Saturday, May 17, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills ladies make historic win

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls’ soccer team made school history this week in the class 5A state tournament. The Lady Bears beat White Hall 1-0 on Thursday and Morrilton 3-0 on Friday to become the first SHHS soccer team, boys or girls, to advance to the semifinals of the state tournament.

“We are just overjoyed,” said Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson. “To do something that’s never been done at our school is a great accomplishment. I just couldn’t be more proud of these girls.”

The two wins earn the Lady Bears a semifinal date with tournament favorite and host Harrison. The Lady Goblins beat Little Rock Christian 1-0 on Friday, a team that beat Sylvan Hills twice this year.

“We know the odds are long,” Persson said. “Harrison was really considered the favorite coming into the tournament, and we’re playing on their home field, but we’re not giving in just yet. We have a game plan and we’re going to go out and do everything we can to make it work.”

Part of that game plan was implemented when Sylvan Hills surprisingly took early command in the quarterfinal match against the Lady Devil Dogs. Morrilton entered the tournament as a four seed from the West Conference, but knocked off East champion Nettleton to earn the date with Sylvan Hills.

The Lady Bears scored all three goals in the first half, and Persson focused entirely on defense in the second half.

“My heart said to go out and keep trying to score, but my mind said we need to rest our players,” Persson said. “Harrison and Little Rock Christian were really beating up on each other out there, so I thought our best chance was to be as fresh as possible.”

Sylvan Hills scored less than five minutes into the game when senior Liberty University signee Abby Persson scored on a deception play off a corner kick.

Gracie Persson ran out to the corner kicker with a defender, and feigned calling off the play. The Morrilton defender left her alone and she received the pass. Gracie Persson charged the baseline towards the goal and drew several Morrilton defenders, leaving Abby Persson all alone in front of the goal. She took the pass and scored easily.
“We have worked on that play for two months and it never worked,” Nate Persson said. “We were very pleased with how well it worked today.”

Abby Persson scored the other two goals as well, and scored the game’s lone goal in the first round against White Hall.

This year marked the fourth-straight that Sylvan Hills and White Hall girls have met, and the Lady Bulldogs proved a tougher out this year than in most.

After the early goal, White Hall double and triple teamed Abby Persson and was very physical.

“They had a good game plan,” Nate Persson said. “I give them credit for doing what they felt they needed to do. Abby got a little frustrated with the officiating. They were pretty rough with her. But that’s part of the game. We survived it and went on for another win.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe badgered by Airedalettes

Leader sportswriter

It took eight innings, but Alma found a way to upset Beebe in the first round of the class 5A state softball tournament Friday at Dupree Park in Jacksonville, as the Airedalettes beat the Lady Badgers by the final score of 2-1.

Beebe, the No. 2 East seed, scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning, but Alma knotted up the score at 1-1 with a run in the fourth before setting the final score in the first and only extra inning in the eighth.

It was a clean game throughout, as neither team committed an error in the eight innings played.

Beebe actually outhit Alma 7-5, but the Airedalettes simply made one more play at the plate than the Lady Badgers did, which is what eliminated the higher-seeded Beebe in the end.

“They played really well defensively,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers of Alma, “and we just didn’t get the hits when we needed to get the hits.

“We left a lot of people on base as we popped up quite a few times. It’s tough to keep one run from scoring. Alma played really good defense and we knew their defense would be good, and we just had an off day at the plate.

“We didn’t get hits when we needed them.”

Beebe had its best opportunity to score additional runs in the bottom of the fifth with the score tied at 1-1.

The Lady Badgers had the bases loaded with one out in the inning, but Courtney Shepard, the team’s two-hole hitter, lined out to center field the next at-bat, and three-hole hitter Nikita Howell flew out to left the next at-bat to end the inning.

Beebe had another chance in the bottom of the seventh. Catcher Haley Dinapoli singled to left field to lead off the inning, and pitcher Ellie Reaves advanced MaKenzie Free, Dinapoli’s courtesy runner, to second base with a sacrifice bunt.

Sophomore Aleighu Porterfield singled to center field the next at-bat, and Chambers waved Free home as the ball rolled to Alma center fielder Cierra Rainwater.

As Free rounded third base, Rainwater made a perfect throw to catcher Charley Wilbourn, who was able to apply the tag on Free just before she could safely slide in. That sent the game to extra innings.

With the score tied at 1-1 at the end of seven innings, the international tiebreaker rule was put into effect, which automatically puts the last batter who was out in the previous inning at second base.

That put Rainwater, who popped out the previous inning, at second base, and she advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Alora Perry.

Leadoff hitter Shaylee Sevenstar then came to the plate and drove in Rainwater with an RBI single to left-center field, which put Alma up 2-1.

Courtney Cauldwell started the bottom part of the inning at second base for Beebe, and she advanced to third base on a sac bunt by leadoff hitter Madelyn Poe.

Beebe, though, failed to capitalize as the Lady Badger two- and three-hole hitters flew out to the shallow right side of the diamond to end the game.

Poe scored the first run of the game on a passed ball at the plate after she hit a bunt single to start the bottom of the first inning, which gave the Lady Badgers a 1-0 lead.

Alma, however, tied the game at 1-1 with a two-out, stand-up double to the fence in right field by Alexys Criswell, which allowed teammate Abbye Ostrander to score from third base after she hit a double two batters earlier.

Dinapoli led the Lady Badgers at the plate, going 3 for 3 with three singles. Porterfield, Poe, Shepard and Megan Davlin each had one hit apiece for Beebe (23-5).

Criswell led Alma at the plate. She was 2 for 3 with an RBI.

Alma (12-15), the three seed from the West, will play White Hall in the second round of the 5A state tournament today at 12:30 p.m. at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears take win in first round

Leader sportswriter

In the opening round of the class 5A state softball tournament Friday at Jacksonville’s Dupree Park, Sylvan Hills senior Michelle Sorensen pitched a complete game shutout and scored the game’s only run to lead the Lady Bears to a 1-0 victory over Watson Chapel.

Sorensen was dominant in the circle. She struck out nine Lady Wildcat batters and gave up just four hits and no walks in the seven innings of work.

“I feel really good about how she threw,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mark Anderson. “She came out real focused. She did all the things we needed her to do to keep us in the ball game and to eventually, of course, win the ball game.”

The Lady Bears (20-6) played one of their best games defensively as well, as they committed no errors in the field. Watson Chapel (15-11), on the other hand, committed two errors, one of which put Sorensen in scoring position in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“The defense backed her (Sorensen) up,” Anderson said. “We had some rough moments, but we didn’t fall a part. We came back and made the play to get through it.

“Like any great pitcher or good ballplayer, they have to have other people do something. She did a great job today and I’m proud of her, but I’m proud of our team for the way they handled today. They came out and got the job done.”

The pitching duel between Sorensen and Watson Chapel’s Lexie Downing led to a scoreless first three innings of play, but Sylvan Hills broke through in the bottom of the fourth.

Sorensen started the inning with a slow roller to the pitcher. She beat the throw to first for the infield single, but the throw was out of reach for Lady Wildcat first baseman Jamie Bridges, and Sorensen ran to third base on the errant throw.

Two batters later, Sorensen scored on a one-out single to center field by fellow senior and three-hole hitter Ashley Broadway, which gave the Lady Bears the 1-0 lead. Neither team seriously threatened to score for the remainder of the game.

Three-hole hitter Natalie Johnson popped out to Lady Bears’ catcher Cara Possa to lead off the top of the seventh, and Sorensen struck out cleanup hitter Sydney Crossett the next at-bat before Lauren McFalls hit into a 5-3 groundout to end the game in Sylvan Hills’ favor.

Watson Chapel, the No. 4 seed from the South, actually outhit Sylvan Hills 4-2. Sorensen and Broadway led the Lady Bears, the top seed from the Central, with two singles.

Megan Moore, Downing, Lauren McCullough and Maegan Greer each had one hit to lead the Lady Wildcats’ offense.

The Lady Bears will play Greene County Tech in the second round of the class 5A state playoffs today at 5:30 p.m. at Dupree Park. GCT, the No. 3 East seed, beat Greenbrier, the two seed from the West, 5-2 yesterday morning to advance to the second round.

The winner of today’s game will play in the semifinals of the 5A state softball tournament Monday at 2:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot in second round of 7A state

Leader sportswriter

A two-run blast by Tristan Bulice and a strong performance on the mound by senior southpaw Kason Kimbrell helped Cabot beat Rogers Heritage 4-1 in the first round of the class 7A state baseball tournament Friday at North Little Rock’s Burns Park.

