Friday, May 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe trying to replace big line

Leader sports editor

A key focus for the Beebe Badgers’ spring football practice that wrapped this week was replacing nearly everyone on the offensive line from last year’s state semifinal team. Logan Yarbrough returns at center, and just about everyone on either side of him will be a newcomer.

Reece Anders started a lot last year on defense, and has rotated at tight end this spring with Shannon Anderson.

“I feel like we got better with each scrimmage during spring drills,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “Obviously we’re not nearly where we need to be. We’re not nearly as big on the offensive line as last year, but I feel like we’re a little more athletic. There’s not much experience there. We got one full-time starter back and a couple more that got some playing time. So we’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’re going to be alright.”

The Badgers had 55 players out for spring practice, a number down from a year ago, but still fairly typical, according to the Badgers’ head coach.

“Last year we had 70 go through spring, and by the time the season started we were down to 55,” Shannon said. “That’s been about our number most years so we’re right where we usually are. You’d like a little more but this is what we’re used to working with.”

While the offensive line is entirely new, the backfield is loaded with experience. Both of Beebe’s 1,000-yard rushers return from last season. Fullback Trip Smith and halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick are back and both were impressive this spring.

“With Trip you know what you get,” Shannon said. “He’s our workhorse. He’s around 3,000 yards or more for his career.

“Jo has had the best spring of any kid I’ve seen in a long time. We just got him last year so this starts his second full year in the system and you can see he’s miles ahead of where he was. He’s looked outstanding.”

The other halfback position will likely be a rotation of players, but Quentin Scherer is likely to get a lot of the work. He started at halfback some last year before suffering a knee injury.

One key position that will need to be replaced is quarterback. Aaron Nunez was a three-year starter, though he missed most of his junior year with a knee injury. The job of replacing him will go to junior Justin Burleson.

“We opened it up at the beginning, but Justin pulled ahead of the others there at the end,” Shannon said. “He’s been starting on defense, but he’s our quarterback and he’s going to stay there unless something changes over the summer.”

The defense has some big shoes to fill as well as some key returners. The strongest unit in spring was the secondary, with four returning starters, anchored by Nathan Clifton and Connor Patrom on the corners. Tyler Woodall is back at safety, and Wyrick will also be in the defensive backfield next season.

Hunter Newman returns to anchor the front line at nose guard. Bo Smith, the team’s leading tackler, returns at inside linebacker. His fellow ILB, Anders, is also back, but has moved to defensive tackle. Scherer will likely line up alongside Bo Smith.

“Reece is a big, strong kid who moves pretty well, and we think he’s looked good lining up with his hand on the ground,” Shannon said.

SPORTS STORY >> SH Bears breaking in all new backfield

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills wrapped up its spring practice sessions with an intrasquad game on Wednesday, and head coach Jim Withrow was pleased with what he saw from a largely inexperienced team.

“I think we have some talent there, we just need to clean it up,” said Withrow. “We’re young, but I like them. Some of them are very athletic. We just have to learn the little things and learn them well.”

One of the most exciting things about this year’s group is how many of them there are. There were 73 players out for spring practice, with another five to 10 expected to join the team for summer workouts. It’s been 10 years or more since the Bears have approached those numbers.

“You want 75 for our level,” Withrow said. “We flirted with it my first year or two here and then a few years ago we had 35 for spring and added about 10. We’ve been building back up since then and we’re finally at a good number. It’s manageable for our coaches. It might be a few too many bodies, but it’s manageable. And it’s a good number in each class so you have a chance to develop some depth.”

The Bears are set up well at quarterback. Last year Withrow had one in each class he felt very comfortable with, and a freshman he was excited about. The senior-to-be quit, but junior Jordan Washington and sophomore Ryan Lumpkin are impressive so far. Also, Mills transfer Dai’Kyon Armond has worked out under center and hasn’t looked bad.

“Washington has looked really good,” Withrow said. “he’s a big time athlete. He played some last year after (Tra) Doss got hurt, and he started for us all year at receiver. So he’s used to varsity football and he knows what we’re trying to do.

“Ryan Lumpkin – He was fantastic with his group. He looked really, really good. Armond is an athletic kid who has done well. He’s a little bit behind the other two because he’s new, but he really wants to play the position and he’s working hard.

“Whoever the winner is, we feel like the other two can do really well in other places. They’re all athletic kids we need to find a spot for.”

The Bears have two offensive linemen back on the right side. Sam Perez returns at guard and Tekiah Zobair at right tackle. The middle and left side of the line will be all new.

“We lost about as good of an offensive line as you’re going to have from last year,” Withrow said. “But the ones we have are coming around. They’re working hard and they’re going to get better through the summer. You can’t just replace a line like we had last year just all at once. But again, I feel good about them.

“Right now we’re making mistakes young guys are going to make. That’s going to get better with drills and reps.”

Withrow says the same thing about his defense. He’s very pleased with the athleticism shown so far, but inexperience has shown at times as well.

“I’m actually excited about the potential we have on defense,” Withrow said. “Last year we had a great offense and tried to piece together a defense. I think this group has a chance to be pretty good. I’m hoping we have the depth so we don’t have as many guys going both ways. And I think this group has some athletes.

“Now it’s just like everything else we’re going through right now. They’re going to get torched in 7-on-7, but if they can just hang with it. They can run and jump and there’s some good size and strength out there. They’re going to be just fine.”

Jonathan Hicks is the only returning full-time starter at the same position as last year. He will start at inside linebacker. He led the team in tackles last season and looks even better this year to the head Bear.

