Friday, May 05, 2017

TOP STORY >> Alamo: He left a trail of misery

Leader executive editor

(Tony Alamo, the Arkansas cult leader who was serving a 175-year sentence for transporting young girls across state lines for sex, died Wednesday in a North Carolina prison at the age of 82. This is a reprint of a column from Sept. 24, 2008.)

After he went to prison for six years for tax evasion and cheating his followers out of millions in wages, Tony Alamo should have thought about retiring from his phony Christian cult and stayed on the right side of the law, living out his golden years in a double-wide trailer somewhere in the Ozarks, not far from his native Missouri, singing “Volare” to himself as the sun went down.

But, no, this con man and former lounge singer hasn’t retired at all. Here he is, 74 years old, finally out of prison, and he’s still running his cult and exploiting his followers. But he could face new charges of child abuse, pedophilia and polygamy, not to mention selling fake Nikes to help make ends meet.

He denied all charges after federal authorities rescued six children from his compound in Fouke near Texarkana over the weekend. This is the Bible-quoting preacher who says pedophilia and polygamy are fine with God, not that he would necessarily get involved in such things himself, but it might be OK for others.

Many Arkansans think of Alamo as the poor man’s Jimmy Swaggart, but Tony has made a bundle in the preaching racket, losing most of it along the way.

Before he went to prison, he filed for bankruptcy owing $12 million — he wound up losing his property in Crawford County, and he even stiffed his lawyers.

Law-enforcement officials consider him a racketeer who did not pay his workers at dozens of his businesses or pay their withholding and Social Security taxes — but he now faces possibly more serious charges of statutory rape and child pornography, if federal authorities can make a case against the dime-store preacher.

Tony talks so much about child brides, it’s no wonder he’s been suspected of not only pedophilia and polygamy — at least since the time his wife Susan died from cancer back in 1982. Before she passed away, she claimed in her sermons that God had cured her, but she was wrong about that. Tony kept her remains in their home for a long time, waiting for a resurrection, but she was eventually buried or cremated.

He’s not the brightest bulb in the house, but he figured out 40 years ago that when he combined his brain and cunning with Susan, they’d do all right. They ran the Susan and Tony Alamo Christian Foundation and lived lavishly as they exploited thousands of young people, who worked for him without pay and took all kinds of abuse for years.

It’s a bit odd that he picked Fouke for his newest headquarters after leaving prison. But Tony has a weird sense of humor, and he probably liked the sound of the place, where this semi-literate has-been would plot his comeback, fighting the feds and the Vatican and ranting about how the government destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Law-enforcement agencies are just now beginning to make a case against Tony and his sidekicks over the latest abuse allegations.

They could land him in prison for a lot longer than the last time, which would make him a very old man indeed when he gets out.

(Postscript: As we predicted in another column, Alamo would die in prison. No one mourned his passing.)

TOP STORY >> Over 60 homes flood in area

Leader staff writer

Nearly two dozen Jacksonville homes and 21 apartments suffered some kind of water or flooding damage in last weekend’s storms, and the city is passing on the information to county officials in hopes that the county judge declares parts of the city a disaster area.

The latest round of rains put the city garage and maintenance building under two inches of water and waters are still receding from Dupree Park.

“So we don’t know what kind of damage we have there yet,” said City Engineer Jay Whisker.

A number of houses near Marshall and Harris roads flooded because Rocky Branch breeched its banks.

Whisker told the Jacksonville City Council he is still seeking damage information from area residents. “I want anyone who suffered damage to call so we can verify it and add it to the list we are sending the county,” he said.

Residents can call him at 501-982-6071.

Sherwood is doing the same. Mayor Virginia Young said the city has a wide area with minor damage for the most part, but Tracy Sims, Sherwood’s emergency manager, has been out taking pictures and verifying damage to turn over to the county. Sims said he’s been out everyday since early Sunday checking damage. And latest totals were 40-plus homes and one business. He said most of it was three to four inches of floodwater in the homes.

“A lot of wetness but not much structural damage,” he said.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said his city fared pretty well “considering it was the worse extended flood event in decades. We had water in one house and one business shop.” He added that the city has spent millions over recent years on flood control, and it showed. “We had some street flooding, but overall, very little damage.”

Even though Jacksonville suffered some flooding and a number of roads were underwater for a time, Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley said little damage was done to the roadways.

Mayor Gary Fletcher explained that Jacksonville sits in a bow and when there is regional or statewide heavy rainfall Jack’s Bayou backs up from all the water coming downstream, plus the ridge near Vilonia keeps water in the Jacksonville area. “At times it is difficult to deal with,” he said, adding, “Our prayers are with the people of Pocahontas and northeast Arkansas where a number of deaths occurred.”

The latest round of storms Wednesday and Thursday dropped about 2 inches of rain onto an already saturated area, as April was the wettest since 1991 and the 13th wettest on record.

What made it so bad was that the rain was not spread out during the month. Nearly two-thirds of the 10-plus inches that fell in the month came in the last five days.

On April 29 and 30 the area saw 5.11 inches of rain, the sixth highest 24-hour period of rain ever recorded in April, plus it nearly matched the 5.14 inches of rain central Arkansas normally gets through the entire month of April.

