Friday, July 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank loses big lead to Armor Seed

Leader sports editor

BRYANT – The sun never came out to dry up the playing conditions, but Cabot’s big lead evaporated as Jonesboro Armor-Seed took a 9-8 win in eight innings Friday in the first round of the Junior American Legion Mid-South Regional tournament.

Cabot jumped on Armor Seed quickly with four runs in the top of the first inning and then three more in the second for a quick 7-0 lead. But the Panthers couldn’t score again as Jonesboro (35-9) came back to tie the game with a four-run third and three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Cabot scored one in the top of the first extra frame, but Jonesboro scored two in the bottom half to steal the victory.

Cabot pitcher Adam Hicks was solid through six innings, save a brief lapse in the fourth inning when the rain came down the hardest, making anything but fastballs difficult to control.

But he couldn’t record an out after facing four batters in the seventh inning. He left with a 7-5 lead and the bases loaded. Hicks had struck out Jonesboro leadoff hitter Storm Parks three times, so a change was made to start the seventh. Grant Moore came to bat and reached on an error at second base. Hicks walked Tyler Cole and designated hitter Jordan Volner hit an RBI double to right field. Hicks then hit Austin Behtune and was finished for the game.

Gavin Tillery took the mound and got the next two batters out, but both were sacrifice RBIs and the game was tied at the end of regulation.

Cabot scored its first run since the second inning in the top of the eighth when catcher Chris Odom hit an RBI single to right field to score Dalten Hurst, who had drawn a leadoff walk to start the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth, the rain picked up again. Tillery, who depends on breaking and off-speed pitches, struggled to throw them for strikes in the wet weather. Falling back on the fastball, Jonesboro hit it well. Tillery got just one batter out on a sacrifice bunt while walking one and giving up three hits in taking the loss.

Cabot (33-13) looked to run away with the game early.

Leadoff hitter Jonathan Latture got a four-run first inning started by taking a pitch to the shoulder. After a groundout, Catcher Chris Odom singled to score Latture. Brandon Jones walked and two base runners pulled off a double steal to get both into scoring position. Gavin Tillery then singled to left field for two RBIs and a 3-0 Cabot lead.

Adam Hicks then doubled to centerfield. After a pop up to shortstop, Tyler Gilbert and Trent Frizzel drew back-to-back walks with Frizzel’s free pass scoring Tillery for the final run of the inning.

Another hit batter got the ball rolling for the Centennial Bank squad in the second inning. Odom took the pitch with one out, and two errors on the next at bat allowed him to score.

Brandon Jones’ grounder to third base went between the legs of Jonesboro’s Austin Bethune. Odom rounded third with the ball in shallow left field and in the hands of Trey Hall. Hall’s throw was in plenty of time to get Odom out at the plate, but also about 15 feet over the catcher’s head. Odom scored and Jones got all the way to third on the play.

Tillery walked before Hicks hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Jones from third, but Tillery also scored when right fielder Blake Holley’s throw was also over the head of catcher Luke Sexton.

Jonesboro turned things around on Cabot starting pitcher Adam Hicks in the fourth inning. Armor Seed banged out four base hits after being held hitless through three, and scored four runs.

Volner started the inning with a double to centerfield for Jonesboro. Austin Bethune singled to left by Volner couldn’t advance. Nash Thomas singled to drive in one run and Blake Holley was hit by Hicks to load the bases. Sexton hit a sacrifice to right field and Reed Fishbacher singled to right field to score Thomas. Latture then made a poor throw to the plate, which allowed Holley to also score on Fishbacher’s base hit and pulled Jonesboro within 7-4.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville beats Texas state champ at regionals

Leader sports editor

BRYANT – A couple of base running errors cost Jacksonville two runs, but the Chevy Boys still pounded out 14 base hits to beat Texas state champion Texarkana Tigers 8-4 Friday in the first round of the Junior American Legion Mid-South Regional tournament.

The two teams were tied at four after two innings and it stayed that way until a three-run fifth for Gwatney – all four with two outs.

“Well we just kept hitting it,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “You keep hitting the ball and you’ll finally get a couple of runs. We messed up a couple getting thrown out at home, but they played well. I was worried about it because we didn’t come ready to play. They’re not used to playing this early and it just wasn’t a good start to the day.”

While the day may have started poorly, the game did not as Gwatney (34-5) took an early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first. Texarkana then scored four runs on one hit in the top of the second, and Jacksonville got two in the bottom of the second to tie the game.

In the decisive fifth inning, Gwatney first baseman James Tucker got a one-out single to centerfield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by D.J. Scott. Laderrious Perry then doubled to right field to score Tucker from second and give Jacksonville a lead it would not relinquish. Pitcher Derek St. Clair and second baseman Ryan Mallison hit back-to-back RBI singles to make it 7-4. Blake Perry then doubled down the line in left field.

Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham waved Mallison around at third. It looked like the throw would beat Mallison so he stopped about two thirds of the way to home plate, but the throw was off line When he restarted, it allowed the pitcher to cover home plate, and catcher Triston Carlow relayed to him to get Mallison out at home and end the inning.

Jacksonville added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth while St. Clair overcame early control problems to shut down the Tigers over the final five innings.

Jacksonville got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning, and continued to hit the Tigers’ pitching well throughout the game.

Mallison got Gwatney’s first-inning rally started with a one-out walk. Blake Perry then hit a line drive off the pitcher’s glove and made it to first base for an infield single. Greg Jones grounded out to first base and advanced the runners into scoring position. Clinton McDonald then drilled a triple through the power alley in left-centerfield for two RBIs.

Texarkana (30-10) got four runs on one base hit in the top of the second when Jacksonville pitcher St. Clair began to struggle to find the strike zone. He continued to struggle for the remainder of his time on the mound, but ground his way to the victory.

St. Clair finished by giving up six hits, four walks, and three hit batters while striking out nine.

“I’ve never seen him struggle like he did in that inning,” Hickingbotham said. “In that second inning he couldn’t find the strike zone anywhere. But I’ll tell you, he came back and got better and better. I knew if he ever found his groove his curveball would kill them.”

He hit Brayden Ward, the first batter of the second inning, before getting a strikeout and a groundout to third base. But with two outs, St. Clair walked three in a row; with nine-hole hitter Kemon Freemon’s walk driving in Ward.

Leadoff hitter Eron Sonson then hit a bases-clearing double down the third baseline to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead.

The Chevy Boys got two back to tie the game in the bottom of the second on four-straight base hits, and would have taken the lead if not for a base running blunder by right fielder Laderrious Perry.

Perry was the first batter to reach base, getting on via an E6. St. Clair then singled to put runners at first and second. Ryan Mallison hit a bloop single to shallow right field and Laderrious Perry overran third base and the throw came in behind him. Caught in a rundown, Perry was tagged out at home plate on the 4-5-2 out.

Blake Perry then singled to score St. Clair and Jones singled to drive in Blake Perry to make it 4-4.

St. Clair and Blake Perry each went 3 for 4 to lead Gwatney offensively. Mallison went 2 for 3 while McDonald and Tucker each went 2 for 4.

“McDonald is killing the ball right now,” Hickingbotham said. “He was one of them I was worried about this morning. He didn’t get here until about 15 minutes before the game, but he came through.”