“Hicks is strong and he moves well,” Withrow said. “He looked a little faster than he did last year, too.”

Brandon Bracely, who played a lot on offense last season, has played well at corner. Practically everyone else on the projected starting defense will be new, including four sophomores in the secondary.

“Like I said, it could be rough early on in 7-on-7,” Withrow said. “We just have to clean up all the things young guys screw up. But I like those guys. I’m excited about them.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot expects good team

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football team closed spring football practice with a lively intrasquad scrimmage Thursday afternoon at Panther Stadium. After nine workouts, Cabot coach Mike Malham has high hopes for the 2015 season.

“We got a lot accomplished,” said Malham. “You got 14 starters back and three or four more with substantial playing time, there’s 17 with experience. That leaves us three or four holes to fill and we should have a good group. If we don’t contend next year and have a really good season, I’ll be disappointed. Injuries of course will kill us because the depth isn’t there. But if we stay healthy I think this team has the potential to be pretty good.”

Nine starters returning on defense proved the strongest in the early going of Thursday’s scrimmage. The offense couldn’t get into the end zone until the third drive of starters versus starters. The first drive looked good until stalling at around the 20-yard line on a fourth-down attempt. The second drive lasted just a few plays before a tackle in the backfield led to a fumble and a defensive recovery.

Some of the offensive struggles likely resulted from the absence of starting quarterback Jarrod Barnes, but Cabot coach Mike Malham is comfortable with backup Jess Reed.

“Reed played quarterback for us the last three games and he did a pretty good job,” Malham said. Jarrod, he’s all right. He just bruised his shoulder and we held him out. No sense in chancing it. He’s looked really good. Only time will tell, but he has the potential to be the best one we’ve ever had here.”

Still, Malham likes his defense and is excited about its potential as well.

“We replace two really good ones,” Malham said. “Losing guys like (Tristan) Bulice and (Jake) Ferguson, that’s a loss right there. And we had (Logan) Melder back there and he was pretty good. But we’ve got about nine back with experience and I’m expecting big things from this defense.”

Two full-time starters in Chris and Austin Jones return on the defensive line. Lino Garcia also earned varsity-starting time in the latter half of the season. Freshman Dayonte Roberts is one of two sophomores who will figure heavily into the system as a sophomore next season.

“He’s a puppy but he’s going to be a good one,” Malham said of Roberts. “He got a little tired today. We’d been working him in slow, playing them six plays and off six. Today we left him in there for about 25 in a row and it wore him out, I think. But he’s talented – about 6-foot-1, 255, so he’s got good size. He’s a strong kid and moves pretty good.

“But we’re working four guys in those three spots and we feel pretty good about all of them.”

One full-time inside linebacker, Easton Seidl, returns after starting his sophomore year. Connor Daigle started at the other inside spot later in the season after departed senior Jack Whisker moved to safety. This spring, Daigle moved to strong safety while Cody Nabors and Trenton Erickson worked at the other ILB.

When the offense did get into the end zone, it was returning starting fullback Kolton Eads who went up the middle for about 12 yards and the score. He ran for more than 1,200 yards last season and has added a little size and strength, according to Malham.

“He’s strong and runs hard. He’s not as fast as some of them we’ve had, but he’s a good runner.”

Reed will work at halfback along with David Morse and Braxton Burton. The other freshman that worked with the first string in spring was Adam Flores, and he has played halfback and fullback.

“We brought him up at the end last year,” Malham said. “He’s another little (Zach) Launius type guy. He’s small but he’s fast and he’s tough to bring down. He’s going to be a good one.”

Four offensive linemen return from last year. Cameron Eide is back at center. Hunter Wood returns at right tackle and Antonio Polacios returns at left guard.

“We got Eide back, all 5-7, 160 pounds of him,” Malham said. “And we got all of Woods’ 5-6, 200 back. Polacios is the big one at about 5-11, 250. It’s not going to be a very big line but they look pretty good.”

Jack Teague played tight end last year when they went two tight. Brock Bottorf figures in as the other tight end. Luke Ferguson and Jessie George are working at the other tackle position while Peyton Glisson is working at guard and tackle. When lining up one tight and one wide, Sawyer Stalnaker has been the split end.

“Stalnaker is a basketball player who came out this year,” Malham said. “He’s not real fast but he’s got good hands. Right now that’s who we’re working out there, but we can always bring over a D-back if we have to.”

EDITORIAL >> Whit Davis gets cold shoulder

Whit Davis Lumber Plus is set to open a beautiful new hardware store on Brockington Road in Sherwood. But the city council is not happy about it.

Jobs, sales-tax revenue, economic development, a family-owned local business, none of that matters for the aldermen. Instead they are fixated on the building’s architectural design and whether it abides by city code.

They are not happy with the store’s use of metal on its facade. Now that construction is nearly done and Whit Davis employees are preparing for a grand opening, some aldermen would rather halt progress and make the company build a new storefront that suits their particular tastes. One thing is for sure, the store does not look like a cheap metal building.

The city’s planning and zoning commission approved the plan, which was then sent to the city council for approval before building started.

Now, rather than take responsibility for not examining the building plan earlier, some aldermen claim Whit Davis skirted the ordinances.

City Attorney Steve Cobb said there was nothing the city can do to stop the project since the plans were approved by the same people who are now crying foul. Aldermen could have done something about it long before building got underway.

The company followed all the rules required by Sherwood. Now that officials there realize they weren’t paying attention to details, they are blaming Whit Davis, an unlikely bad guy.