Bulice’s home run put the Panthers on top 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Heritage added a run in the sixth, and threatened to make it a game in the top of the seventh by loading the bases, but Kimbrell struck out two-hole hitter Ty Harris to end the game.

Kimbrell pitched all seven innings, finishing with five strikeouts. He gave up five hits in the game and only walked three, but all three walks came in the last inning.

Despite the signs of fatigue in the final inning of play, Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin stuck with Kimbrell, and even though the last inning got interesting the senior came through when his team needed it the most.

“Going into single elimination, I told our guys anything can happen,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “We’re going to have to get a lot of innings out of pitchers.

“It could’ve been a gamble there, but he’s one of our best competitors. So I’m willing to live and die with that guy on the mound just because of his toughness and mental make up.”

Cabot took a 1-0 lead with an RBI single by three-hole hitter Riley Knudsen in the top of the third. That scored Grayson Cole, who singled to left field earlier in the inning.

The Panthers added another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to center field by Zach Patterson. That scored Coleman McAtee, who singled to left field two batters earlier.

In the fifth, Cabot second baseman Adam Hicks singled to left field, and with two outs, cleanup hitter Bulice hit the two-run bomb over the 340-foot fence in left field, giving the Panthers a 4-0 cushion.

Heritage, the west three seed, added its lone run in the top of the sixth. Harris hit a stand-up double to deep right center before scoring later on a passed ball at the plate.

Kimbrell walked the first batter he faced in the top of the seventh on four-straight pitches, but Brandon Norris flew out to left field the next at-bat for the first out of the inning.

Kimbrell issued another walk the next at-bat, but struck out pinch hitter Jake Kent the following at-bat. Another walk was issued before Harris came to the plate, and Kimbrell got him to chase a breaking ball for strike three, ending the game in Cabot’s favor.

“He has been our hottest hand, so he deserved to start today,” Goodwin said. “Not that others didn’t, but I was willing to let him go. He had one more hitter in him.

“I’m really proud of the way our ballclub competed. It started on the mound, but we put together good quality at-bats. We got leadoff men on base. We kept their leadoff men off base. Our guys just bought in to what we do and it worked out today.”

Cabot outhit Heritage 8-5. Hicks and Bulice led the Panthers with two hits apiece, while teammates Cole, McAtee, Knudsen and Lee Sullivan each had one hit.

The Panthers (16-12), the No. 6 Central seed, play Little Rock Catholic, the No. 2 Central seed, at 2:30 this afternoon at Burns Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils advance to next round

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team blew a three-run lead in the seventh inning, but scored in the bottom half to beat Lakeside 7-6 in the first round of the class 5A state tournament at Dupree Park on Friday.

The Red Devils went into the seventh with a 6-3 lead, but a two-run error by center fielder Courtland McDonald was followed by an RBI base hit to tie the game.

But it was Lakeside who made three huge mental errors that helped Jacksonville rally for the win.

“That’s the kind of thing that happens in the state tournament,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “What you have to do is persevere through it and overcome it. I really felt like if we could get that next guy out, we were going to come back and score.”

Jacksonville didn’t exactly get the next batter, at least not until he was a base runner. After the RBI base hit by Jon Youngblood that tied the game, Jacksonville pitcher James Tucker walked pinch hitter Reece Nickles. But Nickles tried to steal second with Youngblood standing on it, and got picked off by catcher Greg Jones to end the inning. Two fielding mistakes by the Rams helped make the difference in the bottom half.

Ryan Mallison capped his monster day with his second double off the right-field fence to lead things off. Derek St. Clair then put down a perfect bunt to move Mallison to third and reached base safely when no throw came from third baseman Bo Ritter.

St. Clair then alertly noticed no one was covering second base and trotted in to put two runners in scoring position. Relief pitcher Jon Youngblood then got just what he wanted when D.J. Scott hit a grounder to third, but after checking Mallison back to third, Ritter again didn’t attempt to get the runner at first. That loaded the bases with no outs. Deaundray Harris struck out, but McDonald redeemed himself with the game-winning base hit straight over second base.

“Mallison came up huge for us,” Burrows said. “He’s a six-hole hitter who was hitting leadoff for us in that situation, and he just went up there and did what he’d been doing and doubles off the wall.”

St. Clair started on the mound, but had a disastrous outing and faced only six batters. He hit two, walked three and gave up a two-RBI single. Greg Jones caught the leadoff batter stealing, but it was the only out recorded with St. Clair on the mound. After St. Clair hit six-hole hitter Tanner Rice, James Tucker took the mound to strikeout Jon Youngblood and get Tanner Crumpton to fly out to centerfield to stop the bleeding at 2-0.

“Tucker made a big difference coming in and changing the pace for us and getting some outs,” Burrows said. “I don’t really know what went wrong with St. Clair, but Tucker did a great job. Now we get to throw out No. 1 guy on day two. I’ve never been able to do that before.”

Jacksonville got four runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a two-run lead. The rally started with Ryan Mallison singling to right field and St. Clair hitting an infield single on a slow roller to shortstop. Brandon Hickingbotham bunted into a 5-6 fielder’s choice at third base, but the throw was not in time to get Mallison at third. An error at shortstop off the bat of Deaundray Harris that scored Mallison and left the bases loaded.

Blake Perry then drew an RBI walk. Kaleb Reeves hit a hard line drive between first and second that Tanner Crumpton snagged. He got Reeves at first, but Hickingbotham scored from third on the play. Greg Jones then singled to left field to score Harris that ended the scoring in the inning.

The Rams made it 4-3 when Chase Willingham sent the first pitch of the third inning over the wall in right field. Reeves answered in kind with two outs in the fourth when he sent a line drive over the fence in right to make it 5-3.

Lakeside was back in business when a double and two walks loaded the bases in the top of the fifth, but Tucker got Brandon Hall to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

The Red Devils added a run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Clinton McDonald hit a leadoff single, moved to second on an E6, stole third base and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Youngblood.

Mallison led all hitters going 4 for 4 at the plate with two doubles and scored.

McDonald went 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored and an RBI. St. Clair also got two base hits and scored a run.

Tucker threw six and two thirds innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs while walking four and striking out two.

Jacksonville outhit Lake-side 10-7. They will face Vilonia at 5:30 p.m. today in the quarterfinal round. The Eagles beat Batesville 10-0 to open play on Friday. They also own a win over Jacksonville this season, beating the Red Devils 7-2 in the second game of the season in the Red Devil Classic.

Friday, May 16, 2014

EDITORIAL >> What court rulings mean to Arkansas

The Arkansas Supreme Court, which found itself this week with a plate full of constitutional hash and no appetite, made the best it could of a rush of cases from the circuit courts of Pulaski County that had roiled the whole state. In the same-sex marriage and voter-identification suits, the seven justices, all but one of them elected, said, “Just hold on and give us some time to sort these things out and see what the law will permit us to do that might avoid a public scalping.”

Our words, of course, not the justices.

The court stayed the orders of the circuit in three separate lawsuits, two in which the trial judge had invalidated a 2013 act requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification cards and even more steps before casting a vote by absentee and another case in which a trial judge had invalidated all the Arkansas laws banning marriage or civil unions by same-sex couples. The stays mean that the voter-ID law and the same-sex marriage bans passed by the legislature and by the voters will remain in place at least for a few months while the Supreme Court decides whether the trial judges were right.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in all three cases wanted the Supreme Court to let the trial-court orders stand while it reviews the cases and decides whether the judges were correct on the law owing to the likelihood that after that review the Supreme Court will conclude that the trial judges were right and all the laws are unconstitutional.

We think that is exactly what will happen, although in the marriage case that final order may come from the U.S. Supreme Court and not the state Supreme Court. But the justices acted prudently in issuing the stays for the simple expedient of appearances. However clear the law may be, the marriage case especially is monumental in its emotional impact, and the court must give every appearance that the judiciary has given it long and sober reflection before changing what is a deeply, if unjustly, ingrained more—that marriage is a religious as well as legal rite that should offer its joys and protections only to people of the opposite sex. The stay also ends the confusion about whether 71 counties that were not named in the suit were bound by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s order. Once the Supreme Court makes a final ruling, whatever it is, every county will be obliged to follow it.

