby got her job back by defeating first-term incumbent Denise Brown. Oglesby collected 2,143 votes, or 51 percent to Brown’s 2,024, or 49 percent. Oglesby, formerly a Democrat, ran as Republican this time.

Dawn Porterfield, the Democratic county clerk, will be on the ballot in November against Republican William “Larry” Clarke, who defeated Lisa Goodman, 2,535 votes to 1,481.

In the Lonoke County Quorum Court races, Republicans Brent Cannon and Toby Troutman squared off in Dist. 1 with Cannon winning, 125 to 66. Republican Barry “BJ” Weathers beat fellow Republican Larry Ridgeway in Dist. 2, by 205 votes to 143. Joshua McCann and Dr. Henry L. Lang, both Republicans, battled in the Dist. 3 race with Lang coming out on top by 13 votes, 171 to 158.

In Dist. 4, it was Republicans B.L. “Ernie” Ernst and Darrin Waymack with the vote advantage going to Waymack, 243 to 142.

In the all-Republican race for Dist. 8, Tate House lost to Charles D. Evans by seven votes. Republicans Larry Odom and Tim Yarboro were the only candidates in Dist. 13 and Odom defeated Yarboro, 207 to 156.

In Lonoke city, three city council members have competition for their seats, but only the race for Position 5 was decided Tuesday, when incumbent Efrem Z. Jones beat Lloyd Whitaker in the Democratic primary by three votes, 30 to 27.

In the race for Position 3, incumbent Pat Howell beat Bob Butler on the Democratic side, 25 votes to 20, and will face Republican Stacey Pennington Moore in November.


In White County, the county judge, Michael Lincoln, defeated challenger Bill Haynie in the Republican primary, 3,123 to 2,552.

But there will be a runoff for county clerk between Republicans Britney Sellers-Hawkins and Cheryl Evans. In that race, Evans received the most votes at 2,290, while Sellers-Hawkins received 1,947 and Randall Young received 1,161.

Mark Derrick was the winner in the race for Division 2 district judge, which includes Beebe and other small White County towns. Derrick defeated Heath Ramsey, 4,325 to 2,863.

In quorum court races, Ed Land, the Republican incumbent in Dist. 8, beat David C. Schoenberger, 474 to 151. Democrat Layne “Boss” Vaughn, a longtime member of the quorum court, regained his position from incumbent Waylon D. Heathscott, 317 to 289.

EDITORIAL >> More airmen return home

More than 100 airmen returned to another emotional reunion with their loved ones Friday at Little Rock Air Force Base after serving several months in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Col. Brian Robinson, the commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, and other top leaders at the base welcomed home the jubilant airmen before their families rushed onto the flightline to greet the heroes. They were eager to get back home, some of them having deployed overseas numerous times.

For the last decade, the tempo has been virtually nonstop for the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base. Ever since 9/11, the base has deployed airmen overseas almost constantly, flying thousands of missions in Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf. They have saved thousands of lives by replacing road convoys that run the risk of getting blown up by roadside bombs. Airdrops are fast and efficient and have made deliveries on roads almost passé.

Robinson, like many others at the base, has served in northern Iraq. At the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Robinson was the chief of the air mobility strategy and tactics team that organized the largest airdrop since the Second World War.

Robinson and other commanders on base would rather we put the spotlight on the airmen who fly into harm’s way when they deploy overseas. Today’s young airmen are part of an efficient Air Force that sends us its best airmen and officers. Many of them move on to challenging new responsibilities.

Col. Mark Czelusta, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, which trains this country’s C-130 crews and those of 40 allied nations, also played a key role in Iraq when he led a team of approximately 190 airmen who provided combat airlift, airborne electronic attack and operations support during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Czelusta is going to the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where he will be the commandant of the Squadron Officer College and Squadron Officers School. The campus is called “the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force” and is part of Air Education and Training Command at San Antonio.

His predecessor, Col. Charles K. Hyde, has been promoted to brigadier general and is the commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Col. Robinson’s predecessor at LRAFB, Col. Mike Minihan, is now the commander at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where he commands the presidential and VIP air fleet.

Meanwhile, Minihan’s predecessor, Col. Gregory Otey, has been promoted to brigadier general and will be the chief military liaison at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Credit goes to all the airmen at the base, including the host 19th Airlift Wing, 314th Airlift Wing, Guard and Reserves units. The mission overseas is winding down with hardly any casualties, for which we are grateful.