Whit Davis has a long record of excellence in the communities it serves. It has stores in Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbrier, and its lumber has built thousands of homes in central Arkansas. Sherwood residents will be glad to have them.

The Sherwood City Council should clear this up before they alienate other businesses considering moving to town.

We’ll see you at the ribbon cutting.

EDITORIAL >> Class of 2015 says farewell

Area high schools have wrapped up graduation season, sending young people on to further their educations in college, technical-training programs and into adulthood.

In all six high schools in The Leader’s coverage area, 1,481 seniors received diplomas and earned more than $18.2 million in scholarship offers.

Cabot High School is the largest, and perhaps most academically successful, school in central Arkansas. The school graduated 639 students — 181 were honor graduates — who netted $9.8 million in scholarships.

Soo Matthews and Annalise Jirik were the class of 2015 valedictorians.

Lexi Weeks and Tori Weeks, twin sisters who earned national attention for their accomplishments in track and field, were co-salutatorians.

Lexi holds the national high school record for indoor pole-vaulting, as well as six school records and two state records.

She’s also a decathlon champion who will attend the University of Arkansas, which has a world-class track and field program.

Tori has set five school track records and will also join the University of Arkansas’ pole-vaulting team.

The New York Times profiled the young ladies on Feb. 24 in an article called “Twin Pole-Vaulters Reach the Height of Alikeness.” It’s a must read. Be sure to flip through the Times’ slideshow for a reminder that this newspaper has been following the Weeks sisters for three years.

At Jacksonville High School, 176 graduates earned diplomas and $3.4 million in scholarships. Leading their class were Co-Valedictorians John Herrmann and Jonah Rodgers, along with Salutatorian Greg Jones.

Across town, at North Pulaski High School, Valedictorian Lindsay Spell and Salutatorian Cameron Bajorek led the way as 154 seniors received diplomas and $1.5 million in scholarships. North Pulaski will graduate its last class next year before it is consolidated with Jacksonville High and the Redmond Road campus is turned into a middle school.

Sylvan Hills High School graduated 169 students who were offered $1.5 million in scholarship money. At the head of their class were Valedictorian J.T. Espejo and Salutatorian Jonathan Waller.

Beebe High School granted diplomas to 195 students — with Katherine Pearson as valedictorian and Erich-Matthew Pulfer as salutatorian — who earned more than $3 million in college scholarships.

Lonoke High School graduated 148 students who earned $2 million in scholarships. Class of 2015 valedictorians were Sophia Vincent, Bailey Staton and Megan Bayer, and Chandler Elmore was salutatorian. Congratulations to all.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood church opens clinic

Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church recently held a ribbon cutting with fellow chamber of commerce members on the first day its new free medical clinic opened. The clinic is the only one of its kind in the area.

Leader staff writer

Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church in Sherwood recently opened the city’s first free health clinic.

It is open from 4 until 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at 9921 Hwy. 107. There are no age, income or residency restrictions for patients.

“Just show up. If you show up, we’ll serve you,” Rev. Brittany Richardson-Watson said with a laugh. The clinic had 23 patients the first night it was open.

One goal of the endeavor is to have at least one, if not two, doctors there each month. Five retired nurses who are church members have volunteered to help.

About the clinic’s focus, the reverend continued, “Our primary concern is their health and making sure they feel there’s a place that cares about them. We hope to be that place that cares.”

The clinic is a years-in-the-making brainchild of long-time church member Audrey Burks, a retired nurse with 48 years of experience in that field. She’s been a member of the church for over 50 years.

Burks said, initially, histories would be collected from the clinic’s patients. The staff will test blood pressure and blood sugar levels during every visit.

Burks added that a light meal will be served at each, too, and a community resources expert will be on hand.

There will be some kind of special event each month as well, she said, such as hearing screenings that will be performed next month in conjunction with Infinity Hearing Center, which is at 3115 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood.

In August, the clinic will offer immunizations and physicals for preschoolers, Burks continued.

She explained that the clinic would concentrate on wellness checks — preventative care — and educating patients, although individuals with ailments like coughs, earaches and more are also welcome.

The staff will also review medications with patients to make sure they have what they need and are taking pills correctly, Burks said.

She continued, “A lot of people in Little Rock think we should have been in an under-served area, but I think we have the working poor in Sylvan Hills. I think we do still have an ‘under-served’ clinic.

“And everybody still does not have insurance. I know everybody should have insurance. But, even with insurance, if you’ve got four children or you’ve got three children…it’s way too expensive sometimes.

“This is just a ‘hey, stop. Do you really need to go on to pay more? Or can we handle you right here? Could we save you some money and get you good health, too?’ We wanted a healthy community.”

A healthy public and congregation “can do more things for the Lord,” Burks noted.

She also said, “It’s wonderful being old. I love this time in my life. It’s a wonderful time of your life, but, if you’re not healthy, it’s not a wonderful time. So why not keep yourself healthy? Why not prevent what’s out there, what’s coming? You know, we’re living longer, so why not be healthier and keep yourselves going?”

On future plans for the clinic, Richardson-Watson added, “I think we’d be interested in more dates if we get a good response. We’re starting small and kind of seeing what the response is going to be.”

The idea of opening a clinic was first brought up in a community outreach task force meeting at the church, but it didn’t gain momentum until the current reverend arrived and threw her support behind it, Burks said.

The clinic took about six months to set up and is approved by the state Health Department, she said.

