Friday, June 26, 2015

EDITORIAL >> High court makes two bold decisions

Sometimes judging is easy, a matter of simply applying common sense to political disputes about the law. Other times it could not be harder, such as when judges must decide whether to apply great constitutional principles of law like equality to a society still much beholden to ancient prejudices and mores.

In 24 hours, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered big decisions that charted both paths, first upholding a key part of the Affordable Care Act that helps poor and middle-class Americans buy health insurance and then striking down the few remaining obstacles to same-sex couples getting married. In the second case, the court declared that the Constitution’s equal-protection clause guaranteed gays and lesbians the same access as other couples to the government-regulated institution of marriage.

Both decisions were monumental because both matters—Obamacare and gay marriage—dominate the political agenda of the rising Republican Party, if only momentarily. Most of the country, though not Arkansas and the rest of the South, has moved leagues the past couple of years in opinions about both controversies. Polls this month show that 61 percent of Americans now think same-sex marriage is OK, and for the first time since its enactment in 2010 a slight majority of people now are positive about Obamacare since none of the horrors predicted for it have materialized.

No state had more at stake in both cases than Arkansas, where more than 300,000 people have gained insurance owing to the Obama insurance-reform law and where state and federal court decisions legalizing same-sex unions, temporarily stayed, had left gay and lesbian couples and the general public in limbo. Arkansas was one of only 13 states that still officially banned such marriages. Now that matter is forever settled and talk about defiance, like that by our former governor, Mike Huckabee, is exactly that—simple nattering. Defiance of the law, even when the law is settled by the highest court in the land, cannot be tolerated in a nation of laws, a lesson Arkansas learned bitterly in 1957 when the governor tried to preserve segregated schools in defiance of the Supreme Court.

Let it be observed that every word written by the court, pro and con, on both Obamacare and same-sex marriage was penned by the five Republican justices, each appointed for his celebrated conservative values and political support. The four judges appointed by Democrats helped make the majority in both cases, but these were Republican battles and only their voices were apt to carry weight.

The easy decision, of course, was King v. Burwell, the last desperate effort to cripple the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, the court said the act does exactly what all 535 members of Congress who voted for or against it in 2010, the president, the insurance industry and every person involved in that historic battle thought at the time that it did. It offers subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans who can’t afford to buy health insurance on their own regardless of where they live.

Long after it was signed into law, a lawyer working for opponents of the law spotted five vague words in a section that was written long before work on the bill was completed. The section said people in an insurance exchange operated by the state were eligible for tax credits to help them buy insurance. Standing alone, that sentence in a 900-page law might be interpreted to mean that the tax credits were available only in exchanges run by a state, not those set up by the federal government or jointly with a state, like Arkansas’.

Never mind that everyone, including Republican senators like Olympia Snowe of Maine who helped draft that part of the law, intended for the subsidies to apply to everyone with low incomes. Until 2012, two years after the law’s passage, not one person had ever uttered the possibility that people only in the few states that ran their own exchange could buy insurance.

Republicans sued in several states, hoping that a court would hold that the five words in one sentence overrode the whole drift and purpose of the act and thus wreck Obamacare. One court did and, to the shock of most court observers, the Supreme Court took the appeal.

Justice Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, testified at his confirmation hearings that he would always follow precedent unless there was an overwhelming sense that the common law needed to be changed. The Supreme Court had ruled many times that a single provision of a major law could not be isolated and made to be controlling if it conflicted with the general purposes of the law. As late as January, Justice Antonin Scalia told litigants in an appeal of a fair-housing decision: “We look at the entire law. We have to make sense of the law as a whole.” The court could not give effect to one conflicting phrase if it produced a “strange” effect.

And limiting subsidies to people who were lucky enough to be in a state-operated exchange would give a strange, even bizarre, effect to the Affordable Care Act, as Justice Roberts observed. The stated purpose of the act was to extend health insurance to all Americans by various means, the biggest of which was to give tax credits to people whose incomes were too small to afford the monthly premiums. When the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee first drafted the subsidy every state was expected to create and operate an insurance exchange. Later, the two drafting committees decided that a few states might prefer to be in a national exchange where there might be more plans or lower premiums. Also, a few states might just for political reasons refuse to create an exchange. So the bill was expanded to allow a federal exchange where people in those states could still buy insurance. But in putting the different plans together for a Senate vote in late 2009, the drafters did not catch the seemingly restrictive language in that sentence.

Those glitches are common in every legislative body and Congress later (it’s done so this year) corrects them by introducing “technical-correction” bills that fix all the confusing and conflicting language. They usually pass without debate. But that could not be done with Obamacare because Republicans, dominant in both houses since 2011, were united that they would not permit any technical corrections to Obamacare, hoping that a careless imperfection might torpedo the whole thing.

Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (a Ronald Reagan appointee who also wrote Friday’s same-sex marriage decision) concluded that the issue with the subsidies was nonexistent. A reading of the whole law and all the comment and testimony on it shows that everyone involved intended for people to be able to buy insurance with government help if they needed it. One confusing phrase could not jeopardize the whole purpose of the law.

Justice Scalia and his two bitter-end disciples, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., ignored the precedents of considering an act as a whole and said that regardless of what everyone said and wrote at the time, Congress must have secretly intended to sabotage the act by denying help to people in states where people could buy insurance only from companies in a federally operated exchange.

The big majority—six justices—concluded that Congress could not have been so absurd as to actually plan to wreck its own signature achievement, accessible health care for everyone.

Had Scalia prevailed, 50,000 middle-class Arkansans would lose health insurance acquired from the federal-state exchange and perhaps 150,000 others would have been prevented from acquiring it the next two years.

The insurance of another 250,000 Arkansans who got insurance on the exchange through Medicaid, would be in jeopardy, too, because Republicans would have challenged that subsidy if the court had ruled that one form of subsidy, fundable tax credits, was barred.

All of them can be pleased that common sense ruled the day. — Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Whit Davis opens in Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Whit Davis Home and Hardware Plus in Sherwood opened this week with a large crowd on hand for its ribbon cutting Friday.

The store is located at 9100 Brockington Road.

Whit Davis Home and Hardware Plus is different than its Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbrier stores in that it is hardware only, no lumber, but offers a broader selection.

The Sherwood store has extended hours, too. They are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Whit Davis stores have been in business for 62 years. The first store opened in Jacksonville in 1953.