This community has supported the base for almost 60 years and hopes to see our airmen return home safely for least another 60 years. We salute you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot has two junior teams for legion ball

Leader sportswriter

Cabot Centennial Bank American Legion teams are getting geared up for the start of summer baseball with two junior teams this season. There are plenty of familiar faces on the senior team from the high school Panthers team, with a sizeable crop of younger players creating an enhanced feeder system.

Craig Nyborg takes over as head coach of the senior team after several seasons on the staff as an assistant while former player Chris Gross returns to head up the junior team. Greg Frantal will coach the second junior group, which was just added on Monday. Both teams are set to open the season in the North Little Rock Memorial Day tournament to be held at Burns Park this weekend.

The seniors will open their season on the road Friday at Batesville and will open up at home Monday against Bryant.

“It’s going to be a fun year,” Nyborg said. “They are all a little bit down about how things went during the high-school season, but they are looking forward to a fun, exciting year, and I think we can win a lot of games. They gel well together; they’re all friends and they enjoy playing with each other. I really feel like we can do well this year.”

Brandon Surdam returns from his freshman year of college to headup a deep pitching staff for the Centennial Bank team. Surdam will play outfield when not on the mound, but his 91 miles-per-hour fastball is what has Nyborg excited to have the former Panther standout back on the roster.

Haydon Vinson and Ryan Logan will also see plenty of time on the mound this season, as will Bryson Morris.

A name that is new to the senior team but not in the city of Cabot is graduated Panther T.C. Carter, who will play summer baseball for the first time since his days on the junior team. Carter will play catcher and fill in at first base when needed.

“He’s been hurt every summer from football, so this is the first time he’s been able to come out,” Nyborg said. “That will be nice to have him.”

The team has good depth across the board with Kyle Kaufman, Dustin Morris, Casey Vaughn, Scott Burnett, Cole Thomas, 15-year-old standout Tristan Bulice, Grant Bell, Tyler Wilkie and Justin Goff. The Centennial Bank team hopes to improve on a strong 2011 season in which it made the state tournament before falling out in the opening round with back-to-back losses.

The junior teams are formally known as Cabot 1 and Cabot 2, although the teams are listed in the NLR tourney bracket as Cabot Gross and Cabot Frantal.

The Gross team will open tournament play in Pool B along with Benton, Jacksonville and Beebe, with their first game against Benton on Friday evening.

The Frantal team will be in Pool C along with Sheridan, Lake Hamilton and the Texarkana Tigers. Their first game will be against the Tigers on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on Field 2, and at the conclusion of that game, the down time will be minimal as they have to make their way over to Field 1 for a 5:30 p.m. game against Lake Hamilton.

Cabot 1 will also play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against Beebe.

Both teams will play the late games on Sunday, with Cabot 1 Gross taking on Jacksonville at 8 p.m. on Field 1 while the Frantal team takes on Sheridan on Field 2.

If Cabot 1 wins Pool B, it will advance them to championship day on Monday with a noon game against the winner of Pool A. If Cabot 2 wins its pool, they will play the winner of Pool D at 2:30 p.m., with the championship game at 5:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney baseball has more players than in recent years

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion baseball organization will enjoy more players this year than in many recent ones. Over 35 players are signed up and will make up a junior and a senior team. Team manager and coach of the senior team Bob Hickingbotham is excited about the upcoming season.

“We have more than we’ve had in a long time,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s good to see numbers up like they are. It’s been a struggle the last few years but kids are coming back out for baseball. That’s a good thing.”

Hickingbotham’s senior team will feature several players from last year’s squad that easily won the district regular-season title, but flamed out in the zone tournament. Four players will return from college ball to play, including Jacob Abrahamson, Xavier Brown, Kenny Cummings and Alex Tucker.

Just graduated Jacksonville senior Jesse Harbin will likely be the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation.

Despite last season’s success, including winning the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic and the Jacksonville Fourth of July Classic, as well as going 16-1 in the regular season, Gwatney struggled to field a senior team last year.

Only seven players of the right age group and from Jacksonville were on the team. Hickingbotham had to rely on players from as far away as Greenbrier and Magnolia, as well as moving up some younger players. That shouldn’t be the case this season.

“We’re going to have a good core group with the older team,” Hickingbotham said. “We’ve got some good college players back and some good high school players. A lot of the high school players got a lot better in the last year.”