“Just about everything was donated to us,” Burks noted, thanking church members for their financial contributions, a local doctor’s office for giving the clinic supplies and Baptist Health for providing its scale and filing cabinets.

The church’s reverend will also be available at the clinic each month for patients who need counseling for their spiritual wellness, Burks added.

TOP STORY >> Dream vacation for sick boy

Members of Beebe Junior High School’s FBLA club pose with Blake Wilkerson, 5, of Austin last week after they presented him with a free trip to the Atlantis Water Park in the Bahamas. The FBLA members raised the $5,000 needed so that Blake, who has a heart murmur, and his family can go on vacation.
Leader staff writer

The Beebe Junior High School Future Business Leaders of America club once again teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help a youngster with a life-threatening heart condition see his dreams come true.

On Friday, 5-year-old Blake Wilkerson of Austin was given a free five-day trip with his parents to the Atlantis Water Park in the Bahamas during a ceremony held in the Beebe Auditorium.

He received swimwear, pails, a backpack and beach toys for the vacation that starts in two weeks.

The club and other donors raised $5,000 for the wish.

Blake was born on March 26, 2009. During a newborn exam, doctors heard a heart murmur. They found out he had an enlarged heart that was unable to pump efficiently.

Doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital told the boy’s parents that his heart muscles were very weak. They compared them to those of a 90-year-old man.

Blake didn’t need a heart transplant, though. He stayed at Children’s Hospital’s intensive care unit for 29 days until he could come home. His heart function has continued to improve to be near normal.

Blake is on two medications, down from nine.

His parents, Brad and Claire Wilkerson, were taught to recognize the signs of heart failure. They know he could be fine one day and start to decline the next.

Blake gets an echocardiogram every six months. He is regularly examined by a physician at Children’s Hospital and a cardiomyopathy specialist in Cincinnati.

But Blake’s parents haven’t let their son’s heart condition slow him down. He is an active little guy. He can run across three acres and not get winded. Blake likes to ride his four-wheeler and bike. He often plays outside until sunset.

“We are blessed that he is doing so well. We are humbled by everything they are doing for him,” Claire Wilkerson said.

“He is living every day to the fullest. We don’t live life worrying about the future,” his mom added.

Claire Wilkerson said they plan to be involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the future to help other children like hers.

TOP STORY >> New LRAFB commander

Leader staff writer

Col. Charles Brown Jr. was officially put in charge of the 19th Airlift Wing during a change-of-command ceremony Wednesday at Little Rock Air Force Base. Brown replaces Col. Patrick Rhatigan, who retired after 24 years of service.

Lt. Gen. Carlton Everhart II, commander of the 18th Air Force at Scott AFB, Ill., presided over the ceremony. Everhart was stationed at LRAFB for seven years.

“We can’t do what we do every single day of our mission had it been without the support of our families,” Everhart said.

“You are looking at two great Air Force leaders whose reputations reflect their commitment to the airmen and their families and to the mission, as well strong characters firmly rooted in the core values of integrity, service and excellence,” Everhart said.

The general said Rhatigan had been successful in leading the wing and is leaving it better than he arrived.

“It is my honor to be back at Little Rock Air Force Base, the true home of combat airlift,” Brown said.

Brown was at LRAFB from 2008 to 2011. He was chief of wing safety for the 314th Airlift Wing and then was commander of the 62nd Airlift Squadron.

Brown said the secret of LRAFB’s success is the seamless integrated and interdependence with the teammates in the 314th Airlift Wing, our National Guard Airlift partners in the 189th, the 913th effort partners and our teammates in the 29th weapons school.

As commander, Brown leads the world’s largest fleet of C-130 aircraft and is responsible for providing worldwide deployable C-130 aircraft, aircrews, expeditionary combat support personnel and equipment for Air Mobility Command and Air Expeditionary Force missions.

“None of this would be possible without the love, support and leadership that the Little Rock Air Force Base’s surrounding communities have provided us for over 60 years,” Brown said.

“This has been the true core of our excellence. We will continue this legacy and excel in the future by fostering a climate of trust, one of teamwork and one of continuous training to provide the world the best combat airlifters we can,” Brown continued.

He told the airmen of the 19th Airlift Wing that he owes them and their families a tremendous amount of gratitude for the sacrifices they have made and that he was in awe of their accomplishments.

He said he would continue to provide them with the resources to be effective in their mission, a safe work environment and a quality of life for the airmen and their families.

Rhatigan is retiring after an Air Force career that began when he graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1991. He became base commander in July 2013.

“You have all taught me so much of what it means to serve others,” Rhatigan said.

He said airmen serve to protect freedom and are the beneficiaries of the community partners who reach out to help the base.

“It is one thing to constantly tell your airmen to take care of each other, but it is certainly something else to be on the receiving end of that care. Because of your support, our son is leaving Little Rock cancer-free,” Rhatigan said.

He led the base during the government shutdown, when the civilian employees were furloughed, and during the recovery efforts following the Vilonia and Mayflower tornadoes last April.

“We never let the mission suffer,” Rhatigan said, pointing out that the wing delivered C-130s to Aghanistan and deployed forces in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.

“We have 500 airmen deployed around the world,” said the former commander, who retired after 24 years of service.

He also oversaw the first phase of work on a $107 million runway to replace a 1950s-era airstrip.

“Karen and I are full of hope for tomorrow. We will never forget how all of you served us in our time of need,” Rhatigan said.

Brown’s previous assignment was as assistant deputy director, Joint Strategic Planning, Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

He advised the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on global defense, as well as strategy development and joint operational war planning for the Department of Defense.