Dan Davis, store manager and grandson of Whit Davis, said, “We are very excited about the opening. It is a beautiful showcase. We’ve had the property since 2008. With the downturn in the economy, we felt it was in our best interest to delay development.

“It has been a whole lot of work, but anything worth having is worth working hard for,” Davis added.

Mayor Virginia Young said, “I have heard nothing but positives about the business and the building. I’m ecstatic about their investment in our community. Some people have told me it’s nice to run down here than to North Little Rock.”

Miriam Davis, who is the 100-year-old widow of the company’s founder, said, “This is just great. A lot of hard work was put in here. It’s much larger in here than it looks on the outside.”

Her daughter-in-law, Sue Davis, said the company is proud of the new store.

Sherwood Chamber of Commerce director Marcia Cook said, “Whit Davis started getting involved with the community and chamber before the store was finished. They have been a big supporter of Sherwood. We are thrilled they are here.”

Dan Davis said the store is trying to make its new hires from the Sherwood community.

Whit Davis Home and Hardware Plus sells plumbing supplies, lawn-and-garden tools, bins of bolts, screws and fasteners, heating and air- conditioning supplies, lighting and fixtures and electrical materials.

Paint is a major focus of the Sherwood store.

“We want to be the destination place for paint with Pratt and Lambert paints,” Dan Davis said.

“Personal service is what sets us apart,” he added.

TOP STORY >> Strong reaction to decision by Supreme Court

Leader staff writers

With the 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday morning, same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 U.S. states and territories.

By the thinnest of margins, but without equivocation, Justice Anthony Kennedy and the court’s four moderate or liberal justices made same-sex marriage the law of the land, leaving the four other justices and many Arkansans fuming.

It can only be changed by a constitutional amendment or action by a future Supreme Court, which many observers say is unlikely.

As soon as they heard the ruling was announced Friday morning, Earnie Matheson and his partner, Tony Chiaro, rushed to the Pulaski County courthouse, long-held wedding rings at the ready, where they got the first same-sex marriage license in the county and were married by Circuit Judge Chris Piazza.

It was Piazza who invalidated the state’s same-sex marriage ban in May 2014. After a short interval, he stayed his only ruling while the state Supreme Court considered the issue.

During that time, however, about 500 same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Arkansas, about 350 of those in Pulaski County.

Sherwood residents Sommer Green and Reagan Winkles were married at the courthouse late Friday afternoon. “We ran to Walmart for rings and came straight here,” Green said.

They were married by Pastor Randy Eddy-McCain, a gay minister who made himself available at the courthouse for on-the-spot, same-sex marriages throughout the day. Associate Pastor Sheryl Myers accompanied him. Their church, Open Door Community Church, is in Sherwood.

Eddy-McCain said he and his husband, Gary, married 23 years ago in New York City. They were among the plaintiffs in the same-sex lawsuit that has languished in the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“Although this decision does not reflect the will of Arkansas voters, we are a nation of laws, and the judicial system has an important role to play,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Friday.

“I am disappointed that the justices have chosen to ignore the role of the states to define marriage. The justices have issued a decision, and that decision must be followed.

“Moving forward, it is critically important that the rights of religious freedom be protected, and I am committed to doing so,” Rutledge said.

She also told The Leader that those wishing to marry should be respectful by waiting patiently for clerks’ offices as they adjust to the change by modifying paperwork, like adding gender-neutral terms.

She also said the ruling does not mean ministers must officiate same-sex nuptials. Government officials must grant licenses because of the ruling, Rutledge agreed.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “While my personal convictions will not change, I recognize the responsibility of the state to follow the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result of this ruling, I will direct all state agencies to comply with the decision.”

Rep. Rick Crawford was more outspoken in his displeasure on the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“The opinion of five lawyers, not elected by the American people, should not and cannot define what millions of Americans affirm as the true and divine institution of marriage. Despite ruling two years previous that this decision rightly belonged to the elected officials in each state, the Supreme Court today removed the people’s right to uphold their own beliefs, which are based on deeply held religious and personal convictions, and instead chose to force their own definition of marriage onto the entire country.”

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane, who had been anticipating the ruling, had two marriage license forms — one with signature blanks labeled husband and wife, one labeled spouse 1 and spouse 2.

Crane issued licenses to 11 same-sex couples Friday. He called the decision joyous.

In Lonoke County, Clerk Dawn Porterfield could not be reached for comment despite several phone calls and messages and an email.

The former county clerk, Larry Clark, had said he didn’t have a problem issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Maybe it’s the law of the land,” said Jacksonville Bishop James Bolden of Evangelistic Ministries, “but it ain’t the law of the Bible.”

“I was very disappointed,” he said. “It’s the way the world is going.”

He said he had gay people and fornicators and adulterers in his congregation, but they don’t come to church to have their sins condoned.

“Like every Christian pastor, I preach the truth but don’t condone sin,” Bolden said.

Pastor Eddy-McCain disagreed. He said, “It was just an amazing, amazing moment… I want to thank God because heaven is on the side of justice and justice is ruling today.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, called on conservative Christians to engage in a “massive Biblical disobedience campaign against “the false god of judicial supremacy.”

“The Supreme Court finally made a ruling,” said Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde. “The Constitution is obvious. We move forward.”

State Reps. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot), Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood) and Doug House (R-North Little Rock) were disappointed with the decision.

Lemons said, “I believe in traditional marriage of a man and a woman. I am disappointed, but not totally surprised. You could see this coming over the past several years.”

Brown explained, “I’m just disappointed that they’ve taken that away from the state and overruled what people actually want and what’s historically been marriage.”

Although she said she doesn’t have any animosity toward the Supreme Court justices, Brown called it an “activist court.”

She continued, “I just think it’s wrong not to respect traditional marriage principles. God instituted marriage…This decision is bad for the family, bad for our culture and our country.”
Brown hopes there will be opposition and the decision will be turned around one day.

State Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) said he didn’t think it was right that nine people who were not elected could make a decision that goes against the majority of Americans, especially those in Arkansas. He added that the ruling would open up problems, such as polygamy, that the country wouldn’t be able to resolve.

State Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) argued that the ruling would not cancel out all the case law that prohibits polygamy.

While she hadn’t read the ruling in its entirety yet, the former city attorney doesn’t think it affects churches or infringes upon religious freedom.

In fact, Arkansas may have additional protection of religious freedom because of state law passed in the last session, Bennett said.

There is a lot of misinformation, she noted.