The justices clearly do not relish the task. Like the trial judges who struck down the marriage and voter laws, the Supreme Court justices (except one temporary appointee) are elected and can be expelled at their next election if what they do is unpopular, either with the voting public or with state lawmakers, who hold the judges’ purse strings. Supreme Court justices already have not been given raises for several years because their decisions have irked legislators, particularly Republicans who now hold a majority. Sen. Jason Rapert, Arkansas’ loudest demagogue, tried to get the Legislative Council on Friday to adopt a resolution telling the court what it must do. House Speaker Davy Carter of Cabot helped block the resolution because he said, quite wisely, that the court must make its decisions independently, based upon the law and not pressures applied by the legislative or executive branches.

Quite clearly the justices have been divided about how to handle the hot potatoes. They first sent the marriage order back to Pulaski County because Judge Piazza had not specifically named one statute prohibiting circuit clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although his sweeping order had made it abundantly clear that all such bans violated the equal-protection clauses of the United States and Arkansas constitutions. Piazza promptly amended his order to identify that little statute as well and to say that people who had long been denied the fundamental right to marry should not be put off any longer. Some 400 couples got licenses in the week that Piazza’s ruling was in effect.

Now the justices have a few months’ respite in which to let public passions subside and also, dare we say it, to collect their wits and perhaps their courage.

Twice in the past 12 years, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled on essentially the same issue, whether widely held religious doctrines, ancient prejudices or community mores can stand in the way of constitutional guarantees that minorities or unpopular groups must be granted the same rights and privileges provided by law as others. The court ruled in 2002 that a state law criminalizing homosexual acts violated the Arkansas Constitution. It held in 2010 that an act prohibiting gay couples from adopting children or being foster parents and approved by a big majority of Arkansas voters also violated equal protections, due process and privacy. That decision was unanimous.

Right at the top, the drafters of our Constitution in 1874 wrote that the first job of Arkansas government was to protect the rights of every person to enjoy life and freedom and to “pursue their own happiness.” Then they wrote that the government could never give privileges and immunities (say, the benefits of marriage) to some classes of citizens but deny them to others.

The U.S. Constitution is not quite so specific, but it, too, more than once says people must be afforded equal protection of the laws. The U. S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by President Reagan’s old California pal and appointee, Anthony Kennedy, applied it last year to people who had gotten married in spite of the popular taboos against it. Now the Arkansas justices must sort through their own and the high court’s precedents and figure out how they can get around them and do the popular thing.

The voter ID matter is simpler and not so politically difficult. Only the leadership of the Republican Party and its legislative majority like the new barriers to voting. Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox, tired of wrestling with the impossible language of the law that confuses both voters and election officials about how to handle absentee ballots, threw the whole law out because he said its photo and absentee-voting demands added new requirements for people to vote beyond those spelled out in the Constitution. The Constitution says flatly that the legislature can’t do that.

While the Supreme Court said Fox was right that the state Board of Election Commissioners had created a policy for counting absentee votes that was illegal, it said he had to have hearings before he could declare the whole law unconstitutional. A separate lawsuit did raise that issue and after another hearing Judge Fox ruled again ruled that the act was unconstitutional. So that issue is also back squarely before the supremes, although they stayed that ruling, too, temporarily. Everyone will need an official photo ID or jump through other hoops if they want to vote next week. By November, probably not.

TOP STORY >> Beauty queen from Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville native will compete for the Miss Plus America title at the national competition July 1-5 in Atlanta.

Mary Gayden, 21, was crowned Miss Plus Arkansas this month.

Her parents, who reached out to neighborhood kids when she was growing up here, inspired the pageant queen’s platform — determined interactive youth (DIY) mentorship.

The state pageant also marked a turning point for Gayden, who had been in and out of the hospital for gall bladder stones and complications that accompanied a surgery to remove them.

The Miss Plus America competition has been held across the country since 2002, but Arkansas has not held a state pageant for at least five years, Gayden explained.

Instead, Krystal Delani signed up every year to represent Arkansas in the national pageant.

But Delani wanted to change that this year because she thought “we have great plus-size women and intelligent plus-size women, and I can’t do it forever,” Gayden said.

So five women competed for the Miss Plus Arkansas title this month, and Gayden was crowned.

Contestants fell into four categories — teens ages 14-17, “Miss” ages 18-29 who aren’t married, “Ms.” ages 29 and older who aren’t married and “Mrs.” ages 20 and older who are married.

Gayden qualified as a “Miss.” She also won Miss Congeniality, the ambassador award for selling the most tickets to the state pageant, a token for her talent portion with spoken-word piece “Make Me a Sapphire” and the director’s award for best overall interview.

Gayden said the spoken-word piece was about how beautiful young girls are tired of being called diamonds. “Nothing is more distinctive than a real sapphire,” she explained.

And the pageant helped Gayden recover her shine.

A couple of years ago, she began having what doctors, at first, called acid-reflux episodes.

It was eventually discovered that Gayden was suffering from gall bladder stones.

Surgery was required and there were complications, like infections and internal perforations.

Gayden said she had to learn the basics all over again, like walking and eating.

There were a few weeks in the hospital during which she couldn’t eat. Gayden said she lost 30 pounds.

“I learned that your body can change on you and youth is wasted on the young. I really figured out what that meant. Because of my age I was able to bounce back from that injury,” she added.

Gayden also lost her independence because loved ones, nurses and doctors were taking care of her.

The beauty queen said, when she finally returned to school at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway to study public relations and African American culture, “I was still uncomfortable with (myself), all those medical things.”

Then she met her “pageant sister,” who encouraged her to enter the state pageant.

“On the day of that pageant, I felt like me again, the person that is springy, the person that is a little take charge but very loving and caring...It was more about feeling that womaness again, feeling to the point where you’re more confident in being a woman,” Gayden explained.

She added that it helped her feel like an independent adult again too.

Gayden was born and raised in Jacksonville, with the exception of her family’s stint in Germany from 1997-2000. She moved there at the age of 5.

Gayden’s father was an airman with a wife and five children.

But, “My parents always found time to incorporate all the kids in the neighborhood,” she said.

The couple hosted large birthday parties, church events and other gatherings.

Her father taught the neighborhood boys how to rebuild bikes that they found in the dumpsters. So every child on her street got bikes for their birthdays because of her dad, Gayden said.

“My family showed us that it’s important to give back to the community,” she continued.

And her mother worked as a paraprofessional teacher at Clinton Elementary School in Sherwood and with preschoolers at Pathfinder in Jacksonville.

Gayden said, “They’ve always done it themselves. They’ve never said ‘OK, this is what you’ve got to do’ and walked away. No, I have to follow you. I have to keep up with you, make sure you’re doing it right.” She’s the same way and that is why mentorship is important, the beauty queen explained.

From her run at the title, Gayden said she wants fans to take away that “out of necessity comes creativity.” She encourages parents to find out what their children are good at and nurture their creative talents.

Gayden’s dream is to open a youth education and extracurricular facility that would combine the practices of Sylvan Learning Center with those of the Boys and Girls Club.

She now works with the nonprofit Choosing to Excel, Griot and Students for the Propagation of Black Culture, which is like an “African American SGA (student government association).”

Choosing to Excel has GEMS (Girls Eagerly Maintaining High Standards) and Men of Character and Quality. It also works with Healthy Homes of Arkansas, which does home visits to make sure young mothers know how to properly take care of their children.

Gayden further explained that griot is a term used to describe an African storyteller.

That group is planning to make presentations at local schools about the details of black historical figures.

And, Gayden said, she was on the executive board of the SGA-like organization for three years.

Gayden graduated from North Pulaski High School, where she was president of the French club, a member of the band, organized a fashion show for prom, received a golden medal for foreign language in 2010 and was also named best student in the fashion class in 2010.

Gayden is seeking sponsorships. Those who are interested in helping her should message her on Facebook by searching for Mary Gayden, e-mail her at or visit

TOP STORY >> High court stays ruling

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas Supreme Court granted a motion from the attorney general’s office to stay a Pulaski County judge’s ruling that overturned the state ban on same-sex marriage and then ordered county clerks to issue such licenses.

Lonoke County had refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses even as Judge Chris Piazza on Thursday clarified his May 9 ruling to include a third Arkansas statute that was not struck down in his earlier ruling.

The statute prohibited county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Piazza’s ruling also requires Arkansas to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally wed in other states.

UALR law professor Joshua Silverstein said the granting of a stay shouldn’t have an impact on couples that have been married since the May 9 ruling.

But a stay will stop others from receiving marriage licenses before the attorney general’s appeal of the ruling is heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court, he noted. Silverstein also said, “The Arkansas Supreme Court ruling will extend to everyone” — not just the counties listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

Unless the case is expedited, the high court’s decision to uphold or reverse Piazza’s ruling will probably come late this year or early next year, Silverstein said.