He was a national-security fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 2011-12.

Brown was vice commander of the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base in Japan from June 2012 before moving back here. The 374th is America’s only airlift wing in the Pacific.

He is a senior pilot with more than 1,600 hours flying F-15Es, C-130Es and C-130Hs.

Arlo Taylor of Little Rock Air Force Base public affairs contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

TOP STORY >> Ruble Bailey at 100: Don’t quit

Ruble Bailey (third from left in front row) celebrated her 100th birthday with her family on Sunday. Back row, from left are her grandson-in-law, Michael Byrd; granddaughter, Elizabeth Byrd; daughter, Fern Cross; son, Jerry W. Bailey; daughter-in-law, Loretta Bailey; and grandson, Jerry D. Bailey. From left in the front row are her roommate, Peggy Cox; great-grandson, Jackson Byrd; and great-granddaughter, Mallory Byrd.
Leader staff writer

Ruble Bailey, a resident of Sherwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, celebrated her 100th birthday there on Sunday, surrounded by her loving and obviously close-knit family.

Bailey said her secret to living this long is, “Don’t quit.”

She was born May 27, 1915, in the small town of Summerland, Miss.

Bailey’s mother, father, two sisters and brother moved to Arkansas five years after she was born.

The centenarian said the family relocated for a better climate because her mother was ill. Her father was a sharecropper in Arkansas.

Bailey’s daughter, Fern Cross, told The Leader her mother used to walk two miles to school.

Bailey married her husband, Noble, in 1934. They had two children — Cross and her brother, Jerry W. Bailey — and moved to Jacksonville in 1943. She was widowed in 1998.

Cross proudly described how her mother — after she and her brother left home — rode the bus daily to Little Rock to fulfill her dream of becoming a licensed practical nurse.

Bailey enjoyed a 16-year career at the St. Vincent Infirmary. She told The Leader her family couldn’t afford to send her to nursing school earlier in her life, as she grew up during the Great Depression.

She liked being a nurse because she likes helping people and got great joy from seeing patients get well.

Bailey’s daughter is also a nurse, and the centenarian said she worked hard to make that possible.

The 100-year-old also resided at the Jacksonville Towers for eight years and lived at Worley’s Place before that. Both are in Jacksonville.

Bailey attended First Baptist Church in Jacksonville for 60 years.

She dedicated countless hours as an Order of the Eastern Star member and a CareLink volunteer, having been named the latter’s 2004 Volunteer of the Year.

Bailey was joined by her children; daughter-in-law, Loretta Bailey; two grandchildren, Elizabeth and her husband Michael Byrd, and Jerry D. Bailey; two great-grandchildren, Jackson and Mallory Byrd, and caring roommate, Peggy Cox.

TOP STORY >> Bench warrant amnesty day June 12

Jacksonville District Court Judge Robert Batton said Tuesday that he will offer an amnesty day for people with bench warrants from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday, June 12.

Anyone with a bench warrant from that court, whether it is for failure to appear or failure to pay fines, can come to the old police department at 1412 W. Main St., which is now the district court building, to turn themselves in, be processed and see the judge.

The judge encourages people to take advantage because, not only will they save hundreds of dollars, but they will no longer be at risk of being arrested and sent to jail.

The normal $260 fee will be waived if the balance of the warrant is paid in full with cash, a money order, cashier’s check, personal check or credit/debit card during those hours on that day only.

If they don’t pay in full on June 12, those with warrants will be placed on a monthly payment schedule, Batton said.

A $25 fee to be paid in cash or by check will still be required unless the warrant is recalled. Failure-to-appear warrants will also be recalled.

People who want to clear up outstanding warrants can also come to the new Jacksonville Police Department on Marshall Road.

TOP STORY >> Commander taking over LRAFB wing

Col. Charles E. Brown Jr. this morning will take command of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base. He succeeds Col. Patrick J. Rhatigan, who is retiring from the Air Force after 24 years of service. Rhatigan has been commander here since July 2013.

It’s a homecoming for Brown, who was commander of the 62nd Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base from 2009-11. He then became a national-security fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 2011-12.

Brown was vice commander of 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base in Japan from June 2012 before moving back here. The 374th is America’s only airlift wing in the Pacific.
Brown entered the Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps following his graduation from Florida State University in 1994.

He has been a command-and-control officer, C-130H navigator, F-15E “Strike Eagle” pilot, C-130E instructor pilot and assistant executive officer to the commander of Air Mobility Command.

Brown is a seasoned aviator with more than 300 combat hours and 160 combat sorties. He has participated in the U.S. global war on terror in Operation Noble Eagle to secure America’s homeland, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Asia and Africa.

Brown leads the “Home of C-130 Combat Airlift.” As the 19th Airlift Wing commander, he will be responsible for organizing, training and equipping the personnel who operate, maintain and sustain more than 65 C-130 aircraft.

The wing provides combat-ready forces to meet combatant commanders’ requirements globally.

Brown will work in concert with the 314th Airlift Wing (AETC), 189th Airlift Wing (ANG), 22nd Air Force Detachment 1 (AFRC) and the United States Air Force Weapons School (ACC) in all aspects of C-130 training.

He ensures support for combat, contingency and humanitarian requirements while providing for the health and welfare of more than 10,000 personnel and families at Little Rock AFB.

In an interview last week, Rhatigan said, ““My time at Little Rock Air Force Base was a time of unprecedented change in our Air Force.