Jacksonville will face the Little Rock Cobras at 5 p.m. today. The Cobras scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Kentucky state champion Paducah 2-1.

The last time Jacksonville played Little Rock. Cobras’ coach Cody Perrin pulled his players off the field and forfeited while trailing 6-3 in the fourth inning of the state semifinals for what he deemed rude behavior by a Jacksonville fan.

SPORTS STORY >> Former Bear could be next knuckleballer

Leader sports editor

A well-made baseball documentary entitled “Knuckleball” was released a year ago featuring the only two knuckleball pitchers in major-league baseball, R.A. Dickey, with the New York Mets at the time the film was made, and Boston Red Sox legend Tim Wakefield.

The film ended with footage of the 46-year old Wakefield’s retirement ceremony at Fen-way Park. It then cuts to Dickey, 39, who pontificates on the need for someone to step in and fill the role of major-league baseball’s most awkward, misunderstood and feared style of pitchers.

Former Sylvan Hills Bear Blaine Sims is doing his best to be the one to fulfill Dickey’s dream of never leaving baseball without a knuckleballer. Sims is currently away from his high-A minor-league team, the Lynchburg Hillcats, and is at the Atlanta Braves spring training facility in Orlando trying to learn to master the difficult pitch.

Like nearly every knuckleballer in the history of MLB, Sims didn’t start his professional career with that in mind.

Sims’ minor-league career took a sharp detour two years ago when he went from a 90-mile-per-hour left-handed prospect—who was most likely just hoping for a chance to become a big-league spot pitcher, brought in to get left-handed batters out—to a major prospect and project for Atlanta.

His pitching coach at Lynchburg, Dave Wallace, noticed his knuckler during practice. Sims was shagging batting practice fly balls and as a goof, threw a knuckleball back to the infield. His teammate failed to catch it and Wallace wanted to see another one.

He got another ball and threw it again, and again his teammate couldn’t catch it.

Wallace asked Sims to throw a few to the bullpen catcher and never spoke of it again, until the end of the season. They asked him to work on the pitch through the winter, and then left him off the team the following spring to just practice the pitch.

“I didn’t know what to think at the time,” Sims told The Leader on Thursday.

The knuckleball is difficult to hit despite its slow speed, because it doesn’t spin or rotate, making it vulnerable to the slightest movement of air.

Being left off the team can be a confusing decision for a 23-year old prospect, but Sims knew the team had serious plans for him when they told him they were sending him to Georgia to work with the greatest knuckleball pitcher of all time, Phil Niekro, who spent the vast majority of his 24-year career with the Braves.

Niekro’s first two years were with the Milwaukee Braves, and he was in the Atlanta Braves starting rotation for the first 17 years of the team’s existence. He pitched for the Yankees in 1984 and 85, the Cleveland Indians in 86, and the Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and finally back with the Braves for one last start in 1987. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 after winning 318 games in his career.

Niekro watched Sims throw two pitches and declared he had a major-league knack for the pitch. Sims said Niekro spent much more time talking with him about the philosophy of and approach to pitching, than actually working with him on pitching. But he was still overwhelmed with the vast knowledge and wisdom of old “Knucksie” as peers called him.

“The man is just unbelievable,” Sims said of Niekro. “It’s just unbelievable how much he knows about pitching and baseball in general. I learned so much in those few days. There’s more wisdom in that guy than I could ever ask for. I can’t wait to work with him again.”
Sims will get that chance soon. The Braves are bringing Niekro to Orlando to work him in the next couple of weeks.

Once the organization put him back on the mound against live competition, he enjoyed initial success at a lower level in the minors. Once he moved back up to High-A, teams began to hit him.

As Niekro knows, and as Dickey and Wakefield and every other knuckleballer knows, making it as a knuckleballer takes patience as much as anything else.

It’s come and gone for me,” Sims said of his control of the pitch. “The thing is, you have to live with it and you have to live by it. When it’s on it’s unbelievable. When it’s off, it’s like throwing batting practice.

Sims believes working with Niekro will help his consistency.

“He’s probably one of the best teachers I’ve ever been around,” Sims said. “He’s just unbelievable with what he knows about that pitch,” Sims said. “And not just what he knows, but how he can tell you how to use it to your advantage. He won 318 games in the big leagues. He knows something that’s worth learning.”

Sims understands that the knuckleball is very rarely mastered quickly, and takes notice of recent pitchers like Dickey and Wakefield, and their advanced ages before becoming good enough with the pitch to make it in the bigs.

Wakefield was a power-hitting first baseman for three years with the Pittsburg Pirates before his batting average nosedived and his career as a hitter ended. But just like Sims, a coach noticed his knack for the knuckleball while playing catch in practice, and they started him back in the minors as a project.

Dickey toiled not only in the minor leagues, but overseas as well before finally breaking into the big leagues for good in 2008 at the age of 34. He was a hard-throwing right-hander when he was drafted in 1996, but couldn’t get his career off the ground. In 2005, decided to perfect the knuckleball, which was one of many pitches he already threw.

Sims says he’s learned the pitch takes time to master, but thinks he’s got a head start on other knucklers in the past. “You’re definitely going to have to have patience,” Sims said. “It’s going to be a long-term commitment. The thing is, you have to have a foundation for this pitch, and I feel like I have a foundation. I just have to become more consistent with it. Once I figure all that out, hopefully I’ll be up in the big leagues.”

EDITORIAL >> How counties, state will save

Whatever people think of the Affordable Care Act’s controversial mandate that nearly everyone carry health insurance, it is turning out to be a bonanza for local and state governments in Arkansas.

When the insurance mandate takes effect Jan. 1, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) will relieve the state government of scores of millions of dollars of state obligations each year for Medicaid payments because it will move many current Medicaid patients fully to the federal ledger and also pay all the costs of some 250,000 new Medicaid eligibles for three years.

It seemed like such a good deal to penny-pinching Republican lawmakers that they jumped at it, although they had all denounced Obamacare and sworn that they would do their best to block it. By implementing Obamacare and its state budget savings, they were able to cut state taxes on people with large incomes and give manufacturers a state tax break.

We would have preferred that they cut the taxes of working people instead, but you can’t have everything.

Then this summer state prison officials and county administrators figured out that the same piece of Obamacare offered even greater economies than they had imagined. The state penitentiary and county jails now spend tens of millions of dollars a year on medical care for prisoners, and starting Jan. 1 many, perhaps most, of the costs—those incurred at hospitals—will shift to Washington.

People whose annual incomes are below 138 percent of the federal poverty line will qualify for Medicaid, and nearly all the 16,000 inmates of the penitentiary and the Community Correction Department meet the test. The state will still have to pay the medical expenses of treating inmates at prison infirmaries, but if they are treated at a hospital the federal government will bear the full cost. Prison officials said it would spare the state budget millions of dollars a year—$3 million to $4 million in the Community Correction Department alone.

It will be an even bigger blessing for the counties, where a single catastrophic illness by a prisoner can break the county budget. The Pulaski County Detention Center—the county jail—spends $4 million a year on inmate medical care and that sum will be significantly reduced. Many county lockups house state prisoners because the state penitentiary is nearly always filled to capacity. Their hospital costs will be shifted to Washington.