Gwatney will also have five players from Cabot of different age groups who asked for and were granted releases to play for Gwatney. Also joining the team will be Magnolia first baseman Arvie Crudup. Crudup, who spends his summers in Jacksonville, played mostly for the junior team last season but was one of the players asked to move up to the senior team in the postseason just to have a big enough roster to qualify for postseason play.

The junior team will have plenty of depth and should be stronger than last year.

“We had some really young guys pitching for that junior team last year,” Hickingbotham said. “We’ll have some of those same guys, but they’ve gotten a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger.”

Derek St. Clair and James Tucker saw a lot of time on the mound as 14-year-olds last year. Both pitched frequently for the high-school team this year and both did well.

“We’re going to have six or seven junior kids playing for both the senior and junior teams,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re going to play a lot. When it’s all said and done, if we can get these kids in the right place and get them playing well, we could end up having a pretty doggone good junior team this year. The senior team should be good because they were good last year. The junior team is where you should see a lot of improvement.”

SPORTS STORY >> Woodlawn dominates Bison for 2A title

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – Shaky pitching, inconsistent batting and a complete meltdown on the part of senior left fielder Haydon Hoover all led to a painful 14-2 loss for Carlisle to Woodlawn in the 2A state championship game at Baum Stadium on Saturday.

The Bison (29-7) started the evening with a brief ceremony for six Carlisle senior players to receive their diplomas shortly before the start of the game in light of missing graduation, but things turned decidedly unceremonial in the bottom of the fourth inning when Hoover went on a tirade for being called out after stepping out of the batter’s box on a shot to centerfield.

The Bears (33-5) had just blown the game wide open in the top of the fourth inning with seven runs off six hits and two walks to take a 12-2 lead. Hoover’s smack down the middle advanced walk recipient Dylan Brazeal to third before home plate umpire Steve Powell called Hoover out for an illegally batted ball and ordered Brazeal back to second base.

That’s when things turned ugly.

On his way back to the home dugout, Hoover began to shout at Powell and gestured toward him after throwing his helmet against the dugout, prompting Powell to eject him from the game. Carlisle coach B.J. Greene approached Hoover in the dugout in an attempt to calm him down. Hoover was calm for a moment, but then suddenly charged out of the dugout to the front of home plate, where he motioned to the ground and began kicking dirt at Powell and onto the plate.

Hoover then crossed the line further by spitting at Powell’s feet and giving him a shove in the chest. A female fan made things worse with more unsportsmanlike behavior as she stood on top of the Carlisle dugout cheering the player’s tirade.

Police eventually escorted Hoover and his parents out, with Hoover saving his most offensive gesture for last as he was guided up the steps of Baum Stadium to collective boos from the Woodlawn side.

“Embarrassed,” Greene said. “My seniors are embarrassed, I’m embarrassed – I’ve never been more embarrassed by anybody I’ve ever coached. It’s not him, I don’t know why he did it, but I’m embarrassed, and that’s all I can say. I think it was a cheap call to give at this time of the game, it was already out of control, but yeah, he was out of the box.”

Things were already tough for the Bison as Woodlawn jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning against starting pitcher Trey Wilson, who also got in a bind in the top of the second before being replaced by Josh Mathis.

None of the three Bison pitchers that took the mound had their best stuff. They combined to walk nine Woodlawn batters to go with their 14 base hits.

With bases loaded, Mathis walked Colton Williams to score Jacob Richardson. Mathis recovered, however, by striking out Bret Boyd and Ryan Dorsett swinging to retire the side, holding the Bears to a 5-2 lead.

Mathis gave up one hit in the top of the third but forced a pop-up and two groundouts before the onslaught began in the top of the fourth.

Gavin Johnston doubled to right field and Daniel Rissinger hit a bunt single before a triple smash to deep left field by Boyd scored both of them to give Woodlawn a 7-2 advantage. Dorsett then reached on a walk, and Blake Brown hit a double to left to score Rissinger, making it 8-2. Senior Tommy Inman moved from centerfield in relief of Mathis and walked Trey Hankins to load the bases.

The Bears drove in four more runs, and scored two more runs in the top of the fifth on an infield error and a passed ball against a Carlisle defense that appeared hapless in light of Hoover’s exhibition moments earlier.