If the ruling is reversed, language in the law makes it unclear whether the marriages of those who wed in the interim will be nullified, he continued. There is language supporting both that outcome and those marriages remaining valid even if the decision is reversed, Silverstein told The Leader.

He also said counties listed in the lawsuit, such as Lonoke, White and Pulaski, were required to issue the licenses after Judge Piazza’s ruling was finalized Thursday afternoon.

Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke disagreed. He told the quorum court Thursday night, “I chose, Lonoke County being one of the counties that’s in the lawsuit, that we will continue as current law stands and that is that we will not issue same-sex marriage licenses.

“In my opinion, it would be premature to start issuing these marriage certificates with this (stay and appeal) process taking place. We will do this until further notice, or we come to some conclusion in the courts. Right now, it’s too ambiguous and there’s too much uncertainty in the laws.”

One justice of the peace asked if Clarke had received advice from the county’s attorney but was told that attorney is at an out-of-town trial.

Clarke said he thought issuing licenses Thursday and Friday before the stay and stopping later would put the county in a “worse position” than maintaining the status quo.

He was also asked why Lonoke County was listed in the lawsuit. Clarke said that happened after a same-sex couple came to his office, requested and were denied a marriage license last spring.

White County Clerk Cheryl Evans said around 2:30 p.m. Friday that her office would issue licenses when their system was updated. The update was being worked on when The Leader spoke with her then, according to Evans.

The office was closed when The Leader called at 4:40 p.m. Friday — 10 minutes after the stay was enacted — to ask if any licenses had been issued.

Pulaski County resumed issuing licenses after halting briefly when the Arkansas Supreme Court made it clear on Wednesday that Piazza needed to clarify the order.

On Friday morning, a resolution drafted by state Sen. Jason Rapert (R- Conway) failed. The resolution expressed support for impeaching Piazza and asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to reverse his ruling.

Tyler Pearson, who is running against Rapert for the seat, sent a news release to The Leader stating Rapert claimed that 97 percent of Americans are against gay marriage.

“That is blatantly false. Recent polling shows a majority of Americans approve of gay marriage,” according to the release.

Pearson also said in the release that House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) agreed that the effort to impeach the judge was a “dangerous” precedent by “completely ignoring” the separation of powers.

But many of the lawmakers and candidates The Leader called earlier in the week sided with Rapert on being against gay marriage.

Buddy Fisher, who is running for Walls McCrary’s (D-Lonoke) Dist. 14 seat in the state House of Representatives in Lonoke County, is one of the opponents.

He said, “I believe that God is the one who instituted marriage, and therefore it is God who defines it. God instituted marriage as a man and a woman, and it is not up to man to redefine what God has defined and instituted.”

Silverstein explained why the stay was likely granted. “You don’t want people to get used to living under a new rule when that new rule could be overturned,” he said.

Whichever side loses in the Arkansas Supreme Court will have the right to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the law professor.

But that doesn’t mean the federal court will hear an appeal because justices have discretion there, Silverstein added.

He said the state Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s first appeal for being “premature” and denied his first motion to stay because Piazza’s ruling was “incomplete.”

A few local same-sex couples weighed in on Piazza’s clarification and questioned what comes next before the stay was issued.

Elizabeth Johnson of Cabot said, “We’re not surprised, but we’re extremely happy.”

She and her partner, LaRisa, were married in Iowa in 2009. They’ve been together for 14 years.

The couple returned to Arkansas and realized the marriage wasn’t recognized here.

Johnson said that meant the two of them couldn’t share a health-insurance policy or receive Social Security benefits if a spouse dies and leaves the family in a financial lurch. And her partner can’t do things like take their 12-year-old daughter to the doctor.

Johnson is the biological mother of their child.

“The ruling for us gives us what our neighbors have,” she said. “There are countless things that change our daily lives.”

What it gives them is peace of mind in knowing that, if Johnson died, LaRisa could raise their daughter, Johnson explained.

She said marriage is now a governmental function, something that gives rights and protection worth thousands of dollars. “There’s a lot of money to be had in equality,” Johnson argued, noting that more than 400 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued in Arkansas since the May 9 ruling was issued. Those cost $60 each, she pointed out.

Johnson also disagreed with the religious argument that marriage is between a man and a woman because, to get married today, “You don’t even have to touch a church.”

She continued, “I have to obey the law so the law should treat me equally.”

Johnson added, “We’re not trying to hurt anything.”

But she and LaRisa have been hurt emotionally.

Johnson shared that they have been cursed at in public and a stranger even approached them in Taco Bell one time to say their daughter would be better off dead than being raised by the two of them.

“People can be really ugly,” Johnson said.

She added that her question now is, if she travels to a county that is not listed in the lawsuit, will her marriage still be recognized.

Silverstein said he didn’t know the answer to that question.

Another couple with local roots was the first in the state to wed May 10, the day after Piazza issued his first order.

Former Jacksonville High School cheerleader Jennifer Rambo and Kristin Seaton received a marriage license at the Carroll County Courthouse in Eureka Springs. They live in Fort Smith.

Rambo, who also played softball at Jacksonville High School, was pleased that Piazza immediately clarified his ruling when the Arkansas Supreme Court made it clear that was what he needed to do.

She was also glad that his order had a provision stating clerks who issued licenses before the ruling was finalized would not be penalized.

Rambo said, “The clerk who helped me and Kristin as well as all the other same-sex couples in Carroll County last weekend, she was extremely nice.”

Rambo and Seaton have been together for four years and were planning to hold a wedding ceremony in October. Seaton proposed to Rambo in March.

They didn’t consider marrying in another state because both women wanted to tie the knot in their home state.

When the couple heard about the ruling, “It was like a million bricks were lifted off my shoulders,” Seaton said.

The two arrived in Eureka Springs around 2 a.m. last Saturday and slept in their car until 5:30 a.m.

At 9 a.m., “it became an emotional roller coaster,” Rambo said.

The same-sex couples in line first learned that one clerk would not issue licenses. They were also told that the courthouse would close its doors. But that didn’t happen.

Then, Rambo said, the couples were told to move so that “normal” customers could enter the courthouse.

She said, “Everybody had sad tears and heartbroken tears. I was like ‘are we not normal? who are we? what are we?”’

Then a different clerk agreed to issue the licenses.

Others who were waiting allowed Rambo and Seaton to return to the front of the line. The two had left it to sit in their car during the confusion.

Rambo said, “It melted both of our hearts. We couldn’t believe it.”

When they received the license, she said, “It was the best feeling. So many emotions that I don’t think words can even express.”

The clerk who handed them the license also had tears of joy in her eyes, Rambo added.

She said the marriage license is a huge deal for the two of them because they plan to start a family and both moms want to be on their children’s birth certificates.

“Each and every one of us deserve that legal right to be able to not have to sit there and fight for our families to be taken care of,” Rambo said.

She pointed out that several couples who were in line at the courthouse with them have been together for 50 years or more.

Those couples, Rambo said, were happy to know that when one of them passes away the other would receive Social Security benefits and life insurance money that would help surviving partners support themselves financially.

Seaton also said, despite the outcry in support of the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, “I think a lot more people in Arkansas are opening their minds and hearts.”

Rambo added that people all over the world have congratulated them on the marriage.

She hopes that being the face of this controversy in Arkansas may encourage those who are struggling with coming out or fighting for equal rights.

Rambo also quoted a Bible verse, Romans 13:10. She said she and Seaton live by it.

The verse reads, “Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,” Rambo said.

TOP STORY >> Primary voting on Tuesday

Leader senior staff writer

In Tuesday’s statewide races, Lynette (Doc) Bryant will face Mike Ross in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, while Curtis Coleman and Asa Hutchinson compete for the Republican nomination.

Most pundits expect Ross to face Hutchinson in November to succeed Gov. Mike Beebe.

Three Republicans are competing to run against Democrat John Burkhalter for lieutenant governor in November. Second Dist. Congressman Tim Griffin faces state representatives Debra Hobbs and Andy Mayberry in that primary.

For state attorney general, Republicans Patricia Nation, Leslie Rutledge and David Sterling are competing in the primary. The winner faces state Rep. Nate Steel, a Democrat.

For state treasurer, to replace disgraced Martha Schoffner, convicted on 14 counts of bribery, state Rep. Duncan Baird and Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan, both Republicans, square off with the winner to face Karen Sealy Garcia, a Democrat, in November.