The legislator believes the ruling means courthouses can’t discriminate in issuing marriage licenses and legal same-sex marriages performed in one state will be recognized in every state.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), the president pro tempore, said he was disappointed. “I believe marriage is between a man and woman. It doesn’t change my opinion.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “Marriage is an institution God created, and I think it’s foolish for man to try to recreate something that God’s created.”

Christi Hill Lawhon of Jacksonville posted the following on Facebook, “When I was a scared middle school kid who didn’t know any gay people and just didn’t want to be hated and isolated, I never ever would have guessed that I would be where I am now, with my wife, in this world and country and air that feels a little bit different forever!”

And Elizabeth Johnson of Cabot told The Leader, “We are so overwhelmed with joy today! We are so happy and look forward to enjoying the same rights and protections for our families!”

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

Jennifer Seaton-Rambo, a Jacksonville High School graduate who wed her partner last year after the state’s ban was struck down, said on Facebook, “Love definitely won today! Our family will have protection, and I can securely say that now. Pure happiness is afloat!”

TOP STORY >> Ruling to continue subsidies

Leader staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday upholding the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will ensure continuation of the state’s insurance expansion — at least for now.

The court’s decision allows federal subsidies to continue. A ruling against Obamacare would have ended subsidies for states that do not have their own exchanges. Arkansas is one of 27 states that have established their own exchanges and have been eligible for federal subsidies, but their future would have been uncertain if the court had ruled differently.

Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) calls the decision a positive one for the state. “It means whatever the task force comes up with be acceptable,” she said.

Bennett added that, if the ruling had gone the other way, it would not have done away with Obamacare. “It would have just made it harder to administer,” she said.

“It’s not going to change what we do here in any way,” Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) said of the ruling.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in King v. Burwell was more about the legality of subsidizing Obamacare than the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act itself, which was reaffirmed in an earlier decision.

There are about 48,000 Arkansans receive subsidies under the state’s insurance program. Another 243,000 Arkansans are receiving care through an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

A governor’s task force has been looking into options to the hybrid heath-exchange program the state is now using.

The state will continue to use it for up to the next two years, but the task force must present recommendations to the governor in December.

Farrer, acting CEO of North Metro Medical Center, and a member of the task force, said, “A this point, we don’t know if we are even going to have a state exchange. It depends on what the task force comes up with.”

Farrer explained that any plan developed by Arkansas would have to be a comparable program to the Affordable Care Act and be approved by the federal government.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D- Jacksonville) said he was not surprised by the decision since the Supreme Court ruled previously that Obamacare was a tax, and the government has a right to levy taxes.

“I’m for Arkansans having health insurance,” Johnson said. “We have to determine how we can keep them insured and not take away their insurance. The task force will have to change its focus.”

Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) said the task force would find “the best possible health-care strategy for the state.”

He said the task force started working well before the recent ruling and was working without regard to whatever the ruling might have been.

“We’ve never concocted a possible strategy that had Obamacare going away,” he said, adding that everything could change after the next presidential election.

He said the state health exchange program has three goals: Keep hospitals open, steer those using emergency rooms for normal or non-threatening issues to doctor’s offices and give the state and individuals a quick and efficient avenue of health care.

House, who just returned from a three-week European vacation with his wife, suffered an abscessed tooth and had to see a dentist in Vienna.

“All I can say is that I really appreciate what we have here,” he said. “I’m glad to be an American.”

State Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) said he was disappointed in the ruling, but “I don’t know that it’s going to affect Arkansas.” He supports replacing the private option.

State Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood) said she wasn’t surprised but did not support the decision.

She believes the country needs to get rid of Obamacare and get something new that is less costly.

SPORTS STORY >> No-hitter lifts Blue juniors

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet Blue team committed three errors in the early goings of its first-round game of the Sheridan American Legion Baseball Junior Invitational Tournament against Benton Sportshop, but got a no-hitter from starting pitcher A.J. Jackson, which helped Jacksonville to a dominant 10-2 win.

Jacksonville, playing as the home team, scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead, but committed its three errors in the top of the second and went scoreless after its next at-bat, which gave Benton a 2-1 lead after two.

The Gwatney Blue team, though, upped its play in every way after that, not committing another error for the remainder of the game while scoring four runs in the third and five more in the fourth to set the final score and win its fifth-straight game in the process.

“That’s a good team right there,” said Gwatney Blue coach Clayton Sample of Benton. “They beat us earlier this year, so these guys had a little revenge in them, but we kind of started out dead.

“A.J. Jackson threw a no-hitter, but the three errors we had counted for those two runs. I felt this team was dead – everybody kind of dropped their heads a little bit. I got them together and said, ‘Guys, it’s like a funeral out here. I mean, I hear nails in a coffin. So let’s live-in up and have fun.’

“Then that was that inning we put four runs on them on one hit, but I’ll take it all day long.”

Kam Whitmore, who scored Jacksonville’s first run of the game, walked to get things going for Gwatney Blue in the bottom of the third. Kylan Kendall came in as Whitmore’s courtesy runner. He stole second base before two-hole hitter Tyson Flowers walked.

Caden Sample then walked and Kendall scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 2-2. Jackson walked the following at-bat to load the bases and D.J. Stirgus and Jayden Loving were each hit by a pitch.

Loving was hit with the bases loaded, which sent Flowers home and gave Gwatney a 3-2 lead. Ryan Rosel hit into a 6-5 fielder’s choice the next at-bat, but picked up an RBI on the play as Sample scored to make it a 4-2 game.

Ean Collie was then plunked to load the bases before Isaiah Cain walked to send Loving across the plate for the final run of the inning. After a second-straight scoreless inning from Benton, Jacksonville put the game away with its five runs scored in the bottom of the fourth.

Sample got the fourth-inning rally started with his second hit of the game – a single to shallow left field. Jackson walked and Stirgus was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Loving then walked to earn an RBI as Sample scored the first run of the fourth.

Jackson scored from third base the next at-bat on a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Rosel. Rosel reached safely on the E6. With the bases loaded, Collie was hit by a pitch, allowing Stirgus to score, and two batters later, Whitmore drove in the game’s final two runs with a two-out single up the middle that scored Loving and Rosel.

Jackson struck out the side in the top of the fifth, and as a result, the game ended because of the eight-run lead after five innings sportsmanship rule.

Jacksonville had just three hits Thursday, with Sample going 2 for 2 with two runs scored. Whitmore had the only other hit of the game.

On the mound, Jackson struck out seven batters in his five innings of work, and gave up just two walks, while Benton’s pitchers combined for 10 walks.