A new rainfall record for April 26 was set for Little Rock Air Force Base when 1.89 inches fell, breaking the old record of 1.14 inches set 60 years ago.

That was followed by more than three inches hitting the area April 29 and another 2.27 inches April 30.

The rain from the late April storms set eight different all-time short duration rainfall records. New records were set for the most rain in a 10-minute period, 15 minute, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, 80 minutes and 150 minutes.

The Cabot Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with the American Red Cross to collect donations for the flood victims of northeast Arkansas. Chamber officials said they are in need of paper towels, paper plates, plastic forks and spoons, and individually wrapped food items.

Items can be dropped off at the chamber by Tuesday or call 501-843-2136 for pickup.

TOP STORY >> Area farmers reeling from floods

Leader senior staff writer

While flooding and other storm effects have battered 937,000 acres of Arkansas farmland, with losses as high as $65 million, Lonoke County-area farmers are faring better than many, according to Lonoke County Extension Service Chief Keith Perkins.

Of that acreage, crops on two-thirds are expected to survive if no more rain falls, according to Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “I’m being conservative. There’s no sugar-coating it,” he said.

Hardke said rice was the hardest hit, with nearly 90 percent of the anticipated 1.2- million acre crop already in the ground. Seventy-one percent had emerged.

The mid-week rains and flooding on fields already saturated or under standing water is likely to require the replanting of thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of acres, according to Perkins.


“In my little community, we got 500 acres under water in rice,” said Lonoke County farmer Dow Brantley. “I think it will be OK, but it will be early next week before water gets off.”

“We won’t know till all the water goes down,” he said Friday morning.

Brantley said farmers in the northeast part of the state got hit hardest. “In our county, we don’t have big rivers like our neighbors in northeast Arkansas,” he said.

In Lonoke County, Keo and Snake Island were two of the hardest-hit areas, Perkins said.

“We lost all our cotton, about 400 acres, because of the continuous cold weather. Some farmers, including me, will lose two or three percent of our corn planted in the low end of the field,” Brantley said. “We’ve not been able to do any field work in a couple of weeks.’


He said like him, most farmers probably don’t have crop insurance, but they have asked the governor to declare a state of emergency so that the USDA can make low-interest loans to farmers.

About 83,200 acres of soybeans, 47,900 acres of corn and 9,300 acres of cotton may have been lost, Hardke said.

Soybeans were projected at 3.5 million acres this year and were 45 percent planted and 32 percent emerged. Ninety-seven percent of a projected 600,000 acres of corn was planted and 89 percent emerged. Cotton, projected to total 500,000 acres, was 15 percent planted and 5 percent emerged, Hardke said.

“Anything that’s still covered in water at the end of next week is a loss, and farmers need to make preparations for it to be gone and be ready to take action whenever it dries.

“If it’s still wet at the end of next week, it’ll be June before it will be dry enough to replant,” he said.

The April 28-30 storms spawned tornadoes in Lonoke, Boone, Drew, White and Woodruff counties.

Some areas in Arkansas saw more than 10 inches of rain during the weekend, prompting flash flood warnings across the state.

Making a living on the farm is not easy.

According to Hardke, row-crop farmers suffered an estimated $40 million to $50 million loss last year due to heavy rains. Beef producers endured a $128 million loss from drought in 2012 and farmers suffered an estimated $335 million in losses for flooding in 2011, Hardke said.

For now, it’s a waiting game, Perkins said.

EDITORIAL >> What repeal would mean

If you are one of the 25 million Americans, including 800,000 Arkansans, who must worry almost daily about getting medical care and paying for it, this has been a bummer of a week, because your health insurance has been jeopardized. If you need to assign blame, you can start with President Trump and Governor Hutchinson, but there is plenty of censure to go around.

Hutchinson summoned the legislature into town for three days to adopt measures that he hopes will allow him, with Donald Trump’s approval, to kick 60,000 poor people off the state health insurance rolls and assign the cost of taking care of them from state and federal taxpayers (that’s you) to just U.S. taxpayers (that’s still you) and to your struggling local hospital, which will inherit a new burden of charity care.

Desperate to claim victory on something in his first 110 days, President Trump begged his party in Congress to capitulate to two dozen members of its far-right-wing caucus so that the House of Representatives could pass a bill that claims to repeal the once despised Obamacare, although the bill violates every principle for reforming health care that Trump ever espoused.

The bill will never become law, at least in anything like its present form, but the House passed it Thursday with one vote to spare so the president could celebrate.

Now they all count on the nearly evenly split U.S. Senate to come up with something far better and convert it into law before November 2018, when they have to face voters. Trumpcare, as the American Health Care Act and whatever mutation the Senate might produce will be called, claimed only 17 percent approval with voters before Thursday’s vote, half the popularity of Obamacare at even its lowest point.

Our own congressman, French Hill, voted for the bill and praised it lamely and inaccurately. But we should cut him some slack. He hopes to land a big Treasury Department job, if Trump ever gets around to filling all those subcabinet jobs, and a vote against Trumpcare would have killed his chances.