“I’m not going to sit there and say it let us down, because it got us to where we were at,” Greene said of the pitching. “But was it as good as it’s been all year? No. And that’s where we’ve won games all year is pitching, and it wasn’t there today.”

The Bison answered Wood-lawn for the most part early with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff batter Chris Hart grounded out to third before Inman reached on an infield error and Wilson reached on a walk. Deric Herring then hit a sacrifice fly to center to advance Inman to third, and Deron Ricks doubled down the third base line to score him and advance Wilson to third. Mathis followed Ricks with the only other hit for Carlisle against winning Woodlawn pitcher Johnston with an infield single to third that scored Wilson.

Ricks was then in position to score, but Brazeal hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Mathis out at second to retire the side.

“I hate being the freaking home team in a big game,” Greene said. “The nerves are so bad – that’s what it is. If you come in and you’re the visiting team, at least you get to get the nerves out at the plate. Even if you go one, two, three, you still get the nerves out. Instead, you have to go out there with the nerves in the first inning on defense. I think that was the big difference in the game.”

For Woodlawn, the victory marked its third-consecutive 2A state title through five championship game appearances in the last six years for the storied program. Johnston was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for his complete-game victory on the mound with five strikeouts against four walks, two hits and two earned runs.

“We were ready to hit,” Bears coach Tommy Richardson said. “We had a good week of practice, and I knew we were going to hit the ball. That’s a tribute to our conference. You’ve got Parker’s Chapel and Junction City, and then you have regionals where it doesn’t get any easier. When you get through all of that and get to play other people, it’s kind of nice.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke bats quiet, Saints win 4A

Leader sports editor

Lonoke’s No. 1 pitcher got hurt in the state tournament, but the bats made up for it and got the Jackrabbits to the state championship game. Once there, the pitching held a powerful Shiloh Christian lineup in check, but the bats went away as the Saints beat Lonoke 4-0 Saturday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville for the third-straight class 4A state championship.

Lonoke rarely struck out against hard-throwing Shiloh pitcher David Petrino, but rarely made solid contact and couldn’t find the gaps the entire game.

“We just didn’t hit the ball today,” Lonoke starting pitcher Lane Moore said. “We put it in play we just didn’t hit it hard, not like you need to if you want to win a championship.”

Lonoke also committed four errors in the field and gave up three unearned runs. Making things even more difficult was a mobile strike zone that seemed to move farther and farther into the lefties’ batters’ box for the first several innings, then began to drift back to the right side late in the game.

“The strike zone was a little inconsistent and that makes things difficult,” Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery said. “But that’s something that both teams have to deal with.”

Moore also refused to use the drifting strike zone as an excuse.

“It is hard to adjust and figure out what’s going to be a strike,” said Moore, who left the mound in the third inning. “But that’s not the reason we lost. Those four errors and not hitting like we’re capable of is what cost us this game.”

Moore and early reliever Zachary Riesner held Shiloh to just one run for five innings. Shiloh finally extended its one-run lead in the sixth inning with three runs without an out. Petrino started it off when he reached on an error at third base. He then scored on an E2 when he attempted to steal second and the throw from home sailed into centerfield. Tyler Harris then singled and Joseph Paulino technically got a base hit when he popped up to second base. It should have been a routine out, but went down as a base hit when Lonoke second baseman James Christian slipped and fell while backing up to make the catch. After an out, Ryne McDonald singled to centerfield to score both base runners, setting the final margin with an inning left to play.

“They made us pay for some of our mistakes,” Lowery said. “And they did a great job defensively. They were very solid.”

The Saints committed no errors in the game.

Though they got three hits and walked twice, the Jackrabbits left just one on base the entire game. Three Lonoke players were thrown out trying to steal while another was thrown out on the base paths after a base hit.

Lonoke junior shortstop Blake Gooden, who entered the game with an .833 batting average in the state tournament, kept the hot bat alive on the first inning when he ripped a single to centerfield off Shiloh starting pitcher Jacob Rhodes.

He went hitless over his three at bats, walking once and striking out once. He still finished the tournament with an impressive .733 average, going 11 for 15 in the tournament.

Moore and left fielder Shane Pepper got Lonoke’s other two hits in the game.

Moore, Reisner and Garrett Spears combined to give up just five hits to Shiloh, but the errors and other mistakes allowed the final three runs to cross the plate.

Shiloh finishes the season 26-6 while Lonoke finished 21-10.

The Jackrabbits return all but three players next season.