Gwatney Blue (6-6) continued pool play last night after deadlines and will play again today at noon against Morrilton. The semifinals and finals of the tournament will be played tomorrow at Sheridan. Look for details of the rest of the tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville’s seniors get win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team held off a seventh-inning rally to secure a 9-7 win over Searcy in its first game of the Gwatney Chevrolet Summer Classic tournament Wednesday at Dupree Park.

Jacksonville entered the seventh inning with a 9-4 lead, but Searcy posted three runs off relief pitcher Brandon Hawkins, who had taken the mound in the sixth inning. Hawkins gathered himself after giving up the three runs with one out, and struck out Hunter Baker and Connor Sparks to seal the win.

Playing as the visiting team, Jacksonville took the first lead of the game with a run in the top of the second inning. Colton Goodman reached on an error at second base and scored on a base hit by Deaundray Harris. The Gwatney squad made it 3-0 in the top of the third. Ryan Mallison hit a one-out double to center field and scored on a hit by Brandon Hickingbotham. He later scored when Goodman again reached on an error, this time in center field.

But that lead evaporated in the bottom half of the same frame. Two-hole hitter Will Donavan drew a one-out walk, and that was followed by four consecutive base hits by Reed Milligan, Elliot Traike, Ryan Rogers and Andrew Moore that tied the game at 3-3.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Jacksonville got three runs across the plate in the top of the fifth. Mallison got things started with a single to the wall in right-center field. With one out, Laderrious Perry singled to the same spot as Mallison to score the lead runner. Chris Penn walked and Goodman doubled to left to drive in the two base runners and give Gwatney Chevrolet a 6-3 lead.

Searcy added a run in the bottom of the fifth with two walks and a base hit, but Jacksonville got it back with a run in the top of the sixth. D.J. Scott got a one-out base hit to right field, stole second and moved to third on a grounder by Mallison. He then scored on a passed ball.

Hawkins gave up a hit and hit a batter in the sixth, but got out of that jam with a strikeout, and Jacksonville added three more runs in the top of the seventh to take command of the game.

Perry and Penn got back-to-back base hits to start the inning, and Perry scored on another RBI base hit by Goodman. After two strikeouts, Hawkins singled to score Penn before Searcy relief pitcher Sparks fanned Scott to strike out the side.

Mallison and Perry each went 3 for 4 and scored two runs to lead Jacksonville offensively. Goodman went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Hickingbotham also went 2 for 4 for Jacksonville, which compiled 14 hits as a team.

Searcy got 11 base hits, with Moore going 3 for 4 to lead the way, and Rogers going 2 for 4. No other Searcy player got more than one base hit.

Goodman started on the mound for Jacksonville and threw five innings. He gave up seven hits and four earned runs while striking out and walking four batters each. Hawkins gave up four hits in two innings, striking out four and hitting one batter.

Jacksonville will play its third game of the tournament at 10 a.m. today against Benton The championship game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

SPORTS STORY >> Throw-out at plate sets up winner in seventh

Leader sports editor

Logans were strong on the mound and offense was hard to produce for both teams, but the Cabot-Centennial Bank senior American Legion team got a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Malvern 3-2 in Thursday’s opening game of the Gwatney Chevrolet Summer Classic tournament at Dupree Park in Jacksonville.

Cabot’s Logan Gilbertson and Malvern’s Logan Wright each carried no-hitters into the fourth inning, and Gilbertson extended his no-hit bid into the fifth before finishing with a seven-inning, five-hit performance.

Cabot scored the game-winning run on a walk-off, one-out base hit by leadoff hitter Dylan Bowers. Lee Sullivan had hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Logan Edmondson to set up Bowers’ walk-off, but it was a defensive play in the top of the seventh that made the last hit a game-winner.

With the score tied 2-2 with two outs and no one on, Malvern’s Jace Turner reached second base on an error at third. Brandon Scott then singled to center field with a hard line drive. Cabot center fielder Logan Kirkendoll fielded the hit on one hop, and fired a perfect throw to the plate, where Braden Jarnagin applied the tag to Turner for the third out and preserved the tie.

Cabot scored one run in the bottom of the fourth inning after Jonathan Harpole got a leadoff base hit, the first one of the game for either team. He later scored on a one-out single down the right field line by Gavin Tillery.

Malvern recorded its first two hits and scored its run with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. Wright drove a shot to the wall in left-center field for a standup double, the first hit of the game for Malvern. Dalton Bray then singled to score his pitcher and tie the game at 1-1.

But Cabot regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Austin Null singled to start the inning and Michael Shepherd walked.

Edmondson then singled down the left field line to score Null before Shepherd was thrown out at third base. It proved a costly base running mistake, as Cabot got another hit by Harpole two batters later.

In the sixth inning, Malvern nine-hole hitter Scott doubled down the left-field line to start the inning. He was still standing on second base with two outs before Tashaun Hart singled to right field to drive in Scott and tie the game.

Cabot finished with seven base hits, with Harpole leading the way, going 2 for 3 with a run scored.

Wright went the distance, giving up all seven hits in six and one-third innings. All three runs were earned while Wright struck out five Cabot batters, walked one and hit one.

Gilbertson also went the distance, giving up two earned runs while striking out three and walking one.

Cabot will play its second game of the tournament at 12:15 p.m. today and its third at 8 p.m. today. The two teams with the best record will play in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

SPORTS STORY >> Big third lifts Gwatney Red

Leader sportswriter

A plethora of walks and some untimely errors put Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet Red team in a 4-0 hole against Hot Springs Village after two-and-a-half innings of play in the first round of the Sheridan American Legion Baseball Junior Invitational Tournament on Thursday, but Jacksonville responded with six unanswered runs in the bottom of the third to win 6-4.

The walks were plentiful from the start, but timely defensive plays by both teams kept the game scoreless after two innings of play. Hot Springs Village, though, broke the scoreless game in the top of the third with its four runs.

Hot Springs Village, playing as the visiting team, managed just one hit in the third inning off starting pitcher Jordan Wickersham, but three of the four base runners that scored that inning reached base via walk and three of those runs scored were the result of two errant pickoff throws to first base. The fourth run came on a passed ball that should’ve been caught.

Despite the sloppy inning, Jackson-ville (4-5) responded and took the momentum and the lead its next at-bat in the bottom half of the inning. Gwatney Red two-hole hitter Trent Toney led off the inning with a walk, and Wickersham walked as well before Chance Perry loaded the bases with a single to right field.