For six years, Republicans were blessed by wide public ignorance of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. It was complicated and poorly defended by the president and Democrats, so people were easily persuaded by the barrage of commercials and flyers that said it was going to destroy Medicare, prevent people from choosing their own doctors and have the government prescribe the care, if any, that people could get. “Socialized medicine,” Republican PR guru Frank Luntz told Republicans to label it.

Those slogans evaporated as people slowly grasped what the big insurance overhaul actually did and what its real problems were—federal subsidies were not big enough to enable millions of low- and middle-income people to pay the insurance premiums. But when Republicans this year had to finally prepare a replacement for the law they wanted to scrap, people saw clearly what they were doing, and they didn’t like it.

Trumpcare does two things Republicans felt they had to do to satisfy their donors and their base: It repeals two taxes on wealthy people (couples earning more than $250,000 a year)—the 0.9 percent payroll tax to shore up Medicare and the 3.8 percent tax on big investment income—and it also ends the mandate that people who can afford it enroll in an insurance plan and that large employers provide employee plans.

Without the mandate, the only customers an insurance company would have are those who are aging and/or sick, and the market would collapse. That is what Republicans want to happen: a collapsing insurance system they can blame on Barack Obama and Democrats. The mere prospect of that happening is undermining the market.

In addition to ending the wealth taxes, a few minor corporate taxes and the mandates, the House version of Trumpcare clears the way for states to end community ratings and allow insurance companies to charge much higher premiums, deductibles and copays to women, aging customers and people with acute and chronic illnesses, which will price most of them out of the market.

Yes, young and healthy people may get lower premiums, if they care to buy insurance at all. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated that 24 million would lose insurance over the first 10 years.

The bill would abolish the Medicaid expansion in 2020. That provision added 10 million people to government and private insurance rolls in 31 states, including Arkansas. In its place is House Speaker Paul Ryan’s career-long goal of turning all of Medicaid—for the mentally and physically disabled, aged nursing-home patients, children, nursing mothers and other categories of indigents—into block grants to the states, with the goal of gradually phasing out the program. That potentially could affect more than 800,000 Arkansans who get some help every year from Medicaid.

That is the part that seems to make Governor Hutchinson’s little session futile. Obamacare helps families earning between 138 and 400 percent of the poverty line pay for their insurance through fundable tax credits. Adults making below 138 percent of poverty are eligible for Medicaid, where the federal government pays 95 percent of medical costs and the state 5 percent.

Hutchinson, who faces terrible problems funding existing state services after a long string of tax cuts cut flattened revenue growth, figured that he could shift lots of the state’s Medicaid costs onto the federal government. The legislature gave him authority to seek a waiver from Trump to kick people off Medicaid if they don’t have a steady job or if they earn more than $11,800 a year. They then will have to buy an insurance plan in the market with whatever assistance, if any, the Trump administration agrees to give them. It will not be enough to enable them to keep insurance. They’ll be on their own or else rest on the charity of hospitals.

If Trumpcare goes through in anything like the form passed Thursday, all 320,000 Arkansans on the current plan, not just those earning between $11,800 and $16,284, will eventually be out in the cold.

—Ernie Dumas

SPORTS STORY >> Local athletes win five events

Leader sports editor

State track meets for all classifications were held around the state this week, and there were several state champions from local schools in different events.

For a team with only two members competing, the Lady Jackrabbits pulled off a phenomenal accomplishment at the Class 4A state track meet Tuesday in Paragould. Juniors Gracie Hyde and Keiunna Walker combined to score 52 points and finish third in the team standings.

Hyde won the 800- and 1,600-meter races, and finished second in the 3,200. Walker won the triple jump, and finished third in the high jump and long jump.

Hyde has the best time in 4A this year in 3,200, but Prairie Grove’s Bekah Bostian beat her by 32 seconds on Tuesday. It was Bostian’s only event, while Hyde had already run the mile and half-mile races. She set a swift pace and fatigue set in for the Lonoke junior.

“The girl that beat her only ran that one event, and they set a strategy based on Gracie already running a mile and a half that day. I’d say the 3,200 is Gracie’s best event. She qualified for the Meet of Champs in all three, but she’s only going to run the 3,200.”

Hyde was also qualified for the 300-meter hurdles, but chose not to run it at the 4A state meet.

The host school, Pocahontas, which had to move the meet because of flooding of the Black River, won the 4A girls’ championship with 89 points, narrowly edging out Crossett’s 86. Joe T. Robinson finished fourth with 41 points while Monticello was fifth with 39.

In the 5A boys’ meet at Harrison on Tuesday, Sylvan Hills’ Anthony Duncan won the 110-meter high hurdles championship by a relatively wide margin. His time of 14.66 easily beat DeQueen’s Hunter Earney’s times of 15.33.

In the 7A state meet at Fayetteville on Thursday, Cabot junior Casey Gore became the state champion in the 3,200-meter race. Times and distances in nearly every event were hampered by whipping winds at the Pearcy track. Gore’s time of 11:39.85 wasn’t close to her PR, but it still beat Anna Jeffcoat of Rogers by six seconds. Gore was also fourth in a very close 1,600-meter race.

Cabot sophomore Lauren Turner finished second in the 800-meter race. The 7A-Central Conference record holder lost by .81 seconds to Bentonville’s Lainey Quandt, who finished with a time of 2:19.14.