Sheriffs worry rightfully about the extra administrative nightmare of qualifying their prisoners for Medicaid and enrolling them so that the medical costs will be paid expeditiously. What if a surly prisoner refuses to enroll in Medicaid? A conservative Republican legislator thought of that. He introduced a bill allowing sheriffs and prison officials to enroll them against their will so that the county and state will be relieved of the expense of their care. The bill became law.

Whether a person is a prisoner or a free man or woman, determining qualification for Medicaid or for federal help in buying insurance and then actually enrolling the person in one of the private insurance plans that will be available in Arkansas is going to be a very simple proposition. That is what the state Insurance Department and state health officials promise. The insurance exchanges will be open for business Oct. 1.

Sheriffs and the state penitentiary should have a stack of forms and enroll every new inmate in medical aid as a part of his processing. It is good economy for the jail and the county’s taxpayers, but also a long-term service to the inmate, even if he has done little as yet to deserve it.

TOP STORY >> Day in the life among the dead

Leader staff writer

What is it like to work alongside the second greatest fear of people worldwide? Five local funeral directors shared what it takes to get into their profession and the difficulties they face every day.


Funeral director and owner John Harris of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home said, “It’s more of a calling than a job. This isn’t for everybody. In the funeral industry, we work weekends. We work holidays. More people pass away between five and eight than eight to five.”

Funeral director and owner LeRoy Wood of Arkansas Funeral Care and Crematory said, “You have to have a passion to serve or you won’t be in the business long.”

Harris said his job is to give families a service “how they want it and when they want it.”

He continued, “People say ‘you’re around crying people all the time.’ Not as much as they think.”

Harris explained some families are happy that their loved one isn’t suffering anymore from a painful illness or degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s.

He noted, “The biggest challenge we have is we’re service providers and we’re dealing with people at a very emotional time.”

AndraĆ© Blackburn of Griffin-Leggett Rest Hills funeral home in Sherwood, who recently spoke in Jacksonville as part of the Nixon Library’s summer program, said, “I’ve seen just about everything. I don’t focus on how that person passed away. What I and all funeral directors do is take that terrible situation and make it better. We have to help the family through a very difficult time.”

Harris agreed. “What we do here is serve families and help people through the worst times of their lives,” he said.

All funerals are different, Blackburn noted.

“I’ve run the whole gambit,” he said.

At some funerals, the family and friends laugh the whole time, celebrating the life of their loved one. “Those are the best kind by the way,” Blackburn said.

He’s also seen the opposite where everyone, including him, cried. “Funeral directors are human, even though we see death day in and day out. It’s really hard on us,” Blackburn said.

Harris shared that one of the most difficult situations he ever faced was a triple funeral for a grandfather and his two grandchildren.

The three died in a plane crash on Dec. 5. The grandfather had taken the kids to look at Christmas lights from the sky.

Harris said, “You’re just heartbroken that these two kids were killed and the grandfather was killed trying to do something neat.”

Wood said, “I’ve never had a family here that wasn’t in shock. Every family is different.”

One of the other funeral directors at Arkansas Funeral Care, Glenda Beard, said, “We try to follow (the family’s) wishes. Family dynamics are a big issue because of divorce or maybe kids are fussing and fighting.”

But Wood noted that families tend to set those things aside after a death.

“It’s commendable when estranged families come together at that time to take care of their loved one,” he said.

Wood continued, “We pray for patience but we want it now. It’s time to listen. It’s time for the family.”

He added, “Every death, you have to put your mind to the task and make sure the family gets the very best service possible.”

Funeral director Tim Weems of Weems Funeral Home in Carlisle said, “We try to give them a better memory of their loved ones. We try to get them through it. We try to make it as easy for them as we possibly can.”

He continued, “(The hardest part is) doing the young children who didn’t really have a chance at life.”


Blackburn said that in order to become a funeral director a person has to work at a funeral home as an apprentice and learn on the job.

A lot of funeral directors are small business owners although a corporation owns Griffin-Leggett and he handles day-to-day operations, Blackburn said.

Funeral directors who want to be embalmers have to attend a four-year mortuary college and complete a two-year apprenticeship, he continued.

Students can do their apprenticeships while attending classes or after they finish college, Blackburn said.

Restorative art is part of the curriculum, but an embalmer does very minor things to restore a person’s body for an open-casket funeral, he noted.

Blackburn said, to do that, he had to learn the same basics plastic surgeons must know.

He also explained how coroners and medical examiners are different from embalmers.

A coroner determines how the person died and must sign the death certificate before the funeral home can have the body.

The medical examiner is in the coroner’s office and they do autopsies, usually if foul play is suspected, Blackburn said.

Although he couldn’t legally perform an autopsy, he knows how to do an autopsy, Blackburn added.


“Embalming is the preservation and disinfection of human remains for a funeral,” Blackburn said.

He noted that becoming an embalmer may take four to eight years.

Blackburn said embalming has to be hands on and it is very connected to medical science.

“The same cadavers doctors learn on on we use,” Blackburn said. “I had to track a single drop of blood from where it started at the heart all the way back. That’s how intense mortuary college is.”

He also learned how the Egyptians performed embalming although that method is no longer used.

The heart, lungs and organs play a role in the simple process that has been in practice in the United States since the Civil War, when bodies had to be shipped home from the battlefields, Blackburn said.

It slows down decomposition so that the loved ones are seen as families want to remember them, he explained.

“We want them as natural and comfortable as they were when they were alive. That’s part of our culture,” Blackburn said.

When people are embalmed a small incision is made on their clavicle, also known as the collarbone, so that the formaldehyde-based fluid can be pumped through the body.

“It’s a very quiet, dignified process. It’s nothing as graphic as what you’ve seen in the movies or on TV,” Blackburn said.

Embalming a body is hazardous to the embalmer’s health because the fluid is very carcinogenic and poisonous. Complete protective clothing is required, he noted.

The body itself isn’t dangerous unless the person had a contagious illness such as tuberculosis, he continued, but embalmers may not know if a person had something like that.

This is why “universal precautions” are required, Blackburn said, meaning that every body is treated as if the person did have a contagious illness.

Something else an embalmer sees on a daily basis is rigor mortis, which is caused by a chemical reaction in the muscles that causes them to stiffen. It takes about four hours to start, Blackburn said, but can occur instantly if the person died suddenly and their muscles were tense.

The history of embalming is interesting too, he continued.

During the Civil War, people who were alive were sometimes embalmed because medical science was much more primitive. A person may have been knocked out and had a weak pulse or they could have been in a coma, Blackburn said.

But, he continued, people who clawed their way out of caskets were not embalmed because embalming people who are alive would kill them.

He added that people used to be very afraid of being buried alive. Many of them would have a pipe aboveground that ran down into their caskets so that they could breath if they were buried alive. They could also ring a set of bells to let someone who could dig them up know that they were there, Blackburn said.

He noted that he has never seen a body sit up on his embalming table like in the movies or on TV.

But Blackburn said that he has been more than certain someone’s spirit was with him while he was at the funeral home alone.

“If you ask me if I believe in ghosts, I do. They don’t bother me,” he said.


