Friday, May 12, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Farmers markets

Farmers markets have opened for the season in Cabot, Jacksonville, Sherwood and Lonoke. That means plenty of local fresh fruit, veggies, eggs, honey, jams, pickles, pies and lots more.

Visit them and support your local farmers and gardeners, and even a few beekeepers.

The ever-popular Cabot Farmers Market is happening today at Re:New Community Church, 1122 S. Second St. It will be open from 8 a.m. till noon every Saturday through Sept. 9.

The Jacksonville Farmers Market is open from 3 p.m. till 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. It may be small compared to some, but there is still plenty of great local produce jams and jellies.

Lonoke’s Fishtown Farmers Market, the town’s first farmers market, opened last Saturday to great acclaim. It will be open on the first and third Saturdays of each month until Sept. 30.

Sherwood’s farmers market is held from 5 till 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave.

Buy local and have fun out there!

EDITORIAL >> New school in Sherwood

Residents in the Pulaski County Special School District will vote June 13 to extend – not raise – the current millage rate for 17 more years.

If it succeeds, and we think it’s important it does, then Sherwood can transform the aging and overcrowded Sylvan Hills High School into a $65 million modern campus.

Sherwood residents seem largely in support of the plan for good reason. The campus was built in the 1960s for 800 students. These days, the school is preparing to cram in a whopping 1,450 students.

To accommodate everyone, freshmen have been transferred to the old Northwood Middle School, recently renamed Sylvan Hills Freshman Academy, way out on Jacksonville-Cato Road.

Sherwood Alderman Beverly Williams, a retired PCSSD administrator and educator, is rallying the community to support the millage extension, which means property taxes won’t increase but will remain the same and give thousands of Sherwood youth quality classrooms.

Mayor Virginia Young said, “Our school district, hand in hand with our communities, has worked very hard in the past several years to improve our schools with improved facilities throughout the district. This is not a tax increase. The only increases anyone will experience are increases in educational opportunities, increase in safety for our students and increase in business growth as we demonstrate that we are building our future around our youth.”

Sherwood voters, and everyone else in the Pulaski County Special School District, should vote in support of the millage extension.

It’s a bargain, as the district has the lowest tax rate in central Arkansas, and it’s the right thing to do. It will also help continue Sherwood’s growth, protect home values and spur new construction.

Without quality schools, communities will stagnate.

Like any election though, this one is not without risks. Sherwood’s future is depending on voters from other communities within the sprawling Pulaski County Special School District. People in Maumelle and south of the river may not be as enthusiastic about Sherwood’s needs.

Little Rock voters rejected a millage extension this week because anti-tax opponents joined forces with a band of residents angry that the state education commissioner, rather than an elected school board, would decide where new schools should be built. The state Education Department seized control of the Little Rock School District, firing school board members, nearly two and a half years ago. Critics worry west Little Rock will benefit more than old parts of the city.

PCSSD, recently released from state control, has seen plenty of that kind of geographical division. We hope those days are behind us.

The rewards are clear. Architects presented a series of drawings of the proposed Sylvan Hills project during the Pulaski County Special School Board meeting Tuesday. It will be a beautiful campus — lots of windows, natural light, state-of-the-art classrooms and science labs, and a new gymnasium, football field and cafeteria.

The old buildings will be remodeled while several new buildings will be constructed around them at the school’s current site west of Hwy. 107. It will become a place of learning for decades to come. It will be a prized asset of the community.

A rally was held Wednesday at Sylvan Hills High to build support for the millage extension. Cheering students waving placards and school administrators spoke jubilantly about the future and their desire to rebuild their crumbling school.

Vote yes on June 13.

TOP STORY >> Russians, Kissinger and Trump

Leader Executive editor

“The eyes of America—perhaps of the world—are turned to this Government; and many are watching the movements of all those who are concerned with this Administration.”

—George Washington

“I’m trying to avoid the conclusion that we’ve become Nicaragua.”