Still with no outs, Jacksonville’s Isaac Green drew a walk to score Toney and make it a 4-1 game. Devin Dodson grounded out to first the next at-bat, but picked up an RBI as Wickersham scored.

Foster Rash followed Dodson’s at-bat with a walk, and two batters later, Jonathan Smith tied the game at 4-4 with a two-out, two-RBI double that sailed just over the HSV shortstop’s glove.

Leadoff hitter Caleb Smith drew a walk the following at-bat, and Toney, batting for the second time in the inning, set the final score with a two-RBI single to left field that sent Rash and Smith across the plate.

Cody Johnson took the hill in relief of Wickersham in the top of the fourth, and gave up just one hit before earning the save, as the game ended after the top of the fourth because the two-hour time limit expired.

Jacksonville outhit Hot Springs Village 4-2. Wickersham earned the win. He allowed just one hit in the three innings of work, but also gave up 11 walks. Hot Springs Village didn’t do much better in that category, giving up a combined seven walks.

Gwatney Red coach Marvin Helsley attributed the high number of walks to a smaller strike zone than usual.

“The umpire had a small strike zone, and both teams were battling that,” said Helsley. “Both teams were battling, trying to get that coffee-can strike zone to where we could do something with it. It took long, and it took a while for our bats to get settled down.

“What’s been good about our bunch is we’ve been scrappy all year. So I wasn’t worried about (Hot Springs Village) being up three or four runs. We have a scrappy group that can battle back and have battled back. So I’m proud of our guys for how they keep fighting.”

Toney, Perry, Rash and Smith combined for Gwatney Red’s four hits Thursday. Gwatney Red continued pool play in the tournament yesterday after deadlines and will play again tonight at 7:30 against the tournament hosts.

The semifinals and finals of the tournament will be tomorrow in Sheridan. Look for details of the rest of the tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Market price or fixed deal

Sometime soon, after hearings and some pondering, the state Public Service Commission will give Entergy Corporation the go-ahead to raise the monthly electricity bills of homeowners, businesses and large industries on the company’s distribution system in Arkansas.

If everything goes according to Hoyle, big industrial users of power like the giant paper companies, steel mills and Riceland and Tyson Foods won’t see much of an increase, but the rest of you will. If the state approves Entergy’s request for $167 million in new revenues and the company’s proposed rate schedule, residential customers will see their monthly bills go up 13.2 percent, most businesses 13.6 percent and the big industrial users only 1.9 percent.

If you would like to know who to thank or to blame for what happens to your light bill, this is a handy manual. It starts with the Arkansas legislature, which in the closing days of the regular session in March passed a law that encourages state regulators to give utilities bigger rate increases than they have in recent years but to go more lightly on big industries and more heavily on homes and small businesses when it spreads the higher costs around among electricity users.

Entergy Arkansas filed the rate request April 24, about three weeks after Gov. Hutchinson signed “An Act to Reform Rate Making of Public Utilities,” which the legislature had passed with almost no discussion and with little public fanfare. The 2015 legislature is the most corporate friendly in the state’s history. More about that in a moment.

Entergy can make a case that it should earn more money from its Arkansas customers, so as to be fair to its investors and attract capital to make improvements to its distribution and generation systems. Entergy Arkansas is expanding renewable energy sources and it and its parent company are buying all four units of the giant and virtually unused gas-burning Union Power Station at El Dorado, which will reduce its carbon pollution and help it meet the government’s new climate-change standards.

The so-called “reform” of utility rate making was an odd bill, filed by Rep. Charlie Collins, the Republican chairman of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee. Where it originated nobody knows, but its objects are clear: fatter profits for the utility and its big industrial customers.

The legislature can’t order higher earnings for the utility and lower rates for industries that consume large amounts of electricity or gas, but it can lean on the regulators, who are appointed by the governor, to make it so. That is what the law does.

From now on, when the PSC calculates an adequate rate of return for investors on a utility’s common stock, the law says that it must weigh all the factors and evidence submitted by the utility and the intervening parties, including what other states in the region are doing. The PSC can’t simply ignore the testimony that nearby states like Texas and Louisiana allow utilities to have a much higher rate of return than the PSC under Gov. Mike Beebe has allowed. The commissioners are now forced by law to explain in their final order how much weight, if any, they gave to the generosity of the other states and why it isn’t being equally generous. The commissioners will get the message.

Second, the law reverses the historic standard for allocating the utility’s rates among the classes of customers—mainly residential, general business and big users. Historically, as a matter of public policy, homes and general business were favored in the allocation and the PSC could consider ways to soften the impact on industries that consumed massive kilowatt hours. Collins’ law reverses the formula to favor the big industries, if someone makes a case that low industrial rates are good for economic development. (Entergy officials accordingly testified that it indeed would be good for economic development so they loaded the higher rates on homeowners and small businesses.) The law specifies that if someone—the staff of the PSC or the attorney general, who historically championed the cause of homeowners in the ratemaking—makes a case that the impact on homeowners should be softened the PSC is allowed to figure out a way to do that. But big industries by law are now the primary concern.

That is the terrain on which the fight over higher rates and how they will be distributed among customers will be fought. You can guess the outcome.

The attorney general for the past 40 years has intervened in utility rate cases to fight for the interests primarily of residential customers. That seems to be over with the new attorney general, Leslie Rutledge. She received heavy election financing from the Koch brothers, owners of Georgia Pacific, one of the big energy users. She has been fighting intervention in the case by those who would protect environmental and consumer interests.

We mentioned the corporate friendliness of this legislature, which for the first time since Reconstruction has huge Republican majorities in both houses. At a special session in the spring, the legislature voted to borrow $87.1 million to boost the profits of Lockheed Martin Corp. and help it beat two competitors for a lucrative contract with the Defense Department.

If it wins the contract, it will build military vehicles at Camden and Arkansas taxpayers will ante up some $125 million to pay off the loan. At the end of the regular session in March, it referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot to remove all limits on corporate welfare and permit future legislatures and local governments to obligate as much of Arkansas’ taxes as they like to corporations that might like to do business in Arkansas. And the legislature eliminated sales and use taxes that the big Texas gas production companies might have to pay for the sand they force into shale wells to extract gas. The state will pay the companies some $25 million in rebates.

All of that is the brave new public policy that Arkansas voters said they wanted, and it is what they will get. — Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> PCSSD will give teachers better pay starting out

Leader senior staff writer

Beginning teacher pay at the Pulaski County Special School District will be more competitive, but the most experienced teachers will benefit less if state Education Commissioner John Key approves the Monday night recommendation of the PCSSD Citizens Advisory Board.