Blackburn is from New Orleans, where loved ones are buried in crypts above ground. He said the bodies of up to 50 people might be buried in a family crypt.

Another option before or after a service is cremation. Blackburn said he and most funeral directors want to be cremated.

Twenty-four hours have to pass before the certificate that allows a person to be cremated is signed, sealed and stamped, he continued. One reason for this is that the family could change their minds about it.

Every person is placed in a type of casket, usually made of cardboard, to be cremated. Blackburn said, “Every person’s remains are sacred. Every person’s dignity is preserved.”

The ashes can be used to make a painting, jewelry, glass sculptures or any number of items that family members can have to remember a loved one, he added.


Harris explained that it is difficult to ask families for money to conduct a service, especially when many of them are not financially prepared.

He said it is hard to ask for payment without appearing insensitive. “It’s not all about the money,” Harris noted.

That part of the job is why he encourages people to purchase their funeral services on a payment plan before they pass away. “You’re doing your children and family a favor,” especially when those left behind don’t have the option to buy the services on a payment plan, Harris said. “Our society is based on monthly payments,” he noted.

Wood agreed. The former pastor spoke at hundreds of funerals before his wife passed away in 2003. That is when he learned how expensive it is to honor a loved one’s memory.

So Wood opened up shop. “Our goal is to give people a traditional, complete funeral at a price most people can afford,” he said.

The cost of an Arkansas Funeral Care service is 60 percent less than those of Wood’s competitors in 2011. He is confident his business continues that.

A traditional funeral service without a casket can cost a family more than $6,000 but Arkansas Funeral Care offers a complete service with a casket for just $2,490, or $2,390 for veterans. While direct cremations run up to $2,000, Arkansas Funeral Care charges $575, or $555 for veterans.

The home also serves people all over the state. The staff will pick up the deceased for free within 100 miles. The charge for every mile over that is $1.50 because of fuel costs.

Wood said, “When a death occurs, it’s the most difficult time of a family’s life. It’s very stressful. It’s the worst thing in the world to plan a funeral.”

This is the first part of an ongoing “Day in the Life” series.

TOP STORY >> Plea deal in Ward killing

Leader staff writer

The Ward man who admitted to shooting an employee in the head during a business meeting at his home last year pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Lonoke County Circuit Court Wednesday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Sheriff John Staley said Christopher Reynolds was taken to the county jail immediately after he was sentenced and will be held there until he is picked up by the state Department of Correction.

Convicted prisoners can be held at the county jail for a few weeks up to months before the state takes custody, but Staley said he intends to unload Reynolds sooner if possible.

“We’re going to try to fast track because it’s dangerous,” the sheriff said.

It’s possible other prisoners might be familiar with the crime and Reynolds could be in danger, and it would be safer for everyone to have inmates convicted of violent crimes locked up at a state facility, he said.

Reynolds, 35, killed Ernest Hoskins, 21, of North Little Rock, on Nov. 9.

He admitted in his statement to police that day that he pointed a .44 magnum Desert Eagle at Hoskin’s head and pulled the trigger. When it didn’t fire, he cocked it and a round went into the chamber. He was trying to de-cock the gun, he said, when it went off and killed Hoskins.

Reynolds then called 911 and reported the shooting. Hoskins was pronounced dead at the scene.

Reynolds owned a business that sold devices that were supposed to improve gas mileage. Hoskins was one of four salespeople at Reynolds’ home at 26 Deer Run in Ward that day. Reynolds told state police investigators who were called to help with the case that, immediately before he shot Hoskins, he was talking to him about his low sales and asking him why his numbers were lower than the other three.

Reynolds was arrested for first degree murder two weeks after the shooting. Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham turned the case over to a special prosecutor after Hoskins’ family claimed it was being mishandled because Reynolds is white and Hoskins was black.

Graham told The Leader after Reynolds was arrested that he didn’t know Hoskins was black until he got a call from the NAACP, but he stepped down because it was clear the family wasn’t comfortable with him handling the case and he didn’t want to compound their loss.

The case was turned over to Jack McQuary, the special prosecutor from the state Office of Prosecutor Coordinator who charged Reynolds with manslaughter, saying that was the charge that fit under Arkansas law.

Manslaughter is a Class C felony that carries a sentence of three to 10 years in prison, so Reynolds received the maximum sentence.

In addition to the prison term, Reynolds was ordered to have no contact with the victim’s mother or wife.

TOP STORY >> Lawsuit seeking redress

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Water Com-missioner Joy Kinman is worried about damage to her reputation over what her attorney says is a “frivolous” accusation in a July 8 lawsuit.

Gretchen Madison, 89, is seeking $520,000 because she says Jacksonville contractor Marcus Dupree of Northstar Consultants, after he tore down her old house, built a new one that is uninhabitable.

Madison claims that the $60,000 house Dupree built for her at 420 Freda Lane in McAlmont, where she has lived for almost half a century, is rife with hundreds of code violations.

Dupree didn’t return a call from The Leader by press time.

Kinman and her adopted son, Chili’s manager Robert “Drew” Walker, are also listed in the complaint. Walker is an officer of Northstar.

Walker went to the Arkansas Contractors Board on Wednesday to relinquish his license, Kinman said. Walker said his signature wasn’t even on the forms the board gave him that reactivated his license, which Dupree used to conduct business because it was attached to Northstar.

Dupree never had a contractor’s license. Walker said he didn’t know his partner was using his license.

Kinman, a licensed home builder, gave a reference for Walker and allegedly asked two others who didn’t know him to do the same so that he could obtain a contractor’s license.

Kinman, who joined the water commission in April, said, “I have an impeccable reputation and this is about to make me sick. I feel really bad for (Madison). My heart goes out to her. If I had been involved, this never would have happened (to her).”

She added, “We’re victims too.”

Madison’s family said Kinman and Walker are just as much at fault for what happened because, if Walker not obtained a license with the three invalid references, Dupree would not have been hired to construct the house.

Kinman’s defense is that, years ago, she accidentally checked the wrong box on a form that asked if she was related to the applicant for a contractor’s license.

Underneath that question, the form states, “If yes, you are not eligible to complete this form. STOP!!!”

Three references are needed to obtain the license and none of them can be from a relative.

Walker, who owns Bronze Bombshell in Jacksonville and SunRays in Cabot, said he hasn’t worked at Northstar in five years. The company remained open because it was in debt, Kinman explained.

The two other references given for Walker by Patricia Young and Lucille Cook are also invalid, Madison’s family claims.

Madison’s son-in-law, Todd Parsley, said the two women were Kinman’s neighbors and gave the references as a favor to her.

They said they didn’t know a Robert Walker, according to the complaint, and that Kinman’s late husband built their homes.

Kinman explained that the women probably didn’t know her adopted son’s first name was Robert because he is known as Drew.

She said her son did work for her husband’s company for several years and helped construct both of her neighbors’ houses.

Parsley disagrees with all of Kinman’s claims.

He noted that the first thing he found hard to believe is that Dupree left his business partner in the dark.

Parsley said Walker was Dupree’s best man in the contractor’s recent wedding and the two were seen having dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings in Sherwood numerous times.

Parlsey also told The Leader that his lawyer, Victoria Leigh, made an anonymous call to Young and Cook.