“From sequestration to government shutdown to force management, our airmen and civilians have endured the continued turbulence of fiscal restraints and uncertainty. Yet, we buckled down every time to accomplish the mission safely and effectively.

“Combat airlift is the heart of this base, and I could not be prouder of the men and women of Team Little Rock and their incredible resilience and dedication to the mission,” Rhatigan said.

SPORTS STORY >> Late surge boosts Hogs to regional after poor start

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Once floundering at 11-12 overall and 1-5 in the SEC, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ midseason surge propelled them to a 14th consecutive NCAA Baseball regional, it was announced Monday.

Coach Dave Van Horn’s 20th-ranked Razorbacks, 35-22 overall and 17-12 in the SEC, are the second seed in the 4-team double elimination Stillwater, Okla. Regional beginning Friday at Oklahoma State’s Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.

Arkansas is matched at noon Friday against the third-seeded Summit League champion Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles, 41-14. The SEC Network will televise the game.

Friday night, host team and top-seed Oklahoma State, 37-18, completes the first round vs. the fourth-seeded Big East champion St. John’s Red Storm, 39-14.
Winner’s and loser’s bracket games are scheduled Saturday with a loser’s bracket final on Sunday afternoon and a championship game Sunday night and another one Monday if necessary.

The winner of the Stillwater Regional is bracketed the following weekend to play the winner of the Missouri State hosted Springfield Regional in a best 2 of 3 Super Regional. The winner of that advances to the Elite Eight, playing for the national championship at the College World Series in Omaha.

Iowa, Oregon and Canisius are the teams in Springfield with Missouri State, 45-10. Though nationally seeded, Missouri State can’t host a Super Regional because the Minor League Springfield Cardinals return home that weekend to Hammons Field, which they share with Missouri State.

So Arkansas likely would host the Super Regional at Baum Stadium if the Razorbacks can prevail at Stillwater.

“That’s nice,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said of possibly hosting the Super Regional. But the 13-year head coach also implied talking about that is putting the cart way before the horse.

“Believe me, we have a lot of work to do,” Van Horn said. “There are some really good teams in our Regional. It’s a great field. We need to get through Oral Roberts who has won a lot of ballgames. They have an older team.”

The Golden Eagles bat .321 as a team and are paced by two .343 hitters in Anthony Sequeria, 10 home runs and 54 RBI, and Mark Whatley, five home runs and 44 RBI.

ORU’s top starters are Xavier Altamirano, 8-2 with a 2.94 earned run average, and Guillermo Trujillo, 10-4, 4.03.

Arkansas will start junior right-hander Trey Killian, the Norfork native and Mountain Home High graduate, only 2-4 with a 4.72 but with a sensational start in last week’s SEC Tournament, holding Tennessee to one run for seven and two-thirds innings before Arkansas won 2-1 in the ninth for reliever Zach Jackson.

Van Horn hopes Killian can repeat his SEC Tournament performance and also hopes his No. 2 starter, freshman Keaton McKinney, 6-1, 3.14 ERA, heals from the ailing hip that removed him in the second inning of an ineffective start against Florida, though Arkansas eventually prevailed, 7-6.

“Trey is our oldest pitcher and most experienced pitcher and pitched really well last week,” Van Horn said. “As far as McKinney, I’m not sure where he’s at yet. I’ll talk to him here in just a little bit and see how he’s feeling. But that would probably be the order if everybody’s healthy. We’ll try to determine that definitely by tomorrow.”

What is specifically wrong with McKinney’s hip?

“I don’t really know,” Van Horn said. “There’s some soreness and inflammation in there, some pain. I just know it’s been bothering him off and on for a while and it really hadn’t come about in a game until the other day. And you could tell it really affected his command, because he throws strikes, and he threw seven out of eight pitches for a ball, and that’s unusual.”

Dominic Taccolini, whom Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn would prefer bringing out of the bullpen if needed the first two games or saved for a third game start, likely would start Friday if McKinney still ails.

James Teague struggled in his SEC Tournament start, losing 10-5 to LSU. He also likely would have to pitch earlier in the tournament than Van Horn prefers if McKinney can’t go.

“It’s real concerning,” Van Horn said of McKinney’s availability. “He’s one reason we’re going to be in a regional, because he pitched so well down the stretch. We definitely need him to be able to go. If not, we’re going to have to have somebody step it up.”

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney wins one at tourney

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion program will field three teams this summer, two junior teams and a senior team. Both junior teams took part in the annual Memorial Day tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock over the weekend.

It was supposed to be a three-game guarantee with four pools of four teams each playing a round robin, and pool winners playing a single elimination tournament on Monday. Torrential rain called a halt to the action Sunday evening.

The Jacksonville-Cardinal junior team went 1-1 in two competitive games while the Jacksonville-Blue team went 0-3.

The Cardinal team opened the tournament with come-from-behind win over Beebe-White on Saturday, and then fell short in a comeback attempt against Benton Sportshop, losing 8-5 on Sunday.

Gwatney-Cardinal fell behind Beebe 3-0 in the first inning and gave up another run in the top of the fourth, but scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth. After an initial out on the first at-bat, Jacksonville got the next 10 batters on base and scored seven runs before recording two outs in order.

The rally started with a one-out single by Trent Toney. A hit batter was followed by three-straight walks that made it 4-2. Devin Dodson then doubled to center field to drive in three more runs and give Jacksonville the lead. After another hit batter, back-to-back singles by Foster Rash and Gabe Helsley gave Jacksonville a 7-4 lead.