Beginning teacher salaries will still be less than the starting salary in any of the six neighboring school districts.

While the recommended salary schedule adds $2,000 to the entry-level positions, it adds only $200 to the more experienced steps where teachers have advanced degrees.

First-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree will start at $34,106 for the 190-day 2015-16 school year. The current starting salary is $32,175.

A teacher with a Ph.D. and 17 years experience would earn $69,206.

A study averaging the six surrounding school districts — Little Rock, North Little Rock, Cabot, Conway, Benton and Bryant — showed beginning teachers in PCSSD were making $5,093 less than that combined average. Even with the increase, beginning PCSSD teachers will make less than teachers at any of the other six neighboring districts.


“The administration believes it is important to offer a competitive beginning teacher salary in order to recruit the best new teachers to the district,” its recommendation read. “It is especially important in order to recruit the best new minority teachers, who are always recruited heavily by all of the central Arkansas school districts.”

PCSSD beginning teachers earned only 86 percent of the average salary of beginning teachers at the other districts, while teachers at the top of the schedule earned nearly 105 percent of the average top of the other districts.

Because PCSSD is in fiscal distress and operated by the state, the recommendation goes to state Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who serves as a one-man school board. The PCSSD school board was dissolved when the state took over in 2011.

In all, the new salary schedule will cost the district an additional $2.353 million for the next school year, according to Chief Financial Officer Bill Goff, who retires June 30.

Although the proposed change doesn’t sit well with those at the top end of the salary schedule, the personnel policy committee approved the recommendation by a 5-2 vote.

The committee is made up of five teachers and three administrators. One teacher missed the PPC meeting.


In other action, the advisory board recommended the administration’s fringe-benefit plan over the one proposed by personnel policy committee chairwoman Pam Fitzgiven.

The state mandates the specifics of the main health insurance plan and also requires the districts to offer and help pay for dental, vision, short-term disability, long-term disability and death and dismemberment insurance.

The district had been paying $42 a month per employee for the package and is currently paying $47 a month.

The current proposal would guarantee that PCSSD would pay at least $45 a month per employee for those services, but would retain the right to change short-term disability if it became too expensive.


According to advisory board member Lindsey Gustafson, the district wants to guarantee a financial level of service — at least $45 per employee — while many of the teachers want a guarantee of all the services, regardless of the cost. “We’re moving from products to price per month,” said Gustafson. “I find that troubling. That seems to be the trajectory.”

Superintendent Jerry Guess said that, even as the district tries to emerge from fiscal distress, the district would lose $20.8 million a year in desegregation payments from the state in three years. Issues such as salaries and benefits are affected.

The board chose to recommend the $45 minimum to the commissioner with the provision that, next year and subsequent years, the process will be more transparent and the PPC will be more involved in structuring the benefits plan.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood could stop permits for a 30-day review

Leader staff writer

Sherwood has declared a moratorium of up to 30 days on building permits while the council reviews a new ordinance on allowable building material.

The ordinance was introduced at Sherwood’s council meeting Monday night to clarify what can go on exterior walls of new businesses in certain high-traffic corridors of the city.

The ordinance, which was just read once and will more than likely be voted on at the July meeting, is in response to controversy surrounding the new Whit Davis store.

The company, which received approval every step of the way, was called on the carpet two months ago for violating the city’s building code by using a stucco-looking siding to cover its metal building.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye said she had received numerous complaints about the exterior of building and wondered why the company didn’t have to follow the code, which she said required stucco, masonry or wood.

“We don’t want a metal building looking like a metal building,” Alderman Kevin Lilly said, backing Heye.

The council heard from Wit Davis representatives and the city engineer. Both stated that all steps, including the siding, had been approved.

The aldermen then asked City Attorney Stephen Cobb to research what could be done.

At the May council meeting, Cobb — in a letter to the aldermen — said a more recent building code the council had passed superseded the one that Heye referred to and that Whit Davis had not violated any standards.

Still, members of the council weren’t pleased and asked that an ordinance be drawn up to prevent this from happening again.

Aldermen Tim McMinn and Ken Keplinger brought up the ordinance that included some last-minute changes, which is why the council is reviewing it closely.

“I don’t want any construction to stop, so I’m not opposed to having a specially-called meeting to approve this ordinance,” Keplinger said.

Besides defining proper materials that may be used for the outside finish of a building, the proposed ordinance also allows for an architectural review committee to look at new materials and questionable designs.

In other council business:

• Aldermen approved a rezoning request for property at 4500 Rixey Road, going from C-3 (General Commercial) to C-4 (Highway Commercial), which allows the property owner more options. The council also rezoned 1503 E. Kiehl Ave. from C-1 (Neighborhood Commercial) to C-3 (General Commercial).

• The council agreed to spend $54,184, which will be added to grant money, to complete the Silver Creek sidewalk project this year.

• Aldermen agreed to have Sherwood become part of Pulaski County’s Property Assessed Clean Energy district. It involves no money on the part of the city, but does give the city a seat on the PACE board. The district is a funding arm to help finance energy improvements for businesses and industries in the county.

• The city council also agreed to add about $80,000 to a $250,00 grant for major street overlay projects on Jacksonville-Cato Road and Jacksonville Cutoff Road.

• The council also appointed A.C. Ketzcher to the Sherwood Public Facilities Board. His term will expire Sept. 30, 2016.

• The mayor announced that Sherwood’s Fourth of July festival would at Sherwood Forest from 6 to 9 p.m.; the Sherwood Young Professionals are sponsoring the annual Sherwoof Dog Day from noon to 2 p.m. at the animal shelter on July 11; the Sherwood Mayor’s Youth Council is hosting Movies in the Park on July 24; and, during July, the animal shelter is running a special on cat adoptions.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney wins half of weekend series

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville senior American Legion team split a pair of games with Paragould’s Glen Sain Automotive squad at Dupree Park over the weekend. Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet team won 6-2 on Saturday, then lost 5-2 on Sunday.

Jacksonville lefty Brandon Hawkins threw five innings of shutout baseball until yielding two runs on four walks and an error he committed. But by then, Jacksonville had built a 6-0 lead and Hawkins regained his control to finish out the victory.

Gwatney Chevrolet got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning when Courtland McDonald and Ryan Mallison got back-to-back base hits, with Mallison’s line drive scoring McDonald. Mallison tried to stretch his single into a double and was thrown out at second base.