They confirmed that Walker of Northstar Consultants built their homes, Parsley said. But when the lawyer told them he would be sending them sworn statements to sign, the women changed their story.

Parsley said they then told the lawyer that they gave Walker, who was 19 at the time, a reference as a favor to Kinman.

The reference Kinman gave also states that Walker built approximately 100 homes in his four years of experience. The complaint states that Madison believes neither Dupree nor Walker have ever built a home.

Parsley added that he didn’t understand why the business wasn’t closed when Walker decided to pursue another profession.

The complaint also states that the person holding the license, Walker, must supervise projects according to the Contractor’s Board regulations.

That didn’t happen. But Kinman and Walker say Dupree never told Walker he was constructing the house.

She also said, “Robert Walker worked for us for years as a layperson. We taught him the ropes. He was qualified. He worked on (Young’s and Cook’s) houses. Drew would have gotten references regardless.”

Kinman added, “He’s an honest guy. He’s a loyal guy.”

Walker said, “I feel sorry for (Madison).”

He continued, “My reputation is solid. I’ll let my actions speak for me. I do a lot of charity work. If you ask anybody about me they’re not going to say anything bad about me.”

About his former partner, Dupree, Walker said, “I don’t really want to throw anybody in the mud. That’s just not in my character.”

Kinman told The Leader that she has never met Dupree or Madison, but said her son’s former partner “used and abused” Walker.

Madison, who is staying with her daughter in Cabot, had lived for 49 years in a stick-built home at 420 Freda Road in North Little Rock. Then the house was damaged beyond repair by a water leak.

She obtained three bids to tear it down and rebuild it.

According to her complaint, Dupree said he would construct it “the same as if he were building it for his mother.”

He started building the house without providing Madison with a blueprint, spec sheet, treating the lot for termites or leveling the lot, she claims.

Madison’s complaint states that she noted several problems throughout the project but Dupree kept saying he would take care of them.

It states that he used an unlicensed electrician to wire the home.

Then Dupree started missing deadlines, Madison claims.

Her daughter and neighbors witnessed Dupree stealing materials from the job site in February after he was issued a cease and desist in late January. A police report was filed.

The state Department of Health cited seven violations upon inspection of the house. The Board of Electrical Examiners found 22 violations. The state Fire Marshal’s Office found nine areas in violations.

Madison’s home is not level, the complaint states. While inspectors said it could be brought up to code, the house would have to be rebuilt to be level.

Dupree also threatened Madison and her son, Todd Parsley, with physical violence, according to the complaint.

Madison is demanding a trial by jury.

She is seeking $60,000 in actual damages, $60,000 in compensatory damages and $400,000 in punitive damages in addition to attorney’s fees and court costs.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Looking at trends

While Jacksonville has remained stagnant for at least a decade as far as population and economic growth are concerned, the recently published Metro Trends confirms that its nearby neighbors to the north continue to flourish.

According to the recently published Metro Trends from Metroplan, Cabot, Austin and Ward have continued their growth, while Jacksonville’s population actually diminished by 46 people, or 0.2 percent, between 2010 and early 2013.

Jacksonville leaders have long maintained the city can’t emerge from this slump until it has its own school district — a situation now in the hands of the state Board of Education, the Attorney General’s Office, the federal courts and ultimately voters.

“I’m not an expert, but on balance (a Jacksonville school district) would help,” Jonathan Lupton, the author of the report, said. “Schools are a factor in relocation when kids get school age.”

Population growth in Central Arkansas has slowed, but still it increases.

Locally, the largest increase by county is for Faulkner and Saline Counties — about 2 percent.

Overall, growth in Arkansas has declined faster than the national average since the 1990-2000 decade, according to the report.

From 2010-2012, Lonoke County grew at an annual rate of 1.1 percent, less than half of the 2.6 percent annual growth rate between 2000 and 2010. Although its growth rate was the slowest in the four-county Little Rock/North Little Rock/Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area from 2010-2013 at 0.7 percent, it was the only county whose growth rate didn’t decline. Faulkner County declined from 2.8 percent per year to 2 percent. Saline County, which grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent from 2000-2010, dropped to 1.9 percent from 2010 to 2012.

Among larger communities, Bryant’s growth between 2010 and early 2013 was greatest at 12.4 percent, followed by Conway and Greenbrier at 6.4 percent, Benton at 3.5 percent and Cabot grew by 3.3 percent.

That 3.3 percent is an increase of 794 residents to 24,570 from 2010 to 2013. Austin added only 201 residents, but that represented an increase of 9.9 percent — three times Cabot’s rate of population increase. Ward added 307 residents, an increase of 7.5 percent, to a population of 4,374. Lonoke added seven residents, an increase of 0.2 percent to 4,252. England and Carlisle each lost population.

Lonoke County as a whole picked up 2,134 residents, an increase of 3.1 percent.

In Pulaski County, Sherwood’s population increased 1.6 percent to 29, 982, while Jacksonville’s population fell 0.2 percent to 28,318 residents. Countywide, the population increased by 2 percent.

If you have a decent job or income, well it feels as if the economy is climbing back out of a deep hole, especially if you’re invested in the stock market, which is at an all-time high. But, according to the Metro Trends report, the middle class is shrinking and it’s easier to fall out of it than to climb out of it.

Employment is flat, the banks and big corporations are sitting on piles of money the economy needs in play, even as construction starts to languish.

The report takes a broad look at growth and development trends in what it calls the Little Rock/North Little Rock/Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area, and there’s not a lot of good to report. “Central Arkansas employment has grown slowly in the Great Recession’s aftermath,” according to the report. “The region’s job-loss rate ran below the U.S. average during the crisis, and local unemployment has stayed below U.S. levels. However, the local job recovery has also run more slowly than average.”

While 2012 saw a small spike in single-family construction permits, that has slowed in the first quarter of 2013, according to Lupton.

The good news is that Jacksonville saw the most growth with 55 units in construction; the bad news is that those are part of the Little Rock Air Force Base’s once-troubled housing privatization initiative. Those units are part of a staged development that started in 2004 as replacement housing for airmen and their families. It does not represent growth in the Jacksonville area. Still, it’s good news for the airmen, for local businesses, contractors, tradesmen and suppliers will still reap some benefit.

With slow growth in employment, slow population growth and subdued housing construction, the middle class continues to wither, according to the report, and automation continues to replace human employees. The future of work is depending on “hyper-human” tasks such as emotional skills, intuition, imagination and development of insights and hypotheses.

Little Rock architect and futurist Bill Asti has recommended for maybe a decade that the area needs to attract manufacturing all right, but digits instead of widgets. Asti recommends recruiting not smokestack industry, such as Big River Steel, but companies that make movies, entertainment, video games and educational content for the ever-growing digital age.

TOP STORY >> Airman accepts top award

Master Sgt. William G. Janczewski II was recently honored in Washington as the Air Force Service Member of the year by the Military Times newspaper, along with four other service members, one from each branch of service.

In October, he led the team of six firefighters that extinguished a blaze near 40,000 gallons of fuel and two Army helicoptors that were refueling during a mortar attack at Camp John Pratt, Afghanistan, the Air Force times reported.