The Cabot boys’ 4x100-meter relay team pulled off a second-place finish to North Little Rock. The Charging Wildcats finished in 42.96, while the Cabot team of Alex Roberts, Brandon Whitley, Tommy Oaks and Conley Hillegas was just .35 seconds off that pace. Cabot was the only team to shave more than a full second off its time in the prelims.

Jacksonville Lighthouse junior Robert Whitfield won the Class 2A championship in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers’ seventh secures a No. 1 seed

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers preserved their one-game lead in the 7A-Central baseball standings with a seventh-inning offensive outburst at Fort Smith Northside. With the game tied going into the last inning, the Panthers scored six runs to win 8-2 over the Grizzlies.

Cabot finished the game with 11 base hits, and six of them came in the decisive seventh, including three for extra bases.

Catcher Denver Mullins started the rally by drawing a leadoff walk on four pitches. Dillon Thomas bunted courtesy runner Caleb Harpole to second base for the first out. Houston King wasn’t taking on a 3-0 pitch, and singled to center field to put runners on the corners. Bobby Joe Duncan then bunted for an RBI single to give Cabot the lead.

Evan Hooper doubled to the fence in center field to score King and Duncan advanced to third.

Eric Larsen singled to center field to score Duncan and Hooper stopped at third. Kyler Franks’ squeeze bunt scored Hooper with ease for a 6-2 Cabot lead. Blake McCutchen then doubled to drive in Larsen, and Clayton Gray doubled to score McCutchen for the final run of the game.

Northside scored first, but Cabot ended its scoreless streak with two runs during Thomas’ at-bat in the fifth inning. McCutchen had walked and moved to third on a base hit by Gray. He then scored on a wild pitch, and Thomas’ sacrifice fly to center field scored Gray to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.

Northside tied it with an unearned run in the top of the sixth.

Gray led the Panthers offensively, going 3 for 5 at the plate with one double, one RBI and a run scored. Hooper went 2 for 4 with one run scored and one RBI. King went 2 for 4 and scored a run.

Brett Brockinton pitched well for 4 1/3 innings, but settled for the no decision. He gave up three hits, two runs, zero earned and three walks while striking out six. Michael Shepherd gave up one, none earned, with three strikeouts and one walk in the last 2 2/3 innings for the win.

The Panthers hosted North Little Rock Friday in the regular-season finale. Look for details of that game, as well as a look at the state tournament in Wednesday’s Leader.

Cabot’s will get a bye in the first round, and will play its quarterfinal round game at 12 p.m. Friday in Bentonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears win Class 5A title

Leader sports editor

Three straight conference championships were good, but the fourth-straight in 2017 wasn’t going to satisfy the Sylvan Hills girls’ track team. The goal this year was a state title, and on Tuesday in Harrison, that goal was met.

The Lady Bears failed to get the right people registered for the 4x100, and didn’t get all the points it was expecting in other events, but were still so dominant, that they beat second place by 26 points.

Sylvan Hills finished 101 team points to Magnolia’s 75. Maumelle finished third with 66. Parkview was fourth with 53.5 and Vilonia’s 52.5 rounded out the top five of 32 5A teams.

About his team’s fourth-straight conference title it won the week before, Sylvan Hills coach Grover Garrison said, “They’re all basically the same until you win the state title.”

After accomplishing it, he reflected on how his team reached that achievement.

“It was just a lot of hard work,” said Garrison. “We started in August, which is way earlier than most teams start. I started seeing a change in the girls this year. It went from coach making them get out there, to them wanting to be out there. They were pretty focused all year long, and they were able to reach their goal.”

Even though the team had mathematically won the state championship well before the final event, 800-meter runner Dallyn Smith, one of only three seniors on the team to score points in the state meet, wouldn’t celebrate until final results were announced.

“They (teammates) were saying that we won probably right before the 200, but I didn’t believe it until I heard our named called,” said Smith. “It felt amazing.”

Sylvan Hills only won one event. It was the last event, the 4x400-meter relay, and it only served to distance the team from the field. Jordan Sanders, O’Shayla Muldrow, Daviunia Jones and Aliya Hatton didn’t run their best time, but still beat second-place Alma by more than two seconds with a time of 4:09.26.

The Lady Bears have run the fastest 4x100 relay in the state this year for any classification, but that team did not get to run on Tuesday. They ran a different team in the qualifying round, and failed to get the usual runners registered for the finals. That meant the team that ran prelims would also have to run in the finals. That team finished fourth, which was the difference between a likely 10 points for a win, and five points for fourth place.

Sophomore Mia Heard, who has been the team’s top 100-meter dash runner all season, was one of those left off the 4x100 relay team, and she admits to not taking the news well.

“I had an emotional breakdown,” Heard said. “I cried, I did. For one I wanted to be on the team because we had worked so hard on it all year and had so much success. Also because I knew this was state, and every point counts. But they did good. We didn’t win it, but they ran a good time and got some points.”

Makayla Smith, Chanel Miller, Alexis Lee and Hatton ran the 4x100 relay.

Dasia Harris got three of those lost points back by placing sixth in the pole vault, something not counted on by Garrison going into the meet.