Jacksonville added three in the fourth inning on three hits and three walks. D.J. Scott, Laderrious Perry and Colton Goodman got consecutive, one-out singles, with Goodman’s shot to right field scoring Scott. After an infield pop-up, Peyton Traywick, McDonald and Mallison drew three-straight walks to drive in Perry and Goodman.

Brandon Hickingbotham started a two-run fifth inning with a leadoff single to center field. He was still standing on first with two outs before Goodman singled to put runners on the corners. Chris Penn then singled to score Hickingbotham, and Traywick singled down the right-field line to score Goodman. McDonald made it four-straight base hits with another shot down the first-base line, but Traywick was thrown out on the base paths to end the inning.

Jacksonville totaled 11 base hits, with McDonald, Hickingbotham and Goodman picking up two apiece.

Hawkins gave up just three hits and one earned run in seven innings of work. He struck out seven, walked six and hit one batter.

Errors were the difference in Sunday’s game. Both teams got good starting pitching and good relief pitching, but Paragould played clean defense while Jacksonville committed six errors.

Glen Sain took the lead in the first inning, scoring three runs on no hits and three Gwatney Chevrolet errors. The first two batters reached base on infield errors. After a Hickingbotham strikeout, another booted ground ball allowed the first two base runners to score. After a walk and passed ball, Paragould’s Hayden Winfrey hit a deep fly ball to left field to score Christian Dean for the 3-0 lead.

Jacksonville hit the ball hard in its turn at bat in the first, but couldn’t find the gaps in Paragould’s defense. Scott hit a leadoff single to left field to get Gwatney Chevrolet off to a good start. Mallison then hit a hard line drive right to Paragould shortstop Joel Kester. After a strikeout, Hickingbotham laced a shot to right field, where Lucas Reddick barely had to move to make the catch for the final out.

Jacob Penny got a hit to start the top of the second inning for Paragould. Cash Lee bunted him to second base. Leadoff hitter Logan Reddick grounded out to short and Penny tried for third. Goodman’s throw from first to third was in plenty of time to get Penny, but off target and bounced into foul territory as Penny trotted home for the easy score.

With the bases empty and two outs, Hickingbotham hit Lane Ditto, who then reached second on a passed ball. Kester singled to score Ditto. Dean then singled to left, but Kester tried to reach third base and was thrown out by Perry to end the inning.

Jacksonville scored one run in the second inning after Goodman singled and Penn was hit by a pitch. Perry bunted to advance the runners and Traywick grounded out to short, scoring Goodman.

Hickingbotham sat Paragould down in order in the top of the third, and Jacksonville scored the game’s final run in the bottom half of the same inning. Scott took a pitch between the shoulder blades to start things off, and Mallison doubled down the left-field line to drive him home.

Jacksonville’s first two batters walked to start the sixth inning before Paragould starting pitcher Ty Gordon was replaced by Matt Campbell. That proved to be the end of Jacksonville’s chances. Campbell struck out Perry and Traywick before hitting Deaundray Harris. He then struck out Scott with the bases loaded to end the inning. Campbell then fanned Mallison, walked McDonald and struck out Donte Harris and Cody Savage to end the game. Gordon threw five innings, giving up four hits, three walks and two hit batters while striking out five. Campbell threw two innings for Paragould, striking out six, walking one and hitting one batter.

Hickingbotham threw four innings for Jacksonville. He gave up three hits and one earned run, striking out, walking and hitting one batter each.

Goodman threw the last three innings for Jacksonville. He gave up one hit and no runs, also with one strikeout, one walk and one hit batter.

Dean and Scott led their respective teams with two hits apiece.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot junior wins sprints

Leader sports editor

Cabot sprinter Britton Alley, who will be a junior at CHS in the upcoming school year, won three state championships at the USA Track and Field’s Arkansas Association Junior Olympics at UALR on Saturday. Alley won the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter dash races in the 15-16-year-old division. Alley pulled away to big leads and maintained them with little trouble in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

He finished the 100-meter dash in 11.43 seconds and the 200-meters in23.25. Neither time matched or beat his personal best, but the races were against a -2.4 meters per second headwind.

The 400-meter race wasn’t as easy. Alley failed to close much of the lag gap in the first turn and in the front stretch. He still trailed by almost 10 meters going into the final turn, but was step for step with the leader coming out of the turn. He then pulled away down the final stretch to win by about four meters.

In his first full season as a member of the Cabot Panthers’ varsity track team, Alley became one of the top sprinters in the state. In his first 7A Conference meet, he took second in the 100-meter dash and third in the 200. At the Class 7A state meet in Fayetteville, Alley took third in the 200-meter dash, and sixth in the 100-meters.

His performance in the 200-meters qualified him for the 2015 Meet of Champions, where he placed eighth.

Saturday’s USATF wins qualifies Alley for the USATF Region 9 championships in Tulsa, Okla., from July 9-12.

A top-five finish in Tulsa qualifies Alley for a spot in the USATF-JO Nationals in Jacksonville, Fla., in August.

SPORTS STORY >> CMS student finds target

Leader sportswriter

Archery, though one of the oldest sports activities historically, has seen a rise in participation in recent years, especially among today’s youth.

Lance Schichtl, who’s one of three archery coaches at Cabot Junior High South, says the school’s archery club numbers continue to grow, and one of the club’s rising stars is 13-year-old Kayla Jones, who finished first overall out of 720 girls in her age group at last month’s National Archery Schools Program National Tournament in Louisville, Ky.

Jones, who just completed her seventh-grade year at CJHS with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, finished the NASP National Tournament on May 3 with a score of 289 out of a possible 300 points.

Among the middle school participants in the girls’ ranks, which combined seventh and eighth graders into one division, that score gave Jones a seventh overall finish, and out of the 5,475 total girls that competed in the nationwide tournament, Jones’ 289 score ranked 22nd overall.

It was quite a finish for Jones, especially considering the first time she picked up a bow was this past school year. Jones first joined the CJHS archery club as a seventh grader, and did so through the influence of a friend.

“I have a friend that did it,” said Jones. “She’s a year older than me and she inspired me to do it. Also, one of the coaches (Tim Hobbs) goes to my church, so I knew him, and my older brother had done it, so it was one of the things I wanted to try out.”

Jones is also a basketball and softball player, and she said archery is right up there among her favorite activities. But she also said she almost gave up on the bow before she ever got a chance to shoot it.