—Former CIA director Michael Hayden

The Russian foreign minister and ambassador visited the White House on Wednesday, perhaps hoping for an update on the Russian investigation the day after President Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

A shrunken Henry Kissinger was also at the Oval Office, sitting in a plush chair that almost swallowed him up. It was a strange photo opportunity because here was another reminder of the Nixon White House of 1973-74, as if this administration needed more comparisons with the most lawless administration (so far) in history, which ended badly for Nixon and all the president’s men.

American media were barred from the Oval Office when the distinguished Russian visitors arrived. Only the Kremlin’s photographer was allowed to take photos of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a more than usually red-faced president and Kissinger, who posed with the help of a cane.

Kissinger looked disoriented, but the others were beaming, thinking maybe that after Comey’s firing, no one could connect this administration to Russian subversion before a grand jury. The Russians love Trump. Wonder why.

Kislyak was Gen. Michael Flynn’s handler and channeled funds to the disgraced former national security adviser, who is said to be seeking immunity from prosecution. The Russian plot against America was audacious, but thanks to our system of constitutional checks and balances, the Russians and their American collaborators will pay a price for that betrayal.

Putin is a cunning adversary, but far from brilliant. We know the high-stakes games he’s playing, but we can checkmate him from now on. The Russians interfered with our elections, but they failed last weekend in France, where their dirty tricks were uncovered before they could affect the voting. Their neo-fascist candidate, Marine LePen, received just one-third of the vote.

If the Russians are so smart, why did the Soviet Union collapse?

There are ways to fight Russian hacking, but inviting them to the White House is not how you do it. A thorough investigation into the administration’s ties to Putin should shed more light on the friendly relations between our two countries.

George Washington, who was mindful of his responsibilities as president of a new republic, fought against “political Mountebanks,” as he called them, who dismissed the idea of the new United States even after the colonies were victorious. Washington knew his actions would make or doom the new nation, and he acted accordingly: His dignity embodied the hopes and dreams of a struggling republic. He refused to be a monarch. His title was simply Mr. President and he would retire after serving eight years.

The first president knew all about political mountebanks, both foreign and domestic, who would tear this nation apart. He would not have allowed Russian spies into the White House. Ambassador Kislyak (whose triple chin makes him a dead ringer for the British actor Charles Laughton) is a member of the Russian secret service responsible for the deaths of dozens of journalists and opponents of the Putin regime.

The oleaginous Lavrov has an uncanny resemblance to one of his notorious predecessors, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (perhaps they’re related). Molotov signed the diabolical Hitler-Stalin pact in Berlin in 1939 that divided Poland between the Nazis and the communists until Germany invaded a stunned mother Russia in 1941.

Sure, this is ancient history, but anyone who trusts the Russians as this administration has is betraying this nation’s greatest principles as set forth by Washington and the Founders.

Anyone who invites the likes of Kissinger, Kislyak and Lavrov to the White House dishonors our best traditions and insults the sacrifices of the men and women who have defended our Republic and who must remain vigilant against the enemies of civilization.

We should know more as the FBI investigation accelerates even without director Comey, who sought to expand his Russian investigation before he was fired. The men and women at the FBI are determined to take their investigation wherever it may lead them. The American people deserve a full accounting. The Framers would not want them to accept anything less.

TOP STORY >> Officials to study taxation

Leader senior staff writer

Neither Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) nor Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) say they have a preconceived idea what a reimagined tax code would look like, but both say there are issues they want to explore when the Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force begins meeting.

The General Assembly approved a $50 million tax cut the past session and called for creation of the task force.

The two are among 16 state senators and representatives on the task force, charged with studying the tax code top to bottom and to make recommendations for revisions when the 92 General Assembly convenes in January 2019, according to Dismang.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) will call the first meeting within 30 days of adjournment and taskforce members will elect officers and take it from there, Dismang said.

“We have no strong guidelines,” Dismang said. “We’ll modernize what we have now, look at exemptions. We’ll make sure there is a stable revenue stream for the state and proper tax relief for working Arkansans.”