Rep. Andrea Lea faces Ken Yang, seeking the Republican nomination for state auditor. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Regina Steward Hampton.

With Griffin giving up his Second District Congressional District seat, three Republicans are seeking the nomination to face Democrat Patrick Henry Hayes, former North Little Rock mayor, in November. They are Col. Conrad Reynolds, French Hill and state Rep. Ann Clemmer.


Lonoke County voters will have plenty of decisions to make in the Tuesday primary.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley faces former Sheriff Jim Roberson and former Deputy Steve Finch on Tuesday in a winner-takes-all Republican primary. Whoever wins that race — or the runoff if necessary — faces no challenger in November.

Any primary runoff elections this year will be held June 10, according to the secretary of state’s election calendar.

Cabot Republicans are also assured of holding onto the House Dist. 43 seat currently occupied by House Speaker Davy Carter. Darlene Byrd, a nurse practitioner, and Tim Lemons, an engineer and member of the Lonoke County Quorum Court, seek to replace Carter, who can’t run again because of term limits.

Carter was perhaps chief architect of Arkansas private option Medicaid expansion, but both Byrd and Lemons said they would not have voted for it. No Democrat filed to run for that seat.

More than 200,000 working poor Arkansans are now covered by the private option or the Affordable Care Act, and hospitals, both locally and nationally, have said they are serving more paying customers and fewer nonpaying ones since Medicaid expansion went into effect on Jan. 1.

It’s unclear what would happen if the new General Assembly refuses to continue the health coverage.

Republicans Trent Eilts and Buddy Fisher are seeking the Dist. 14 House seat currently held by state Rep. Walls McCrary.

McCrary can’t run again because of term limits. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Camille Bennett, the Lonoke city attorney, in November.

Neither is there any Democratic challenger for the winner of the three-person Republican primary in the race for Lonoke County assessor.

Incumbent Jack McNally has been accused by a former assessor’s office employee of being abusive, violating her health privacy rights and of keeping money he collected for the Wounded Warrior Project. McNally is challenged by former Cabot Public Works director Jerrel Maxwell and Marsha Beck, who has worked in the land title business for three decades.

In other Lonoke County primaries, Coroner Mark Thomas, the incumbent, is challenged by Linda Meadows in the primary, with no challenger in November.

Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke is challenged by former county clerk Dawn Porterfield in the Republican primary. Porterfield was a Democrat when she held office.

Circuit Clerk Deborah Oglesby is challenged by former circuit clerk Denise Brown in the Republican primary. The winner has no opponent in November.

In the Lonoke County Republican primary, Adam Justice of Lonoke and Gregg Kidd, both of Cabot, seek the JP Dist. 5 seat being vacated by Lemons, and Lee Linville of Austin, the incumbent, faces Jerry Cole of Cabot for the JP Dist. 6 seat. There is no Democratic challenger for the winner of either of those races.

In the JP Dist. 8, however, Democrat John D. Hudspeth Sr. will face the winner of the Republican primary race between Bryson Harpole and Tate House.

Bill Ryker, the JP Dist. 10 incumbent, is challenged by Robert I. Depriest III in the Democratic Primary and in JP Dist. 12, incumbent Justice of the Peace Matt Sanders is challenged by Patricia Ann Knox in the Republican primary.

The winner of those two primaries won’t face a challenger in November.

In the rare partisan city council race, incumbent Jane Derning is challenged by fellow Democrat Fred Ibbotson for the Lonoke City Alderman 1 seat, and Democrat incumbent Efrem Z. Jones is challenged by Phillip M. Ford.

The winner of those two races won’t face opposition in November.

Two constable races in Lonoke County will also be settled May 20 with Election Day being an uncontested formality.

Carlisle Township Constable Ronnie Thrift is being challenged by fellow Republican Greg Renner. Butler Township Constable John Huett Sr. is being challenged by Roger Williams, Jody Webb and Justin McCallister. All are Republicans from Ward.

In the Lonoke Township constable election, incumbent George C. Baily, a Democrat, will face a November challenge from the winner of the Republican primary race between Adam Ingle, Dean White and Steve Morgan.


For the House Dist. 41 seat held by Democrat Jim Nickels, Alan L. Pogue and Karilyn Brown face off in the Republican primary. Nickels is term limited, but the winner of the primary will face Democrat Danny Knight in November.

This is the only primary contest this year specific to north Pulaski County.

In White County, Circuit Clerk Tami King (R-Pangburn) is facing Karen Gossett, a Republican from Searcy.

The winner will be unchallenged on Election Day in November.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Snub wasn’t Pryor’s fault

Don’t blame Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) for snubbing Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher during President Obama’s visit last week to Little Rock Air Force Base as he toured the tornado damage in Vilonia.

Mayor Fletcher was not invited to the air base, but Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola did wrangle an invitation because somebody at the White House thought LRAFB was in Little Rock. Stodola went along for the free publicity, even if the air base is across the river from Little Rock and his city wasn’t even touched by the tornado.

A Pryor spokesman said Tuesday the senator’s office had nothing to do with the invitation list. All Pryor did was ask the President to visit Arkansas and help with disaster relief in Faulkner, Pulaski, White and Independence counties, where the tornado touched down April 27. The spokesman said his boss was focused on helping storm victims and the White House made the invitations.

Maybe it’s time again to consider renaming Little Rock Air Force Base so presidents and others stop thinking it’s in Little Rock. It’s an easy mistake to make, but, as everyone knows except the White House, the base is in Jacksonville and has been here for a long time.

Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, Pope Air Field in North Carolina and several others are named for officers and airmen, while others are named for prominent local politicians and residents. To avoid confusion in the future and honor someone who was there at its creation, our air base should bear the name of a famous local resident who helped bring the base here 60 years ago.

Kenneth Pat Wilson, who led the campaign to donate land for the air base, including his family’s farm, is worthy of consideration for such an honor. The President and all local mayors would be welcome at the rededication.

EDITORIAL >> Fast changes in Arkansas

Who would have thought our quiet little state would suddenly take the lead when it comes to some of the key issues facing the nation.

Same-sex couples are getting married in courthouses around the state after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling last week allowing gays and lesbians to wed.

Arkansas is also one of the first states to adopt the expansion of Medicaid through private-option plans, which will provide hundreds of thousands of people with health insurance. All of it is paid through the federal Medicaid program and managed through insurance exchanges, but even when the state pays 10 percent of the cost a few years from now, it’s still a great bargain for a poor state like Arkansas.

The third issue putting Arkansas in the forefront is the voter ID controversy, which is heading to the state Supreme Court after Judge Tim Fox invalidated the requirement for photo identification. No one knows if the high court will uphold the lower court’s ruling, but federal courts around the country are striking down the photo requirement. Again, Arkansas could lead the way on this key issue at least in the South.

As for same-sex weddings, who would have expected just a few months ago that the Little Rock newspaper would feature on its front page Jennifer Rambo and Kristin Seaton kissing after they were married in the Eureka Springs Courthouse?

The judge’s decision last Friday — the first in the South — may have surprised a lot of people, but Rambo, a former Jacksonville High School softball player and cheerleader, and Seaton married the next day. Dozens of others followed in Pulaski County and elsewhere.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has asked the state Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriages until arguments are made by both sides.

Lonoke and White counties have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the state Supreme Court decides on Piazza’s ruling. Cabot has a significant gay and lesbian community who can make the short trip to the Pulaski County courthouse if they want to marry before such marriages are halted. An appeal to a federal court might allow those marriages to proceed even before the high court acts.

Something tells us same-sex marriage will continue in Arkansas, and we’ll see more photos of gays and lesbians embracing on the front page of the state newspaper.

The state’s political landscape may be shifting with the recent judicial rulings that will ensure fairness for all Arkansans.

TOP STORY >> Roundtop’s revival taking shape

Leader staff writer

Construction has started for phase one of the $164,000 effort to restore the historic Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood.

Phase one of the two-phase project includes stabilizing the old gas station at Trammel and Roundtop roads, replacing the roof and work on the slab as well as the plumbing.

That is according to Darrell Brown, chairman of the city’s History and Heritage Committee and the driving force behind the project.

Phase two, which is mostly renovating the interior of the 360-square-foot building off Hwy. 161, will start in August if Sherwood is awarded a second $50,000 matching grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Phase one is being covered by the first $50,000 grant the city received through the program. Sherwood’s match — private donations, a $12,500 chamber of commerce contribution and city funds — was $25,000, and the same amount will be needed for the second grant.