“I remember the first day,” Jones said, “it was horrible. I was like, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ But I stuck with it, mostly because of my friend.”

The introduction part of the archery club is all about safety instruction and drills, and Jones said her first club experiences consisted mostly of watching safety videos. Schichtl recalls that period, and said it took some convincing to get Jones to stick with the program.

“Kayla had a unique situation where she was kind of drug in by a friend, and basically we had to beg her to stay,” said Schichtl. “The first part is safety and things you have to go over. It’s not the most pleasant time, because you don’t get to shoot until you get through it all.

“For Kayla, that was boring. She wanted to shoot. Once she got to shoot, her interest picked up, and she’s really, really done well.”

Once she got to the shooting part, Jones said it didn’t take long for her interest in the sport to grow.

“It didn’t take long at all,” she said.

Between 60 and 70 students participate in the archery club at CJHS, which was established in 2009, but for team competitions, the top 16 to 24, depending on the competition, are selected to the CJHS traveling team, according to Schichtl.

“Every year we’re growing,” Schichtl said of the club. “We have a traveling team and we have an archery club. Our club consists of between 60 and 70 members. Our traveling team is between 16 and 24. That’s depending on the situation and what shoot we’re at. We’re growing. The sport’s growing.”

With movies such as The Hunger Games and Brave, which feature the use of a bow by the movies’ main characters, Schichtl said that’s peaked the younger generation’s interest in the sport.

“With The Hunger Games movies and the Brave movie and things like that, you see quite an interest,” Schichtl said. “Once they see it there and they find out, ‘hey, we can do that at school,’ it peaks their interests and they want to try it.”

Schichtl said that Jones is one of the more naturally talented shooters he’s had in the club’s history, and one of the quickest learners, considering she went from never picking up a bow when she joined the club, to winning the NASP National Tournament last month.

“For anyone to come that far and that fast from never picking up a bow to doing what she did, that’s pretty outstanding,” Schichtl said. “She went from never picking up a bow to the number one shooter at the national shoot. That’s pretty phenomenal.

“The biggest deal with her is she’s very coachable. She has fun. She’s very natural at it. I mean, it was easy for her to pick it up.”

Schichtl said that Jones is part of one of the most talented archery teams he’s had since the program was established. The team consists of seventh and eighth graders, and Schichtl said the top 16 or 17 will make the trip to the world tournament in Nashville, Tenn. on July 23.

Jones was the lone seventh grader to represent the CJHS team at the national tournament, where she finished first among the 720 seventh-grade girls that competed, and she’ll make the trip to the world tournament in Nashville next month.

Even though she’s still quite new to the sport of archery, Jones says she’d like to continue participating in it for as long as possible, which as of now would be through ninth grade.

If an archery program could be established at Cabot High School, though, she said she’d love to join that program as well when she gets to that point in her schooling, and she added that she’d even like to do it at the collegiate level as well, if possible.

“Through my school years, for sure,” Jones said. “We’re trying to get the program into the high school. We don’t have a high school program yet, but we’re working on it right now. If we get one, I’ll continue to go through high school, and maybe if I can, through college.”

SPORTS STORY >> Triple play lifts C-Bank

Leader sports editor

A triple play thwarted a potentially huge Beebe rally and a walk-off walk sealed the game in Cabot’s favor, as the Centennial Bank junior American Legion team overcame a tough challenge from Beebe’s O’Reilly’s Auto Parts at Cabot City Park on Monday, winning 6-5.

Cabot led 5-1 going into the third inning, but Beebe cut one run into that lead with three base hits, one each by Ty Searcy, John Finley and Carson McNeil.

Beebe’s Finley took the mound in relief and kept Cabot’s bats quiet over the next four innings while O’Reilly’s continued to chip away at Centennial Bank’s lead.

Beebe (5-8, 3-3) loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning when bad luck and a stellar defensive play put a halt to the rally.

Hunter Lawrence drew an RBI walk that brought leadoff hitter Ty Searcy to the plate with the bases still loaded. Searcy hit a hard, topspin line drive just to the left of second base and the runners took off. But Cabot shortstop Brenden Sheldon made a diving catch just before the ball hit the ground, got up, stepped on second base and threw to first before the runners could get back to end the inning.

“That’s pretty sweet for him,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross of Sheldon’s triple play. “Not many people can say they’ve done something like that.”

Beebe put together a two-out rally in the fifth, starting with a base hit by Carson McNeil. Blaine Burge walked and Jacob Davis hit a line-drive single to left-center field to make the score 5-4. O’Reilly’s got all the way back in the top of the seventh.

Tyler Fowler drew a one-out walk and advanced all the way to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch. Finley then hit a single to shallow center field that scored Fowler to tie the game at 5-5.

But Finley’s control be-trayed him in the bottom of the seventh. He got a groundout before walking Sheldon and striking out Will Jerry.

He then walked Brett Brockinton and Easton Seidl to load the bases, and walked Logan Gilbertson to give up the game-winning run.

Beebe scored first in the top of the first inning before Cabot scored five in a row, three in the first and two in the second. Beebe’s run came on an RBI double by McNeil that drove in Fowler, who had been hit by a pitch.

Cabot answered with a leadoff walk by Sheldon, followed by base hits by Jerry and Brockinton. A one-out single by Gilbertson scored two runs, and an error at shortstop off the bat of Dillon Thomas scored Brockinton.

In the second, Sheldon got a one-out single followed by an RBI double by Jerry. He moved to third on a fly ball to center field by Brockinton and scored on a wild pitch.

Cabot (16-2, 6-0) got five base hits. Jerry led the way offensively, going 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Sheldon went 1 for 1 with three walks and three runs scored. Cabot walked seven times.

Beebe got four base hits with McNeil getting half those. The visitors drew five walks.

Brockinton blew the save but got the win in two innings of relief.

Game two did not count towards the zone record and was called after four innings, but featured a dominant effort on the mound by Dillon Thomas, who is not even among the pitching rotation.

Thomas threw three innings of no-hit ball for Centennial Bank, including six strikeouts, two in each inning.

Cabot scored once in the bottom of the first. Sheldon was hit by a pitch and stole second and third base. He then scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Brockinton.

Skylar Weidman drew a leadoff walk to start the second inning and stole second base. Michael Crumbly then singled to right field to score Weidman.

Brockinton capped the night’s scoring with flare, driving a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left field to set the final margin. Seidl took the mound in the bottom of the fourth, and retired the side.