Heard finished second in the long jump and third in the triple jump, but the 5A-Central 100-meter dash champion was beaten by Hatton, another sophomore, in that event. Hatton took second while Heard finished sixth.

Smith also placed sixth in the triple jump.

Muldrow, another sophomore, finished second in the 200-meter dash and the 400. Heard was sixth in the 200 as well, and Jones finished sixth for three points in the 400.

Junior Jayla Bell finished third in the discus while Sierra Towles took fifth in that event. Stubbs finished fourth in the 800.

Miller, Smith and Erykah Sanders finished sixth, seventh and eighth in the 300-meter hurdles, while Sanders was also eighth in the 100-meter hurdles.

The 4x800 relay team of senior Allysia Marbley, Stubbs, Jones and Jordan Sanders finished fifth. Makaila Murphy and Dasia Harris were seventh and eighth in the high jump to round out the scoring.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville ladies pummel Pine Bluff

Leader sports editor

The Lady Titans punched their ticket to the Class 6A state tournament last Friday, beating Pine Bluff 13-3 at Excel Park in the first round of the 6A-East Conference tournament.

It wasn’t a great start for the fourth-seeded home team. Jacksonville pitcher Lindsey Holt issued three walks, and two fielding errors helped the Lady Zebras take a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

“We were either flat or really nervous at the start of the game,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk. “When we got our bats going in the second inning I think we settled down. Defensively, those first two innings were shaky, but we pulled through it and got a big win.”

Jacksonville tied the game in the bottom of the first after Holt drew a leadoff walk and Rebekah House singled to right field. With two outs, Emma Gartman hit a two-RBI base hit center field to score the base runners.

Pine Bluff loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the second inning on two singles and an error, but Holt got a grounder to third to get out of the jam.

That brought the Lady Titans to the plate in the bottom of the second, when they scored four runs and took the lead for good.

Pine Bluff (13-12) helped Jacksonville get the rally started. Makira Hines and Abby Hooper reached on back-to-back errors in the outfield.

Megan Davis then singled to drive in the second run of the inning. Holt and House drew back-to-back walks before Jordan Moody got a two-RBI base hit for a 6-2 Jacksonville lead.

Holt and House drew back-to-back two-out walks again in the third inning, and Allison Seats lined a double to right field to score Holt for a 7-2 lead.

Neither team scored in the fourth, but Jacksonville posted six in the fifth to end the game early.

“It was funny because I said to the girls when they came in after the top of the fifth, ‘Let’s just score six runs and get this thing over with.’ And that’s just what they did,” Hawk said.

Seats got the game-ending rally started with a line-drive triple to center field. Moody was hit and Gartman got her third and fourth RBIs of the game with a double to left field. With one out, Hines walked to put runners on base. Both of them scored on back-to-back outfield errors after contact by Hooper and Davis.

Holt drew her fourth walk in as many at-bats to load the bases. House then ended it with a double to left field that drove in the final two runs and ended the contest.

Holt got the win in five innings of work in the circle. She gave up four hits with three strikeouts and four walks. Seats, Gartman, Hooper and Davis each had two base hits to lead Jacksonville offensively.

Jacksonville (13-12) advanced to play top-seeded Marion (19-7) on Tuesday after Leader deadlines.

The Lady Titans will also play Thurs-day, either in the tournament championship game for a one or two seed in the state tournament, or in the third-place game for a three or four seed.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe dominates Pats for state bid

Leader sports editor

A huge first inning at the plate and a stellar performance on the mound was enough to give the Beebe Badgers a surprisingly easy time with Parkview in the first round of the 5A-Central Conference tournament Monday at Mike Bromley Field in Sherwood.

The four seed vs. five seed looked like an even matchup on paper, but Beebe blew up for eight runs in the opening inning.

Pitcher Hayden Crafton kept the Patriots off balance through five innings to secure a 10-0 win that advanced the Badgers to the semifinals and qualified them for the Class 5A state tournament next week, which will also be held in Sherwood.

“I’m not only proud as a coach but proud as a father,” said Beebe coach Mark Crafton. “Hayden’s been doing that all year, putting us in position to win. We had two errors. When we keep it under three or four, with him on the mound, we win our ball games.”

Exploding in the first inning was also helpful, allowing thedefense to play relaxed the rest of the way.

“We had a plan going to the plate, and we stuck with it,” Crafton said. “We got away from our plan, got too happy, but we got the win, and it gets us into next week. This is the first time we’ve been in this situation where you have to win a conference tournament game to get to state. Parkview can put the ball in play. They can field it, throw it. They didn’t tonight, and we took advantage of it.”

Blaine Burge got the first-inning rally started with a leadoff single, and Randy Smith reached on an error. Carson McNeil then singled to score Burge.

Logan Sharp singled to left field, but Smith was thrown out 8-6-2 trying to score from second base.

Noah Jolly then flew out to center field for the second out leading just 1-0, but the Badgers started a two-out rally that didn’t stop for another seven runs.

Alex Matlock singled to drive in two runs and stole second base. He then scored on a base hit by Crafton. Bryson Halford and J.T. Nicholson made it three consecutive singles and a 5-0 Badger lead.

Two more runs scored when Burge’s grounder to third base resulted in Parkview’s second error of the inning. Smith walked and McNeil got his second hit and second RBI of the inning to make it 8-0.