Sherwood will know early next month whether it received the second grant, Brown said.

He added that top program officials have told him “they are committed to seeing this project through.”

Brown said, “I feel that was a very good sign.”

The entire project could be wrapped up by late fall, he continued.

PDC Construction of North Little Rock put in the winning bid for the first phase of the restoration project.

The chairman said his father might donate some Grapette Soda memorabilia because several elderly residents have said the Roundtop used to sell the “coldest around.”

And Sinclair Oil has agreed to donate some d├ęcor too, Brown said.

The old pump stations will not be replaced for fear of vandalism, he explained, but there may be one placed inside the structure.

Many passing motorists have stopped to ask the construction crew about the work, Brown said. He left information on its history for the crew to give people who stop by.

Also, the Roundtop will be used as a police substation because one of the grant requirements is that it must have a designated purpose.

One of the police officers who will be using the facility has suggested painting a mural on the wall of the main room that mimics the inside of a 1930s gas station, Brown said.

The Roundtop, built in 1936, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Last year, it was named one of the top 10 most endangered historic places in the state by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.

And the surrounding community has come together to make sure the beloved landmark gets off that list.

Fraley Roofing in North Little Rock is donating labor for the roof.

Arkansas Airflow in Sherwood is donating the HVAC system and the labor to install it.

W.D. “Happy” Williford operated the Roundtop for 36 years, from 1936 until 1972. Williford passed away in March at the age of 95.

Real estate tycoon Justin Matthews built the station for the Pierce Oil Company after the federal government broke up the Standard Oil Company in 1911.

The landmark later became a Phillips 66, a Sinclair gas station and a DX station. It had three pumps.

Williford bought the Roundtop in 1957 and sold it in 1999 to George Brown. Darrell Brown and George Brown are not related.

When George Brown passed away, his heirs gave the building to Sherwood.

Roundtop Road was once Hwy. 67, the main thoroughfare from Bald Knob and Searcy to Little Rock and North Little Rock. People from St. Louis also drove it.

The station was the only place that had public bathrooms between Searcy and Little Rock.

Two former governors campaigned there. Celebrities, like Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash, visited the station. Brown said he wants their pictures to hang on the Roundtop’s walls.

The station was featured in “The Last Ride,” a 2010 film about Hank Williams Sr. that was directed by Arkansas native Harry Thomasson. Brown also said he hopes some movie posters may be put up inside the building once it’s finished.

Donations for the restoration project are still being accepted and are tax deductible.

Donations can be sent to “Save the Roundtop Campaign” c/o Sherwood City Clerk’s Office, P.O. Box 6256, Sherwood, Ark., 72124
Please write ‘Roundtop’ in the memo line of any checks.

Also, bricks that will displayed at the station once restoration work is completed are being sold for a donation of $100 or more.

For more information, visit “The Historic Roundtop Filling Station, Sherwood, Arkansas” Facebook page or

TOP STORY >> County clerk is arrested for cyberbullying

Leader senior staff writer

A special Ward District Court judge Monday charged Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke with a single misdemeanor count of cyberbullying in connection with remarks he allegedly made on the Concerned Lonoke County Citizens Facebook page administered by a Cabot-area woman.

Sherwood District Court Judge Butch Hale, appointed special judge for the case, charged Clarke with making derogatory comments on that page about its administrator, Christina James, and set a June 10 trial date.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley called Clarke to tell him of the warrant for his arrest. Clarke turned himself in and was released.

James has alleged that Clarke logged onto the Concerned Citizens page, called her “an ugly little troll,” suggested she needed some makeup and said, “I’m probably not the guy you want to (expletive) with.”

Clarke said that, although he and James had an antagonistic professional relationship, he did not post those comments. He suggested that someone cloned or “catfished” his Facebook page.

“Ask the sheriff,” James said. “I’m sure they can figure it out.”

James has called for Clarke’s resignation, saying she didn’t believe he was hacked, but that he wrote the offensive posts.

Clarke charged that James brought the issue to court Monday to discredit him right before his May 20 re-election primary bid.

She said, “I haven’t done anything to him. He’s done it to himself.”

Clarke is running for re-election against former county clerk Dawn Porterfield. Porterfield has changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and is challenging Clarke for the post.

The winner does not have a Democratic opponent in the November General Election.

Clarke said on Tuesday that James has flooded his office since at least February with Freedom of Information requests about county business.

She said, “I’ve been in title and public records for 20 years.” James said she knows what she’s looking for and how to find it.

She said Clarke and others have loomed over her in the office and that he snatched a public record book out of her hand and ejected her from the vault where it is stored.

Clarke called James “a nutcase with a keyboard.”

James laughed at that accusation. “He needs to prove that one,” she said.

He said, “It’s all malarkey and baloney.”

James said, “Bullying has been rampant for decades.” She started her Facebook page and campaign to fight back.

Clarke said she ratcheted up the harassment of him, his office and other county officials while preparing for her $2.8 million lawsuit against the county over a road she alleges was improperly built by former County Judge Charlie Troutman and which she said caused flooding on her property.

“In my opinion, she attempted to harass me to get (current County Judge Doug Erwin) to settle,” Clarke said.

“The woman lost a…lawsuit against the county and she started harassing me in spite,” Clarke said. “She inundated me with e-mails asking for baloney, and she got what she wanted.”

Clarke said the judge issued a no-contact order on him, which he characterized as interesting because James comes so often to his public place of business.

Another Lonoke County official in possible trouble is Assessor Jack McNally, who is accused of collecting money for the Wounded Warrior Project but not turning the money over to the group.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said he believed that issue would be resolved during the routine Legislative Audit Bureau review of McNally’s office.

McNally has two Republican challengers in the primary on Tuesday.

TOP STORY >> Minister officiates same-sex Nuptials

Leader staff writer

Local legislators, candidates and a Sherwood pastor weighed in on same-sex marriages Tuesday following a Pulaski County judge’s ruling that the state ban on them was unconstitutional.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has filed that appeal plus a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court for a stay. The court’s decision on the motion to stay could be handed down this week.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said via e-mail, “I believe that Friday’s decision overturning the will of 75 percent of Arkansans is wrongly decided and will be overturned on appeal.”

Randy McCain, the pastor of Open Doors Community Church, and his husband are one of the couples who petitioned Judge Chris Piazza’s court to rule on the constitutionality of the ban.

McCain and Gary Eddy have been together for 22 years and were married in New York City’s Central Park in 2012.

They soon realized the marriage that was recognized by the federal government was not recognized by Arkansas. That led the two men to become a party in the lawsuit.

Since Friday’s ruling, McCain has wed between 70 and 80 same-sex couples.

He said, “I am overjoyed that we’ve gotten this far.”

The pastor described the recent weddings as sights to behold. “They just burst into tears…There was so much love in that courthouse rotunda,” McCain said. “I could hear the angels singing and thought this must be what heaven is like…Rejection feels like evil and acceptance feels like God.”

He was proud that Arkansas is now the first Bible Belt state to allow same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s important because a lot of people say gay people are asking for special rights, but we’re only asking for the same rights my parents had for 54 years,” McCain continued.

“How are we hurting society?” he asked, adding society is made stronger by people committing to one another.

McCain said those rights include same-sex partners being able to file joint tax returns to receive larger refunds, to own houses they lived in after their loved one passes away and to see their critically-ill partners in the hospital.

The pastor also pointed out that Arkansas officials probably argued that the state shouldn’t become segregated because it wasn’t what the majority of its people wanted.

But the U.S. Constitution won out with its assertion that everyone is equal, McCain said.

State Rep. Patti Julian (D-North Little Rock), said, “Legally, it’s probably correct and I certainly understand the reasoning of the opinion. I know that it certainly flies in the face of what voting Arkansans wanted and I understand why they’re unhappy.”

What she couldn’t understand was at least one senator and one representative pushing to impeach the judge.

Julian said House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) called that “a slippery, slippery slope” away from the separation of powers system.

But, she added, the circuit court should have issued a stay of the ruling “that puts the counties in a very difficult decision” by being unclear as to what is required of them.

State Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) said he is against same-sex marriage for biblical and secular reasons, but he didn’t want to repeat the religious argument against it.

As for the secular argument, House said, “The family is a centuries-old institution and the family exists for the purpose of propagating the species.”

He said marriage evolved to protect family by making men responsible for their children, not allowing them to sell property without their wife’s permission, prohibiting spousal abuse and permitting an at-home spouse to draw social security. Divorce laws also play into the role of marriage today, he said.