The sergeant was also recognized for his volunteer work with the Arkansas Congestive Heart Defect Coalition to help others who are in the same situation now that his family was in years ago. His 6-year-old son, Ethan, was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome.

Ethan has only a right ventricle and right atrium. The heart defect left the newborn in the hospital for nearly five months — about four of those in an induced coma. He is now in stable health.

“It’s very, very humbling,” Janczewski said of his being named the Airman of the Year. “I see what happened as just doing my job. The volunteer work was just a way to pay back all my experiences, so other families or other people don’t have to go through the same problems we went through. Being here tonight, it’s just very humbling to be recognized for something on this scale.”

Janczewski is approaching 20 years of service as an Air Force firefighter. He serves with the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The sergeant said he plans to stay in uniform as long as he is allowed.
“I love the job and I love the mission,” Janczewski said.

TOP STORY >> Cabot chamber names new top executive

Leader staff writer

For Cabot resident Kelly Coughlin it is a homecoming. “My heart has always been in Cabot, and now I’m getting paid for doing something I love,” she said.

That love is being named the new executive director of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.

She succeeds Billye Everett, who retired after seven years at the helm.

Coughlin has been the economic development director for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce for the past two years.

She is credited with helping to bring in an airline cabinet company, two national-chain restaurants — investments worth about $6 million and 250 jobs — into Sherwood.

Cabot chamber board president Karen Madding said the board is confident that Coughlin “will bring her successful previous economic development and chamber experience to our chamber, benefiting the Cabot business community.”

“She is known for her tremendous work ethic, creating non-profits and for her strong advocacy skills,” Madding said.

Coughlin grew up in Cabot, and, before taking the Sherwood position, she co-founded the Lonoke County Christian Clinic and the Lonoke leadership program. She was also instrumental in opening the farmer’s market.

In her new role, Coughlin said, “I’m coming in to help in any way I can. Billye did a great job and I’ll try to fill her shoes while bringing in a different twist or outlook.”

She has nine years of experience successfully managing development programs in the public sector and nonprofit settings, according to Madding. “Kelly has experience in all facets of marketing and business development. Kelly has provided effective, proprietary solutions on how to bring in new business. She has proven to be a skilled team-builder, focusing on managing executive relationships, responsiveness to client needs, as well as strategy and development of partnership environments,” Madding said.

The mother of two — a 19-year-old at ASU-Jonesboro and a 13-year-old at Cabot Junior High North — says one thing on her agenda already is to expand the reach of the Cabot chamber to include more out-of-town businesses.

Coughlin said she has some new ideas for the chamber. “But we will take it slow.”

Coughlin also plans to use what she learned as the economic director for Sherwood to bring more business and growth to Cabot.

“Our schools are a big plus here,” she said. “The school spirit is special. You won’t find it anywhere else.”

The board president said, “We are confident that her energy and creativity will further strengthen our membership and engage even more Cabot businesses in helping to make our city successful. The Cabot Chamber Board of Directors is extremely pleased to have Coughlin taking the helm.”

Coughlin received her Associate of Arts degree from Canada College in Redwood City, Calif., in 1992.

She completed her degree program at San Francisco State University in 1998, with a concentration in industrial communication and graphic design.

TOP STORY >> Sheriffs like Medicaid for sick inmates


Leader staff writers

The Pulaski County Detention Center spends about $4 million a year on inmate medical care, but with recent changes in the state law, Medicaid could pay for some of that, according to Lt. Carl Minden, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

New state and federal laws may lighten the financial burden upon prison and county jail budgets by paying for off-site hospitalization costs. Like the Medicaid expansion/private option implementation in general, details are just being worked out and no one seems certain of much.

As Arkansas Medicaid rules are written now, the care it pays for is available to the state’s most vulnerable residents, the elderly poor, children from low-income households and pregnant women with low incomes. But the rules change on Jan. 1 and an estimated 250,000 more residents will become eligible if their incomes are 138 percent of the federally-set poverty level or below.

The new rules also apply immediately to state prisoners who are treated in hospitals outside the prisons, and eventually to prisoners in county jails, if the counties and state work together on a mechanism to make it happen.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said this week he was surprised he hadn’t been made aware of the changes before. His budget for medical and dental treatment for prisoners and hospitalization of prisoners is only about $50,000, but he said it could go over that amount as it did last year when the amount spent was $30,000 more than budgeted.

Staley said prisoners arrested for minor offenses such as non-payment of fines or pro bation violation, are usually released until their court date if they become ill because the county can’t afford the medical bills.

If information about policies and procedures in his department is what the state needs to make his department eligible for Medicaid for prisoners, he will gladly cooperate. But he’s skeptical and not counting on Medicaid to take part of the burden off his healthcare budget anytime soon.

“We’re probably getting excited for nothing,” he said. “It sounds good on the outside but, when you get down to the meat of it, we don’t know if it might be more burdensome than it’s worth.

“But it sounds really good,” he said.

Currently, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is slated to kick in this January, but Cong. Tim Griffin has introduced a bill that would push the start date back a year.

Some of the state’s roughly 15,000 inmates already receive hospital care paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.

Minden says the sheriff’s office is getting educated about this possibility, largely through the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association, and has sent at least one high-ranking officer to an association meeting on the topic.

The detention center has its own infirmary with “30 plus” nurses and contractual agreements for a physician, a psychiatrist and some others to care for inmates at the 1,210-bed lockup, Minden said.

Currently, those in need of further care are taken to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“If we could get some relief, we need to look at this,” Minden said. “We have to foot the bill for everything, unless someone has private insurance, and the vast majority don’t,” he noted.

“We’re in the business of detaining and arresting but not the insurance business,” Minden said. He wondered whether or not the detention center would need its own claims department.

“We’d need to get someone trained in the paperwork, and is it worth our while to do it?” Minden asked.

Capt. Clayton Edwards, administrator for the White County Detention Center, said he pays $15,000 a month to Advance Correctional Healthcare to provide nursing service 12 hours a day, a doctor on call at all times and weekly doctor visits for his inmates. But the company allows only $20,000 for hospitalization. The county has to pay outright for anything above that amount.

Right now, Edwards is not even sure which inmates would be eligible for Medicaid. Since eligibility will be based on income, the question is which income, he said. Would it be from the last year’s W-2 form or the last paycheck stub?

Those questions and many others need to be answered, Edwards said, and then jail workers need to be trained to fill out the forms if it is decided that the job is theirs.

Edwards said he hopes to learn more during the Association of Arkansas Counties conference in Hot Springs on Aug. 22.

“It’s going to be interesting to say the least, but it could be a blessing for counties across the state,” he said.

Mark Whitmore, a lawyer with the Association of Arkansas Counties who worked on legislation to allow sheriffs to sign up prisoners for Medicaid even if they don’t want it, said Tuesday that he hopes many of the details will be worked out within a month.

He said three major state agencies — the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services and the Insurance Department — are working with the Sheriffs Association and Association of Arkansas Counties and that he believes they all agree conceptually on allowing Medicaid to pay for hospitalization. But the issue of pharmaceuticals is unclear and working out the mechanics for enrollment could be problematic.