Parkview’s Josh Evans got a two-out base hit in the top of the second inning but didn’t advance beyond first base.

In the bottom of the second, Matlock singled to center field with one out. After back-to-back walks, Parkview (10-16) brought Gary Allman to the mound with the bases loaded. He struck out Nicholson, but Matlock scored on a passed ball before Burge flew out to left to end the inning with Beebe leading 9-0.

Parkview’s best chance to score came in the top of the third. Zach Smith reached on an E6 and Tyler De Vries singled with out. Allman then hit a comebacker back to the mound, where Crafton went to third to get the lead runner for the second out. Allman then hit a hard line drive to deep left field, but Harford was there for the final out of the inning.

Smith hit a leadoff single to start the bottom of the third, and scored three batters later on a two-out double by Noah Jolly that put the Badgers up 10-0.

Ed Johnson got a leadoff base hit in the top of the fourth, but Crafton struck out the next two batters before getting a 5-3 groundout to end the inning.

Smith reached on a one-out error in the fifth, but De Vries and Allman both popped up behind the plate where Matlock made the catches to end the game.

Beebe (9-20-2) piled up 11 base hits and all nine starters got at least one. McNeil and Matlock led the way, each going 2 for 3.

Crafton gave up four hits and no runs in his five innings of work, striking out five and walked zero.

The Badgers played tournament host and No. 1 seed Sylvan Hills on Tuesday after Leader deadlines. The winner of that game will play in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The loser will play in the third-place game at 5 p.m. Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke loses a stunner in finals

Leader sports editor

A rollercoaster seventh inning left Lonoke sitting at the bottom last Friday in the championship game of the 4A-2 District tournament. CAC scored three runs in the bottom of the last inning to win the game 6-5, win the tournament and take the No. 1 seed into this week’s East Regional.

With the scored tied 3-3 going into the final inning, Lonoke’s Casey Martin hit the team’s second home run of the game, driving in Kameron Cole, who had hit a leadoff single, and giving the Jackrabbits a 5-3 lead.

Lonoke got two more singles with no outs and was on the verge of a huge inning. Kade Stuart then hit a fly ball to right field for the first out. Daulton Smith tagged and beat the throw to third base, but Hunter Haven was thrown out trying to make it to second base for the 9-5-4 double play.

Tallon Swint then popped up to shortstop to bring a sudden end to what started as a potentially huge inning.

In the bottom of the seventh, Lonoke’s Ryan True-love walked Hunter Corbell before Stuart replaced True-love on the mound. Stuart fanned Cade Huckeby before Tanner Weber singled to put runners on first and second.

Braden Quesinberry then sent the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center field for a walk-off, three-run home run.

“It was definitely a crazy game,” said Lonoke coach Chris Foor. “You just have to give credit to their kid. He had been all pull, so we thought we had a good plan to get him out. We put the pitch right where we wanted it, he just made a great adjustment and went the other way with it.”

It was the third meeting this year between the two teams. They split the regular-season series, and all three games have gone to the wire.

“It’s just two very good, very competitive baseball teams,” Foor said. “We could probably play 20 times and be pretty close to .500.”

Lonoke was the three seed coming into the tournament, but demolished sixth-seeded Baptist Prep and second-seeded Heber Springs in the first two rounds. CAC (19-7) was the top seed and beat eStem 13-0 and Southside-Batesville 6-4 in the first two rounds.

Lonoke (18-11) scored first in the top of the third inning when Haven Hunter smashed a 1-1 pitch over the wall in straightaway center field for a 3-0 lead.

Cole and Smith had each singled before Hunter’s home run.

The Jackrabbits gave two back in the bottom of the same inning. Hunter walked two batters before two errors allowed two unearned runs on no hits.

The Mustangs tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a pair of two-out base hits: A single by Grant Wood and a double by Corbell.

Lonoke out-hit CAC 7-5. Hunter and Smith each went 2 for 3. Weber went 2 for 4 to lead CAC. Corbell got the win, despite only pitching the seventh inning and giving up the lead.

Hunter pitched six innings for the no decision, giving up just three hits and one earned run with six strikeouts and three walks.

The Jackrabbits will face Brookland (15-10) at 4 p.m. Thursday at Trumann High School in the first round of the East Regional.

The winner not only advances in the tournament but qualifies for the state tournament that will be at Lonoke next week.

CAC opens the tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday against Highland. The winner of that game will play at noon Friday against the winner between Harrisburg and Heber Springs.

The Lonoke-Brookland winner will play at 2:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Jonesboro-Westside vs. Southside-Batesville.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans rally to defeat Zebras

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans overcame a terrible start to rally for a 7-6 victory over Pine Bluff on Saturday at Dupree Park. With the win, the Titans qualify for the Class 6A state tournament that takes place next week in Benton.

Two walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch, two base hits and two infield errors gave the Zebras a quick 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

The Titans got all of it back in the bottom half, and then outscored Pine Bluff 2-1 the rest of the way to seal the victory.

Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said he was growing concerned as the top of the first inning unfolded poorly for the home team, but felt better after talking with his players in the middle of the inning.