Beebe posted a run in the fifth, but the 110-minute time limit ran out, securing the win for Jacksonville.

Against Benton, which had three teams in the tournament, the Sportshop team that’s made up primarily of Bauxite high school players, scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and held off another Jacksonville rally to preserve the win.

Jacksonville scored one run in the third inning, two runs in the bottom of the fifth and three more in the sixth, but the time limit eliminated the last inning and any chance to complete the comeback.

In the third inning, nine-hole hitter Jonathan Smith drew a one-out walk and scored on a hit by leadoff hitter Caleb Smith.

In the fifth inning, Caleb Smith started the rally with a leadoff single, followed by an RBI base hit by Toney. Toney later scored on a wild pitch.

In the fifth, Helsley and Joseph Cummings drew leadoff walks and Peyton Williams singled to drive in the two base runners.

“They fell behind in both games but they kept playing hard,” said Jacksonville-Cardinal coach Marvin Helsley. “We were able to come back and get us a win against Beebe, and fought hard to get back in it against Benton. We just need to start better.”

The Jacksonville-Blue team lost its opener 7-3 to Beebe-Red on Friday. It suffered a no-hit loss on Saturday against the Benton Sportshop team made up of Benton-Harmony Grove’s high school team, then lost 11-1 to Cabot on Sunday.

The last game consisted of several walks and errors and very few earned runs.

“They’re struggling but it’s not all their fault,” said Jacksonville program director Bob Hickingbotham. “There’s kids from four different schools out there and they haven’t had any time to practice together and play with each other. There are some kids out here that didn’t get to play much on the high school team, and they just need practice. They’re going to get better.”

SPORTS STORY >> O’Reilly’s teams play well early

Leader sportswriter

Though rainy conditions put an early end to the Junior American Legion Memorial Day tournament at Burns Park, the Beebe Post 91 O’Reilly Auto Parts team was able get multiple games in before the wet weather put an end to the tournament on Sunday.

Beebe split its team into two teams for the tournament, which began Friday, and the Beebe Red team was the more successful of the two, as it went 2-1 in the tournament with wins over Jacksonville and Maumelle. The Beebe White team went 0-2 at the tournament.

On Friday, the Beebe Red team beat Jacksonville’s Junior Legion team by the final score of 7-3. Beebe had six hits and four walks in that game. On the mound, Jacob Davis pitched all five innings to earn the win. He recorded seven strikeouts and only gave up three walks and two hits.

Tyler Fowler and Blaine Burge each had multiple hits to lead Beebe at the plate against Jacksonville. The Beebe Red team played again Saturday, but lost 6-4 to Cabot. The loss paired Beebe Red against Maumelle on Sunday morning, and Beebe scored all of its runs in the fourth inning to beat Maumelle 7-2.

Maumelle scored its two runs in the first inning, and led 2-0 until the fourth inning, when Beebe went on its seven-run scoring tear. In that fourth inning, Beebe gathered a good portion of its momentum on back-to-back-to-back doubles by Dylan Lowe, Fowler and Burge.

“We just started hitting the ball,” said Beebe Junior Legion coach Michael Lawrence. “We ended up getting three doubles right in a row. The boys just kept trading off and we ended up scoring all seven runs in that fourth inning.

“Maumelle threw a pretty nice left-handed pitcher. It took us a little time to get used to the lefty coming at us. He was throwing pretty well, but in that fourth inning we just got on a roll. The guys just stayed positive the whole game and felt like we were never out of it.”

Beebe Red had seven hits against Maumelle. Fowler led Beebe at the plate in that game, going 2 for 2 with a walk. He also got the win on the mound. He threw every inning, and recorded four strikeouts on six hits and one walk allowed.

The Beebe White team lost a close 7-5 game to the Jacksonville Two Junior Legion team in the first round of the tournament. Beebe White played Texarkana next, and lost that one 14-3.

Against Texarkana, Beebe White led 3-1 going into the fifth inning, but ran out of pitching and Texarkana scored 13 unanswered runs in that inning to set the final score.

Tyler Myers and Jacob Rogers led Beebe White at the plate against Texarkana. They each had two hits, and teammate Jacob Conklin reached base all three at-bats on a base hit and two walks.

Conklin led Beebe White at the plate against the Jacksonville Two team. He was 2 for 2 in that game, and has a perfect on-base percentage after two games played.

The Memorial Day tournament games were the first of the season for Beebe, who will play the remainder of the season as one team. The team was split into two solely for the tournament in order to ensure more players got plenty of playing time.

“Because we wanted to get people some playing time right off the bat, we split the two teams up,” Lawrence said. “It gave them an opportunity to get some playing time and it gave us an opportunity to see what we’ve got coming up.”

Even though the team struggled last year, Lawrence said he’s excited about this year’s group of players and the strides they’ve made in the last year, and said the team is excited as well.

“We weren’t very solid last year,” Lawrence said. “It was our first season of having legion baseball back here in Beebe. We definitely struggled the first year, but the boys are excited about this year. We’ve definitely improved.

“We’ve got some good players coming back from last year, and we’ve got some additions this year. We’re going to look really good this year, I believe.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot perfect in pool play

Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank junior American Legion baseball team picked up three wins to start the season in the annual Memorial Day tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

The tournament started on Friday with Cabot coming from behind twice to beat the Beebe-White team 4-3. On Saturday, Logan Gilbertson pitched a gem in a 3-1 win over Maumelle, and on Sunday, Cabot walked its way to an 11-1 victory over Jacksonville-Blue to win its pool. Monday’s semifinals and final were called off due to storms.