The National Association of Counties’ website has this to say about the barriers to working out the details of a transient jail population: “There will be enrollment challenges due to the nature and constraints of the jail setting. First, high turnover rates are common in jail populations — a substantial portion of jail detainees are released within 48 hours, although the average length of detention varies from two weeks to two months.

“Since a significant number of individuals are released in a matter of days, for a large portion of the justice-involved population there may not be sufficient time during their stay in custody to conduct eligibility determination and enrollment in Medicaid or an appropriate health plan on the exchange.

“Also, some county jails that currently conduct Medicaid enrollment just prior to an inmate’s release have encountered complications associated with inmates’ scheduled release dates frequently changing, making it difficult to track individuals and connect them to coverage in a timely way.

“Another challenge is that some inmates will not have the appropriate documentation needed for enrollment.”

SPORTS STORY >> NLR AA gets to state with two victories

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock Colts AA team advanced to the winners’ bracket final of the Zone 2 tournament with wins on Friday and Monday in Heber Springs.

The Colts beat Pangburn 5-2 on Friday, getting a strong performance on the mound by Ty Houser.

On Monday, North Little Rock slipped away with a 4-3 win in 11 innings over White Hall. Trey Kimbrell was on the mound to start that game and struggled early. The Relyance Bank team scored three runs in the top of the first, and scored no more in the remaining 10 innings. Kimbrell went seven innings and shut White Hall down in the final six.

“I was very impressed with Trey,” Lonoke coach Brock Moore said. “He really struggled in that first inning keeping his pitches down. He was leaving them up and they were hitting it. For him to come back from that like he did, get his pitches down and shut a really good-hitting team down, that showed some mental toughness.”

Moore, who is also the NLRHS assistant coach, was no less impressed with Houser on Friday.

“In my opinion that was his best outing of the summer,” Moore said. “Jordan Reed pitched the eighth against White Hall and then Kolton Gardner came in and pitched the last three. None of those guys were really in our main rotation in high school. But our high-school starters played select ball and did some other things, and these guys have gotten a lot of time on the mound. Watching them grow mentally and physically like they have this summer has been really fun to watch. We’ve had a lot of guys get a lot better on the mound.”

The Colts had to get back into Monday’s game a little bit at a time, scoring one run in each of the third, fourth, sixth and 11th innings. Danny Mitchell is leading the team offensively in the tournament. He is 4 for 8 with a pair of doubles.

“He’s had a really good tournament,” Moore said of Mitchell. “We’ve seen some good pitching and he’s been on top of it.”

Relyance sent 6-foot-4, 210-pound David Sprinkle to the mound on Monday. Sprinkle has assumed the No. 1 position in White Hall’s rotation since Arkansas State signee Tyler Zuber decided to sit out the rest of the season to nurse a sore arm. Sprinkle threw in the high 80s throughout the game.

“He was good,” Moore said. “We never could get a big inning going but we executed well and we were able to manufacture enough runs to get back in it while Trey kept us close. It was just a good all-around effort.”

SPORTS STORY >> Dominant pitching earns state berth for Remington

Leader sports editor

After two games in the American Legion AA Zone 3 tournament, Lonoke’s Remington Bullets have not yielded a run. In Friday’s first-round game, Mikey Shinn tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout to beat archrival Stuttgart 5-0. After two rain delays, Lonoke finally got back to action on Sunday, when Josh Mathis threw a duplicated Shinn’s performance with another two-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory over Clarksville.

“The pitching has been great,” Lonoke coach Steve Moore said. “Mikey has had a lot of outside obligations and just hasn’t been able to pitch much for us. But he stepped up and did a great job. Josh, the same thing. “He’s been a spot starter for us and he’s done really well when he’s been in there. But he was great on Monday. I’ve been confident in our hitting from day one and I was trying to save some of our pitching for later in the tournament. To get these performances from these two early on makes me feel really good going forward.”

The two wins set up a winners’ bracket final against the North Little Rock Colts that took place last night after Leader deadlines.

Both teams have secured at least a one or two seed in the AA state tournament that begins this weekend in Harrison.

In Friday’s game, Remington got one run in the bottom of the first inning, and that was all it needed for the win. Though the Bullets added three runs in the third and one more in the sixth, Shinn’s performance kept Stuttgart from every seriously threatening.

Shinn carried a no hitter into the fourth inning but gave up a leadoff single before retiring the next two batters on two infield pop ups.

After another base hit that left runners on the corners, Shinn struck out the next batter looking. He finished the game with three more hitless innings, striking out nine and walking four along the way.

Gage Johnson led the way offensively for Lonoke, going 2 for 3 with two runs batted in and two stolen bases. Lane Moore and Guy Halbert also got two hits apiece; one of Halbert’s went for extra bases while Moore drove in a run.

Blake Gooden, Madison James, Nick Watson and Pierce Johnson each added a base hit for Lonoke.

A single by Watson scored Moore in the first inning. James got things rolling for the Bullets in the third with a one-out double to right field.

Watson reached on an error. Shane Pepper hit a ground ball to shortstop. Stuttgart tried to get the out at second, but wasn’t in time, leaving everyone safe and the bases loaded.

Johnson then singled to right field to score James and Watson and leave runners on the corners. Christian James then hit a fly ball to centerfield, deep enough to score Pepper from third base and make the score 4-0.

In the sixth inning, Pierce Johnson reached on another error at shortstop, and scored two batters later when Moore doubled to left.

In Sunday’s game, Mathis fanned six and walked no one in his dominant performance. Lonoke’s bats were quite as lively on Sunday, but another good first inning, in which the Bullets scored two runs, was all Mathis needed to preserve the win.

Lonoke got five base hits, with one each coming from Gooden, Shane Pepper, Moore, Halbert and Zack Risner.

Clarksville committed just two errors in the game, but the first one proved costly. Gooden reached on a leadoff error at shortstop and advanced to second base on the play.

With one out, Moore singled to left field to score Gooden. Moore then scored on a double down the left-field line by Halbert.

The third and final run of the game came in the bottom of the third. Gooden hit a leadoff triple to right field, and scored on a sacrifice by Pepper to set the final margin.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot juniors earn three seed

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank junior American Legion team will take a No. 3 seed into the five-state regional this weekend in Bryant, after losing 2-1 in the state semifinals to the Bryant Black Sox late Monday evening in Cabot.

Cabot pitcher Gavin Tillery gave up three hits in the first inning, and just two more the rest of the way, but Cabot’s defense committed a few more mistakes than Bryant, which turned out to be the difference in the game.

Neither team scored an earned run, and neither pitcher gave up a walk. Tillery went the distance in his five-hitter, striking out eight Black Sox along the way.

The Panthers missed two great opportunities to take the lead in the fourth and fifth innings, but Bryant made a great defensive play in the fourth while a Cabot base running blunder hurt the fifth-inning rally.

In the fourth inning, Adam Hicks and Brandon Jones reached on back-to-back, one-out errors. Tillery then singled to shallow centerfield to score Hicks for Cabot’s first run of the game. Jonathan Latture then hit a hard groundball up the middle, but Bryant shortstop Connor Tatum scooped it up on the run, stepped on second and threw to first for the inning-ending, unassisted double play.

In the fifth, Dalten Hurst led off and reached second base on an E5. The next batter hit a grounder to short. Hurst tried to advance to third during the throw to first, but was thrown out easily for a 6-3-5 double play.