“It’s like I told them on the field when they came in (after the top of the first). I saw a look in their eyes that told me they weren’t panicked or too worried. They still looked confident, and I felt better. I was still a little worried if (starting pitcher Jordan) Wickersham would find it. But he did, and we got the win.”

Wickersham walked leadoff hitter Wesley Hunt to start the game. He stole second base, but Wickersham picked him. Zebra pitcher Brandon Little singled and stole second. Wickersham hitArkansas State signee Jaylon DeShazier and Rod Stinson singled to center field to score Little.

An error at third base scored DeShazier, and another error at third loaded the bases. Wickersham then walked Cameron Crane to score Stinson. Xavier Smith scored on a wild pitch and Kevawn Goins scored a sacrifice fly by Randy Little Jr. for the quick 5-0 lead.

After a pep talk by Burrows, the Jacksonville bats went to work against Little. Kameron Whitmore hit a hard line drive to left for what should’ve been a double, but Whitmore stopped halfway between first and second base and retreated to first. Caleb Smith grounded to second for what should’ve been a double play, but the E4 left runners safe on the corners. Trent Toney then hit an infield single up the middle. DeShazier made a great play to stop the ball but had no throw as Whitmore scored on the play.

With runners at first and second, another potentially inning-ending double play ball was flubbed when DeShazier’s throw to second was off target after a ground ball by Caden Sample.

With the bases loaded, Wickersham and Jayden Loving drew consecutive RBI walks to make it 5-3. With one out, Quentin Stallard hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Sample. Helsley then walked to load the bases again, and Whitmore walked to drive in the game-tying run.

Neither team scored in the second or third inning. Pine Bluff (9-12) took the lead in the top of the fourth, but Jacksonville (14-12) tied it right back up in the bottom half. Smith hit a leadoff double and scored on a two-out single by Wickersham.

Smith also scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning after another leadoff double to left field. Toney then bunted down the first base line, where the ball was fielded, but thrown away, allowing Smith to score what would be the game-winning run.

Wickersham walked two in the bottom of the seventh but got Stinson to fly out to center field to preserve the victory.

Jacksonville traveled to top-seeded Jonesboro (25-3) on Tuesday for its semifinal matchup. Look for information on that game, as well as the rest of the Titans’ 6A-East tournament action in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

EDITORIAL >> We are your local paper

After years of plummeting circulation and advertising, Gatehouse Media is shutting down five newspapers in central Arkansas, including the Jacksonville Patriot, Sherwood Voice, Maumelle Monitor, Cabot Star Herald and Carlisle Independent, which have lost almost 90 percent of their circulation since these once family-owned businesses were sold to investment groups in the last decade.

Not us, though. We’re independent and here to stay.

The two Lonoke County newspapers closing are the Cabot Star Herald (693 circulation) and Carlisle Independent (377 circulation). They will combine with the Lonoke Democrat (527 circulation), bringing their total circulation to just under 1,600, about one-tenth of what they had a decade ago.

Gatehouse is also closing the Jacksonville Patriot (120 circulation), Sherwood Voice (212 circulation) and Maumelle Monitor (755 circulation). The North Little Rock Times (465 subscribers) will be the only Gatehouse paper left in Pulaski County. Please note that these circulation numbers are not typographical errors.

Their combined Pulaski County circulation was well over 10,000 a decade ago. According to the 2017 Arkansas Press Association Media Directory, circulation has dropped to 1,597.

Gatehouse Media was previously owned by Fortress Investment Group in New York, which has sold the newspapers to SoftBank Group, a Japanese conglomerate. Gatehouse bought the newspapers from Stephens Media, which has unloaded almost all of its media properties.

All of these central Arkansas newspapers were once locally owned. They were part of our local history and were proud business members of these cities. Cone and Betty Magie published the Cabot Star Herald, Lonoke Democrat and Carlisle Independent for decades. James and Catherine Canfield were the hands-on publishers of the Jacksonville Daily News, which was an incubator for many journalists who later went out on their own. Kitty and David Chism built the North Little Rock Times into an award-winning newspaper, which the National Newspaper Association voted the best weekly in America more than once.

Though they were competitors, we will miss the other formerly locally owned papers and their owners. Sad to see them go, but it strengthens our resolve to publish the community news that you will not find anywhere else, including Facebook, Twitter, TV, radio or any other newspaper.

We provide local news for local residents with local government stories, police reports, funerals, schools and sports, next-day election results, local business news and much more.

We at The Leader are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. We are one of the few remaining family-owned local newspapers. Our Lonoke County distribution is over 24,000.

Our total distribution is approximately 36,000 for the Wednesday and Saturday Leader and the direct-mailed Leader Extra, making us your local newspaper, the largest non-daily in Arkansas. Our coverage areas are Sherwood, Jacksonville, Lonoke, Cabot, Ward, Austin, Beebe and many other surrounding communities.

Our main office is in Jacksonville, and we have a satellite office in Cabot. Our presses are in Jacksonville. When you advertise in The Leader or subscribe to The Leader, your money stays in our communities. It does not go to an out-of-state company or overseas to Japan.

We are unquestionably your local newspaper. We thank you, our readers and our advertisers, for your continuing partnership with us. Without you, we would not exist.