“They played really well for the most part,” said Cabot coach Casey Vaughn, who is normally the senior team assistant coach but filled in for junior coach David Smith for this tournament. “We didn’t take advantage of a few scoring opportunities. We loaded the bases a couple times and didn’t score much off those situations. But overall it was a pretty good tournament. Most of this team will probably be starting for the high school varsity next year. It’s a pretty talented group, very athletic bunch of guys and they’ve been playing together for a long time.”

In Friday’s win over Beebe, Cabot loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning, but managed just one run after a pair of infield pop-ups.

The O’Reilly’s Auto Parts team scored two runs in the second inning to move into the lead. Cabot tied it in the fourth inning but Beebe scored in the top of the sixth to go up 3-2.

In the bottom of the sixth, Nick Belden hit an RBI single that tied the game. Brett Brockinton took the mound and held Beebe without a hit in the top of the seventh, and Cabot needed just one at-bat in the bottom of the last inning to end the game.

Blake McCutchen hit a leadoff triple down the right field line, and a wayward throw allowed him to score on the walk-off play.

Brockington got the win on the mound as the second reliever. Dylan Billingsley started and got the no decision, and Will Jerry pitched middle relief.

Against Maumelle, Gilbertson got it done with his arm and his bat. He threw a complete game for the victory, going six innings, throwing 83 pitches and striking out 11. He also bounced one over the right-field wall for a two-RBI ground-rule double in the bottom of the fifth inning that scored Brockinton and Jerry.

Cabot’s first run of the game came in the first inning. Brockinton singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Dillon Thomas.

The win over Jacksonville featured 11 walks and five Jacksonville errors. Brockinton had three hits to lead the way offensively, but everyone in the Cabot lineup walked at least once.

Ty Cyr got the win on the mound for Centennial Bank.

The Cabot junior team’s next scheduled game is at 6 p.m. tonight at Sheridan. The senior team is also scheduled to begin its season tonight at 7:30 at home against Texarkana.

TOP STORY >> El Paso library: Bank on it

The El Paso Bank was built in 1894. It closed shortly after the Great Depression. Over the years it fell into disrepair. The community’s Parks and Playground Association is renovating the building and it will be used as a public library.

The  old El Paso Bank building will reopen as a public library by the end of the year after extensive remodeling and repairs. It will be part of the White County Regional Library System.

Leader staff writer

The El Paso community is working on a wealth of knowledge. Volunteers are transforming the old El Paso Bank building into a library that will open by year’s end.

The El Paso Bank was built in 1894. It was the town’s first and only bank. It survived the Great Depression and closed some time later.

The building then saw use as a general store, 4-H meetings and is a school bus stop. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

The building was donated by Steve and Elaine Corum in 2009 to the El Paso Parks and Playground Association.

Project coordinator Judy Riley said the bank’s president was Rich Kent, who had a law degree from Harvard.

In 1917, there the El Paso Bank was robbed by a gang whose leader was from Heber Springs. They got away with several thousands of dollars, but they also took the bank records that were never found.

Kent would take the loan and deed records to the White County Courthouse in Searcy once a month. The robbery happened between that time. It is believed the robbery was connected to a loan.

After the robbery, only three families showed the bank their records and made good on their debts.

El Paso being an unincorporated community will be a challenge for the new library since it is not a city and does not a have a local tax base.

Project coordinator Judy Riley said the library will be supported by the community.

“Whatever we have to do to raise money to run it, we’ll do that,” Riley said.

The Parks and Playground Association has raised more $15,000 through chili suppers, dessert auctions, fish dinners and donations from individuals.

It has also received $108,000 in funding from the state’s Department of Heritage, the state’s Department of Rural Services, the state’s General Improvement Funds from Planning and Development Districts and the White County Quorum Court.

The project is only lacking funds to build a wheelchair accessible ramp.

Work on the old building has been extensive. The outside brick was re-mortared, missing bricks were replaced and new vent covers were made and installed.

The original bricks were homemade with clay at the Harvey Farm east of El Paso.

The porch was removed. A dead tree beside the building was cut down.

The old flooring, plumbing fixtures, ceiling and insulation were all removed. The crawl space was dug out and the excess dirt was removed. A septic system was installed and a handicap accessible bathroom was finished.

Parks and Playground Association board member Tom Riley said the pine wood floor held the floor joist. There was no insulation and lots of termite damage.

A subfloor was installed. The ceiling rafters and trusses were reinforced. The end gables and metal roof was replaced.

The windows and doors were repaired or replaced. A French drain was installed to control storm water runoff.

New electrical connections, light fixtures and a heating and cooling system were installed.

Work still needing to be done includes installing ceiling wood decking, insulation and the pressed tin ceiling tiles.

The old bank vault will turned into a children’s section. The library will have work stations with computers with Wi-Fi.

“The library will connect this community to the world. There are two groups of people who live here — families with children who chose to live in a pastoral setting, and retirees on fixed incomes. They have satellite and TV antennas. Their (Internet) options are dial-up,” Judy Riley said.

The Lonoke Prairie Regional Library System board voted last year to donate used shelving and circulation desk from the old Cabot library when the new Cabot library opens in August.

Once the library is completed the parks association will present the building and operating plans to the White County Regional Library board for consideration to be part of the library system.

White County Regional Library chairman Clay Goff said, “We are excited about the opportunity. There is a need for a library for the residents in the western part of our county.”

The library does not need any book donations at this time. A storage unit is full of books.