The Panthers briefly thought they had a potential game-winning hit in the sixth. Still trailing 2-1 with a runner on second base, cleanup hitter Brandon Jones ripped a line drive over the wall in left field, but just barely left of the foul pole. Two pitches later he grounded out to third base to end the inning.

Monday’s loss was the second one-run, low-scoring loss for Centennial Bank in the tournament. Cabot lost 1-0 to Jacksonville on Sunday morning on a walk-off, RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh.

Bryant and Jacksonville met Tuesday night after Leader deadlines for the state championship.

Cabot also won two games in the tournament, opening with a 4-3 victory over Paragould-RC, then winning a slugfest 12-9 against Newport.

Seven Cabot players combined for 10 base hits in the win against Newport. Jonathan Latture finished with four RBIs, including a bases-clearing triple in a four-run third inning.

Newport held a 6-0 lead after two innings, but Cabot came back to tie it with four in the third and two in the fourth.

After a scoreless fifth, Cabot rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth with three base hits and three hit batters to go with one Newport error.

Hicks went 2 for 2, Dylan Bowers 2 for 3 and Chris Odom 2 for 4 in the victory.

Lee Sullivan took the mound in the second inning for Cabot, finishing the game and earning the win. He gave up three hits and no earned runs while striking out five and walking three.

Cabot grabbed an early lead in the tournament opener against RC, scoring three runs in the top of the first, only to watch Paragould chip away a run at a time until the game was tied in the bottom of the last inning.

This time it was Cabot’s turn to get a game-winning, RBI triple. Bowers reached on an E1 with one out. Two batters later with two outs, Hicks tripled into the power alley in left-centerfield.

He then took the mound in the ninth after an eight-inning gem by Tillery. Hicks walked two to give Paragould life, but struck out two and forced a week fly ball to secure the victory.

Tiller gave up nine hits and one earned run his eight innings on Friday. He fanned five and again gave up no walks. He also went 3 for 4 at the plate while Hicks was 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

The Centennial Bank team will begin play in the regional tournament on Friday in Bryant. Four Arkansas teams will face state champions from four surrounding states at the regional event.

SPORTS STORY >> Colts cruise to zone crown

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock senior team only had to win one game at the Zone 3 tournament at Burns Park to take a No. 1 seed into the state tournament that begins this weekend in Mountain Home. Only four teams entered the zone tournament, and after beating Conway in the first round and awaiting the losers’ bracket to play out, Monday’s final against Russellville was rained out with the score tied 2-2 in the second inning.

The Cogswell Motors team agreed to accept the No. 2 seed at state rather than drive back to Pulaski County on Tuesday and risk spending pitching that it may need in the state tournament.

The Colts beat fourth-seeded Conway 9-1 in the first round, getting a home run by Dylan Huckaby in a four-run second inning and a strong pitching performance by Dylan Boone.

Boone struggled out of the gate, walking three batters in the first inning, but pulled it together to throw a complete-game four hitter, getting stronger as the game progressed.

Boone struck out four batters. He retired Conway in order in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, striking out the side in the seventh.

The Cougars’ only run came in the fifth inning when it picked up three of their four base hits.

North Little Rock got on the board in the bottom of the first. Dustin Weigle got a leadoff single and scored on a sacrifice grounder by Alex Gosser later in the inning.

In the second inning, Jack Partlow drew a leadoff walk before Huckaby smashed a shot over the wall in left field. Landon Hearnes then reached on an E5 and scored on a double by Weigle. He then scored on a sac fly by L.J. Wallace to make the score 5-0.

After three scoreless innings, the Colts put three more on the board in the sixth. Nick Cleveland got a leadoff single and Partlow walked.

Conway almost got out of the jam by recording two-straight outs, but Will Hopkins singled down the third-baseline to score one run. Weigle then walked and Wallace hit a two-RBI single to put the Colts ahead 8-1.

North Little Rock had a great opportunity to end the game early in the seventh after loading the bases on three-straight walks to start the inning, but only managed one run. Hearnes hit a sac fly to centerfield to Cleveland and set the final margin.

Weigle and Wallace went 2 for 4 while Cleveland was 2 for 5. Partlow went 1 for 2 with a home run and three walks.

North Little opens play in the state tournament on Friday in Mountain Home.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney gets forfeit in semis

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior American Legion team went 3-1 through the first four days of the state tournament in Cabot to advance to the state title game against the Bryant Black Sox. That game took place Tuesday evening after Leader deadlines, with the winner taking a No. 1 seed into the five-state regional that begins Friday in Bryant.

Jacksonville (30-4) started and ended the first three days with 6-3 victories over the Little Rock Cobras, but Monday’s game was anything but typical.

The Cobras’ coach pulled his team off the field after one batter in the bottom of the fourth inning, citing verbal abuse from a Jacksonville fan.

Gwatney centerfielder Courtland McDonald led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch for the second consecutive at bat. He had also walked earlier in the game. After taking the pitch in the shoulder in the fourth, a Jacksonville fan yelled “They don’t want you to hit son.” He had earlier been confronted by a Cobras fan and an assistant coach for yelling “They can’t handle this pressure,” as Jacksonville began to mount a comeback from an earlierdeficit in the second inning.

The home plate umpire did not deem the Jacksonville fan’s comments abusive, and declined to take any action. When the Cobras coach refused to send his team back out onto the field, the umpire declared the game a forfeit victory for Jacksonville.

Little Rock had struggled mightily on the mound the entire game. When McDonald was hit to start the fourth inning, it was the 10th free base issued by Cobra pitching in the game. Jacksonville had just three base hits, but patience at the plate made those hits productive ones.

It wasn’t the only time in the tournament McDonald was involved in the game’s last play, only the other time was much more exciting. Jacksonville faced Cabot in the semifinal of the winners’ bracket in a game scheduled for Saturday’s closing game. Lightning forced a stoppage after one inning, and the game was resumed on Sunday morning.

Cabot’s Adam Hicks and Jacksonville’s Blake Perry threw seven innings of outstanding baseball. Each pitcher had a shutout intact after six innings.

Perry sat Cabot down in order in the top of the seventh, then led off the bottom of the seventh with Jacksonville’s fourth hit of the game. Greg Jones then roped a line drive to centerfield, but Lee Sullivan made a nice running catch for the first out.

McDonald stepped to the plate and ripped a 1-0 pitch into the power alley in right-centerfield for an RBI, walk-off triple.

McDonald and Perry combined for four of Jacksonville’s five hits, with Derek St. Clair accounting for the other. Sullivan led Cabot offensively with two hits in three at bats. Dylan Bowers, Brandon Jones, Jonathan Latture and Tyler Gilbert each getting one hit apiece.

Hicks struck out four while Perry fanned three, and neither pitcher walked anyone.

Jacksonville’s only loss was a 4-2 decision to Bryant in the final of the winners’ bracket on Sunday night. The Black Sox (33-1) knocked St. Clair around for 10 base hits, but couldn’t entirely put Jacksonville away until the final inning. That’s when Jacksonville managed its two runs, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

The Chevy Boys begin play in the five-state regional at 3:15 on Friday in Bryant.