All of that helps offset the physiological disadvantages of women who bear children, House concluded.

He said the government has been chosen to protect the institution of marriage.

But, the House added, he is not against same-sex civil unions made for financial and other reasons.

“I could care less what two people contract to do,” House said.

Pastor McCain rebutted the representative’s point of view. “I don’t think that argument holds water,” he said.

The pastor argued that there are many heterosexual couples allowed to marry that cannot have children, including those who wed beyond their childbearing years.

McCain also told The Leader he has homosexual friends who have children, including two men who used a surrogate to have twins. One child was biologically connected to one of the fathers and the second was biologically connected to the other father.

McCain said he believes the difference in marriages and civil unions are that marriage is a religious institution.

The pastor said he would agree with the government giving heterosexual and homosexual couples civil unions while churches would be allowed to perform marriages.

The rights would be attached to the civil unions, McCain explained.

State Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) agreed with Griffin. He said he tries to not get into the religious aspects, but his problem is with one judge changing a law 75 percent of voters approved.

“One man shouldn’t be able to change that,” Farrer said.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) concurred. He said, “I guess disappointed is the right word.”

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Karilyn Brown, who is running for the Dist. 41 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “I personally believe that Judge Piazza has made a very inappropriate decision. He’s disregarded the will of the people of Arkansas…I support traditional marriage.”

She argued that marriage has been between a man and woman since “the beginning of time” and that is what works best for society, the economy and children.

Lonoke County Justice of the Peace Tim Lemons, who is running for the Dist. 43 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “Personally, I am against same-sex marriages. But what is as equally troubling to me is that a local county circuit judge has the power to overturn a portion of the state constitution that was approved by 75 percent of the voters. The judge’s actions on this issue have demonstrated that our state constitution can be altered by a select few, which is most troubling.”

Alan Pogue, (R-Sherwood)who is seeking the Dist. 41 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “Their lifestyle choice is their lifestyle choice. I’m really disappointed that one judge can overturn the rule of 75 percent of the voters.”

He said he didn’t understand how an amendment to the constitution could be ruled unconstitutional.

Pogue added, “I don’t think it’s about whether gays have the right to marry.” He argued that Piazza’s ruling is about the judiciary disregarding democratic principles.

Trent Eilts, (R-Lonoke County), running for the Dist. 14 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “I adamantly disagree with (Piazza).”

Eilts supports impeaching the judge, especially since Piazza didn’t stay the decision until the Arkansas Supreme Court weighs in on it.

“What he did looks more political in nature than legal,” Eilts said.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison defeat Magnet Cove for state bid

Special to The Leader

PALESTINE – Magnet Cove’s Conner Wells threw seven innings of no-hit ball and struck out 16 Carlisle hitters, but four walks and two errors left him the losing pitcher in Friday’s first-round game at the Class AA East Regional Tournament played at Palestine City Park.

Carlisle’s Josh Mathis was nearly as effective, allowing two hits while striking out 10 and took the win as the Bison won 2-0, eliminating the top-seeded Magnet Cove team.

Carlisle’s Chance Richards led off the third inning with a walk and came around to score on a sacrifice fly. The Bison added an insurance run in top of the seventh when Jaden Daniels walked and scored on a wild pitch.

In Saturday’s semifinals, Carlisle ran into another pitcher on a hot streak in PWHS’s Jacob Jumper, who threw seven shutout innings in the Pats’ 7-0 win over the Bison.

The victory sent the Patriots into the championship game and Carlisle into the consolation game on Monday against Poyen, who rallied to take a 5-4 win after the Bison led 4-1 for much of the game.

Conference foes in the 6AA, P-W swept the conference series winning 13-3 and 4-2.

Palestine-Wheatley scored in the first inning when Corbitt Cooper’s sacrifice to left field plated Delan Parkman.

The Patriots blew the game open with a six-run third inning, highlighted by Jumper’s single before Hunter Parson’s two-run double.

Jumper held Carlisle to three hits and two walks with four strikeouts, while P-W got seven runs on five hits. Nicholas Schafer, Dylan Brazeal and Jacob Cagle had the only three Carlisle hits.

Jacob Gordon took the pitching loss, giving up all seven P-W runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

Carlisle heads into the Class AA state tournament as the No. 4 seeded team from the East and will play a first-round game on Thursday at 3 p.m. at Taylor Field in Pine Bluff. Poyen, the No. 3 seed, will play Thursday at 5:30 p.m., while Palestine-Wheatley, the No. 1 seed, takes the field Thursday at 10 a.m., and Abundant Life plays at 12:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Rockets roll them up on Jacksonville

Special to The Leader

The Jacksonville Red Devil baseball team fell to the Catholic High Rockets 7-1 Monday afternoon in the final regular-season game before for the 5A state tournament.

Jacksonville (22-5) could not get going offensively, falling prey to three Catholic (20-7) double plays in losing to the Rockets.

“That one’s over,” said Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows. “Looking forward to Thursday. That’s what we’re going to focus on – the state tournament.”

Jacksonville is the No. 2 seed from the 5A-Central and will face 5A-South three seed Hot Springs Lakeside in the first round of state at Dupree Park. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Red Devils went quietly in the first as they hit in the visitor half of the inning. Leadoff batter Courtland McDonald ground out to the first baseman, Brandon Hickingbotham to the second baseman, and Kaleb Reeves struck out.

In the home half of the inning, the Rockets picked up two runs to take the 2-0 lead. Leadoff Zach Pinter legged out an infield hit, and Zach Sokora walked. After a strikeout by Red Devil pitcher James Tucker, Joseph Myers doubled to right center, scoring Pinter.

Tucker got another strikeout for out two, but then hit two consecutive batters, the last with the bases loaded to force in a run. Jonathan Lanehart then grounded out to first baseman Hickingbotham to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

In the top of the second, Jacksonville’s Greg Jones reached base to lead off the inning, but Tucker hit into a double play. Ryan Mallison grounded out to first, and the Red Devils went quickly again.

Catholic added a run in its half of the frame. Tucker had recorded his third strikeout, and then Pinter singled to left. Tucker left the mound to play first base, and Hickingbotham took over the pitching duties. After a sacrifice bunt moved Pinter to second, he scored on a double off the center field fence by William Hancock for a 3-0 Rocket advantage.

Pinter took over as pitcher for Catholic, and Derek St. Clair greeted him with a single up the middle. Another double play cleared the bases, but senior Deaundray Harris followed with a double to the center field fence. He was left stranded, though, as McDonald struck out.

The lead became 4-0 in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run by Harper Vondran.

Another new Rocket pitcher, Christian Goshen issued back-to-back walks to Jacksonville batters in the fourth inning, but the third double play by the Catholic High defense erased the damage.

In the bottom of the frame, the Rockets added two additional runs on three hits, and then pinch hitter Lance Harville-Thomas hit the ball over the fence in center in the home half of the fifth for a 7-0 lead.

Jacksonville had only single hits in the fifth and sixth by seniors Blake Perry and Kaleb Reeves.

In the seventh, LaDarrious Perry came in to lead off and try to get something going for Jacksonville. He was hit by a pitch and was followed by a single by Mallison. After a line-drive out by St. Clair, Blake Perry hit the gap in right-center, but was thrown out going for second. LaDarrious Perry scored and Mallison moved to third, but that was all the Red Devils could do as Harris struck out to end the game with a final score of 7-1.

St. Clair had gone to the mound to pitch in the fifth for Jacksonville and struck out three batters in one and two-thirds innings, and Brandon Hawkins finished the game for the Red Devils.

Blake Perry was 2 for 3 in the game to lead Jacksonville in hits.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther girls get past SH in finale

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot girls’ soccer team ended the conference season on a high note with a 2-1 win over North Little Rock on Friday to earn a share of the 7A/6A-East Conference championship for the second year in a row. On Monday, Cabot beat Sylvan Hills 3-1 in a nonconference game at Panther Stadium to close the regular season.

Cabot junior Melody Sampson scored the first goal of Monday’s game to give the Lady Panthers a 1-0 lead, but Sylvan Hills’ leading scorer, Abigail Persson, knotted up the score at 1-1 on a goal shortly after.

The Lady Panthers, though, took a 2-1 lead into halftime on a free kick from about 20 yards out by Braxton Reed with 9:20 left in the opening half.

Sylvan Hills had a handful of chances to score in the second half, but could never get a clean look at the net, and the Lady Panthers gave themselves a two-goal cushion on a goal from 25 yards away by Sampson at the 27:50 mark of the second half, setting the final score.