TOP STORY >> Flooded fields worry farmers

Leader senior staff writer

It’s a waiting game for Lonoke County farmers and others following heavy rains, according to County Agricultural Extension Chief Keith Perkins, and there’s more rain on the horizon, he said Tuesday.

“We still have standing water on corn, rice and soybean acres,” he said.
It’s not a good situation. Corn and soybeans can handle 24 to 48 hours under water, then they’re dead.

Rice can tolerate the standing water, but on some farms, the levees have washed out and need rebuilding.

If the corn and soybean plants are dead, those fields need to be replanted, but there are restrictions on herbicide use.

Perkins said the rain expected Wednesday or Thursday shouldn’t be as heavy, but with the fields already saturated and streams and bayous full to capacity, it wouldn’t take much additional precipitation to cause trouble.

Plus there’s still water coming down from the north, although that would mostly affect the farmers along the Arkansas and White rivers, Perkins said.

TOP STORY >> Farmers market in Cabot set to open Saturday

The Cabot Farmers Market opens for its 10th season on Saturday in the parking lot of Re:New Community Church, formerly the Bancroft building, 1122 S. Second St. It will open from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday through Sept. 9.

Cabot City Beautiful organizes the farmers market. It is looking for local vendors.

The cost for vendors is $10 per Saturday. It is first come, first serve with no reserved spots. Vendors’ products must be either locally grown or made. Vendors can sell their produce and other goods from the back of their trucks.

To sign-up call (501) 920-2122 or email

“With all the emails I’ve received from vendors it could reach 100 if they all showed up,” farmers market organizer Matt Webber said.

“Chandler Farms, Barnhill Orchard, Whole Harvest Farms are some of the vendors,” he said.

Local musicians and talented artists are welcome to set up and perform at no cost.

On Saturday Cool 104 radio station will do a live broadcast.

The Cabot Lions Club will hold a clothing collection drive on Saturday at the Farmers Market. Clothes will be donated to Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the Open Arms Shelter.

“The weather is going to be gorgeous. It is going to be a great day,” Webber said.

TOP STORY >> Civil War comes alive

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Civil War Muster fought off a rainy Saturday forecast to put on a battle during the 1st Michigan Battery G’s re-enactment last weekend at the Changepoint Church grounds on Hwy. 89.

It was the first year for the three-day event, which coincided with Strawberry Festival.

The 1st Michigan Battery G made the best of the weather and soldiered on.

Cars lined along the Changepoint driveway Saturday afternoon to watch the excitement of the re-enactment.

With cannon fire booming, crowds cheered on the Confederates as they took on Union soldiers during the re-creation the Battle of Reed’s Bridge and the Battle of Bayou Fourche during the Campaign for Little Rock in 1863. The Confederates held off the Union forces at Reed’s Bridge, but later fell at Bayou Fourche.

Re-enactor Alan Tetkoskie hopes the Cabot Civil War Muster becomes an annual event.

“It is convenient for everybody in central Arkansas,” he said.

Michael Bright and his twin brother Mackey, both of Bismark, are Union re-enactors.

“It is fun. I like doing the re-enactments. We’ve gone to Chickamauga, Ga.; Shiloh, Tenn., and all over the state,” Michael Bright said.

“It is hard to keep the gun clean to keep the rust and dirt off,” he said.

Kaye Wilson of Cabot said, “It was really interesting. It was really planned out. I felt sorry for them wearing all that wool clothing, but that’s the way it was back then.

On Friday, a living history event with fabric tents, rifle fire and the occasional cannon blast was held for school groups and the public to see what life was like in the 1860s.

The Bright brothers represented military police and had Dutch shackles on display.

Dot Hardage of Royal was dressed as the mother of a Union captain.

“It was not uncommon to have them doing camp life and Dutch oven cooking,” she said.

Bill Sparks of Russellville had a medical tent set up with tourniquets, amputee saws. He spoke about the technology, surgery and medicines of the time.

“We do it to see the kids and adults who are interested in history. Everything we do is trying for an accurate portrayal,” Sparks said.

He said, “It was the beginning of prosthetics. Amputations took eight to 10 minutes during the war.”

Homeschool parent Amy Williams of Cabot said they are previewing what their students will be soon learning. She believes it will click in their heads, and they will appreciate it more.

Local Civil War historian R.D. Keever brought his horse Sammy and spoke about horsemanship. Keever is an actor who was in the movies “Andersonville,” “The North and South” and “Glory.”

Justin Gehrig of Beebe had a working blacksmith shop with his apprentice Zac Casteel of Searcy. They were making tent stakes at the forge.

Gehrig said his love for iron working began as a kid when his parents took him to Silver Dollar City in Missouri.

“I stayed at the (forge) for two hours mesmerized by the blacksmith shop. I then read a lot of books in the library,” Gehrig said.

He got into blacksmithing when he was 14.

“It is an expensive hobby to get into, but most rewarding. It hooks kids and takes the elderly back to their youth. They remember their father or uncle who worked the iron or the blacksmith shop in town,” Gehrig said.

The Cabot Public Library had a genealogy display showing ancestry information.

“You can find your Civil War soldier through the genealogy department at the library,” volunteer Jennifer Chosich said.