Cabot managed to maintain possession through most of the game, and with the first round of the state tournament starting tomorrow; Cabot coach Kerry Castillo was pleased with the way his team played against the Lady Bears, who will enter the class 5A state tournament as the No. 3 seed from the central conference.

“I was really pleased with the way we played,” said Castillo. “Even more so than the way we played against North Little Rock. We possessed the ball so much better. The only thing we couldn’t quite do was put it in the back of the net.

“It wasn’t from a lack of chances. I thought their keeper (Courtney Boutte) played really well. I thought the formation we played in is what we want to do in the first round of the playoffs. We seemed really comfortable in it. So I couldn’t be more pleased.”

The Lady Bears may have lost Monday’s game, but to Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson, it was a great way to prepare for some of the stellar competition that’ll await them if they can get past the first round of the 5A playoffs, which he fully expects his team to do.

“They’re a real solid 7A team,” said Nate Persson. “I love it because we pretended they’re Harrison (the No. 1 seed from the West). For the first time ever in Sylvan Hills’ history, we have a real good chance of getting past the second round – actually a very good chance of doing it. We’ve never had a real good chance because of the way the seeds worked out.

“Our third game, if we make it there, which we’re fully confident that we are, will be against the winner of Little Rock Christian and Harrison. We will never beat them if we play conventional soccer. We’re playing a hybrid (style). It’s not packing the box like Shiloh Christian does Harrison, and it didn’t work this year.

“It’s pushing them out and actually making them shoot from way out. So it opens the field up. We’re not concerned about making offensive runs. We want to catch them with the right reserves in there. The reason we played this game had nothing to do with the score. It had everything to do with practice for that third game.”

Like Persson, Castillo is pleased with the draw his team got in the state tournament and believes his team can make a serious run in it this week as well.

“I like the path in front of us,” Castillo said, “as far as potential games we could have to make the final. I think it’s very doable – difficult, but not quite as difficult as having to play Bryant again. We get to stay away from them the way the seedings fell. So I like our chances, especially after today.”

The Lady Panthers (15-4-2, 6-1), the Central No. 3 seed, will play Rogers Heritage, the No. 6 West seed, at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Bentonville High School in the first round of the 7A state tournament.

The Lady Bears (14-6, 8-4) will play the South No. 2 seed White Hall tomorrow morning at 10 in the opening round of the 5A state tournament at the Harrison High School Field.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot shuts out Lakeside

Leader sports editor

Senior outfielder Coleman McAtee showed out on Senior Night at Conrade Field in Cabot on Monday. The outfielder hit two towering solo home runs over the wall in left field to lead the Panthers to a 7-0 victory over Hot Springs Lakeside in the final game of the regular season before heading to the class 7A state tournament that’s scheduled to begin on Thursday.

McAtee’s first blast came on the first pitch of the bottom of the second inning, and it sailed 30 to 50 feet beyond the 320-feet sign on the fence.

The second came with two outs in the fifth inning to the same area of the field, but not quite as deep. It was also on the first pitch of the at-bat.

“Coleman’s a guy who early on, we were just trying to find a spot in the lineup for,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “We tried him in left field, some at third base, some at DH. We knew he had a bat so we had to get him somewhere in the lineup. He’s settled in pretty well at left field and he’s swinging it really well right now.”

Goodwin utilized four different pitchers to get all his key hurlers some work before state. Adam Hicks, Zach Patterson and Kason Kimbrell threw two innings apiece, and Riley Knudsen closed it down in the seventh inning.

The Rams got just two base hits in the game. The first came on the first pitch thrown by Patterson in the top of the third inning. He struck out the next three, and then fanned two of three in the fourth inning to complete his work.

Hicks opened the game and walked one each in the first two innings, but was never in serious trouble. After Patterson, Kimbrell took the mound and got into a little trouble after a routine fly ball by Tanner Rice was dropped in right field.

He struck out the next two batters before giving up a single to leadoff hitter Hayden Lindsey. Rice tried to score on the play, but was thrown out at home by shortstop Conner Vocque on the relay throw to end the inning. Kimbrell sat down the Rams in order in the sixth before yielding to Knudsen, who struck out the first batter he faced before getting two infield pop ups to end the game.

McAtee’s first bomb was the first run of the game. Cabot added three unearned in the third inning when they faced a new pitcher. Rice took the mound and the tall southpaw struggled to find the strike zone before committing a two-run blunder that put his team in a 3-0 hole.

Vocque, hitting in the nine hole, walked on four straight pitches after falling behind 0-1. Grayson Cole then bunted to third base where the ball was fielded cleanly, but indecision on where to go with the throw left both runners safe. Hicks then bunted back to Rice, who tried to get the lead runner at third, but overthrew his target and the ball rolled deep into left-field foul territory. That allowed Vocque and Cole to score easily and leaving Hicks standing on second.

That was it for Rice. Former Cabot American Legion coach and head Ram Jay Darr pulled him after facing three batters and recording one walk, one E5 and an E1.

Knudsen singled on the next at-bat to put runners at the corners with no outs. Tristan Bulice then hit a fly ball to left field that was deep enough to score Hicks and make it 4-0.

Vocque was hit by a pitch with one out in the fourth inning and stole second base. He then scored on an RBI single by Cole to make it 5-0.

McAtee’s dinger made it 6-0 in the fifth, and Cabot added the final run in the sixth when Cole’s RBI single scored catcher Denver Mullins, who had singled to right field with one out.

The Panthers, 15-12, face Rogers-Heritage at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Burns Park in North Little Rock. Goodwin believes his squad is playing its best ball of the season, and has a decision to make about Thursday’s starter.

“Kason might be our hottest hand right now so we’re in the process of figuring out who’s going to start that first game,” Goodwin said. “He’s throwing his best ball of the season for sure. Of course we’ve got Zach who’s been our ace all year. So right now I feel like we have two guys that can go up there and get anybody out. It’s certainly better to have that kind of decision than trying to figure out who worries you the least.”

Monday, May 12, 2014

SPORTS >> Cabot ladies win East crown

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers secured at least a share of the 7A/6A-East Conference softball championship Tuesday by hammering the Searcy Lions 16-1 in four innings. The win also snapped a three-game losing streak and gives the Lady Panthers their first conference championship in eight years.

In the first outing against Searcy, Cabot coach Chris Cope’s former team, the Lady Panthers struggled through four innings before finally getting on the scoreboard and going on to a mercy-rule victory. There was no such delay in offense on Tuesday.

“We came out swinging the bats pretty well this time and just played a really good game overall,” said Cope. “Hannah Montgomery pitched a great game for us and did a great job at the plate. She was hitting really well early and then not so much. Her swing is starting to come back around and that’s big. We need her bat in our lineup.”

Montgomery’s bat indeed came around on Tuesday. Already 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and two RBIs, Montgomery hit a walk-off grand slam in the fourth inning that set the final margin.

Cabot, 15-10, 12-2, got on the board quickly in the first inning, scoring four runs on five base hits and two Searcy errors.

Brandyn Vines singled to start the second inning and scored three batters later on a base hit by Montgomery.

A double by Kaitlyn Felder, a walk by Molly Wood and a double by Macee Abbott started the third inning. After an out, Vines’ shot to right field was dropped, scoring Abbott. Rachel Allgood then singled to score Vines for the third time in the game.

Erin Eckert reached on an error to lead off the fourth inning before Felder popped up to third. Wood hit into a fielder’s choice that left everyone safe. Abbott, Lane Justus, Vines and Allgood all hit consecutive singles before Heather Hill popped up. That brought Montgomery to the plate for the game-ending swing on a 1-1 pitch. Vines went 3 for 4 with a double. She reached base on every at-bat and scored four runs. Allgood also went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Felder and Abbott went 2 for 3 with one double apiece. As a team, the Lady Panthers went 17 of 29 at the plate.

Montgomery pitched all four innings for Cabot. She gave up four hits and one earned run while striking out two and walking no one.

The Lady Panthers are finished with their conference games. They are currently tied with North Little Rock in the loss column in league play. The Lady Wildcats have only Little Rock Central left on their league schedule.

Cabot, NLR and Conway are all still in the running for the No. 1 seed from the mythical 7A-Central Conference in the state tournament. Tiebreaker point totals won’t be clear until NLR and Conway complete their league schedules.

“I think we still have an outside chance at a one seed, but it looks like a two for us,” Cope said. “That gets us a bye to the quarterfinals. A 12-2 record and a bye in the first round, we haven’t been in that situation in a while so we’ll take it.”