“One of my personal goals would be to get rid of personal property tax,” said Johnson.

“It’s mostly sales and income tax we have the authority over. There are some inequities, and I want to make things more uniform like they are in North Carolina, Kansas and Louisiana,” he said.

He said he’d make a fact-finding trip to North Carolina.

Johnson said he’d like to consider channeling taxes from sales of auto-related items—batteries, tires, wipers—to state highway funds.

“You go buy something from Auto Zone, (the revenue doesn’t) go to roads, it goes to the general fund.”

Directing auto-related funds to state highways among the recommendations of two different highway-funding blue-ribbon commissions in the past several years.

Johnson said the state needed to devise a system to promote economic growth, which should create even more revenue.

“I’m not a big fan of trickle down,” Johnson said, “but let’s reduce barriers to growing business.”

“I’m not interested in the rich getting richer, I want more jobs, better paying jobs,” Johnson said. “Do we need to adjust the tax charts?”

Johnson, the only practicing certified public accountant in the legislature, says he doesn’t want changes to “complicate it to where people can’t do their taxes.

“I’ve encouraged highway funding,” Dismang said. “We’ve looked at taxation in silos, but not in totality. I’d like for (the task force) to look at the overall picture and stop looking in segments.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “I don’t have any preconceived notions.” He said the review would be data driven.

Dismang said he’d like legislators to reduce revenue and focus on a long-term reserve.

He said funds for the General Improvement Fund—kind of “surplus” revenues—overseen and disbursed by the governor and legislators, needs “increased accountability.” Critics like Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson, himself a former state legislator, call those grants “pork,” and an FBI investigation, revealed that current and former legislators in northwest Arkansas accepted bribes and helped direct more than $500,000 to a small Christian college.

At least one has pleaded guilty and is facing prison time.

Others appointed by Dismang and Gillam include: Senate Republicans Bart Hester, Missy Irvin, Dave Wallace, Dismang and Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren. Senate Democrats include Minority Leader Keith Ingram, Sen. Joyce Elliott and Sen. Larry Teague.

Republican representatives include Joe Jett, Frances Cavenaugh, Jim Dotson, Lane Jean and House Majority Leader Mathew Pitsch.

Democrats, in addition to Johnson, include Warwick Sabin and Kenneth Ferguson.

TOP STORY >> Sylvan Hills HS in urgent need of modernizing

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess said Friday he is confident voters in the district will approve an extension of the current debt-service millage June 13 to transform the Sylvan Hills High School campus.

He has high expectations despite a landslide defeat Tuesday of a tax increase to build and rehabilitate Little Rock District schools. Just 10 percent of Little Rock voters turned out, but the margin of defeat was nearly 2 to 1, with 3,938 in favor of extending the millage another 17 years, and 7,167 against.

“We have a dramatic need,” Guess said. Sylvan Hills has 1,450 students registered for a high school built to accommodate 850, he added.

“Come over and watch classes change sometimes,” he said. “We’ve got kids going everywhere.” He said they attend classes in portable classrooms, storage buildings converted to classrooms, and the ninth grade is shipped over to the old Northwood campus.

The school currently can’t hold an assembly or program for more than about a quarter of the students and lunch has to be served in three shifts because the kitchen and cafeteria are so small.

“The need is critical,” ac-cording to Guess. “We’ve got to provide more space.”

“We have a way to raise money to make bond payments without an increase in property tax,” he said.

The Little Rock School District is deeply divided with those opposed to the state takeover of the district and dismissal of its elected school board vehemently opposed to extending the existing debt-service millage.

The PCSSD was taken over by the state in 2011, but has climbed out of fiscal distress. “We have an elected school board, seated in November,” Guess said, “Seven members elected by patrons. The board has unanimously endorsed the campaign.” If the millage is extended, it would raise $60 million to build new classrooms and science labs, a larger cafeteria and a large auditorium at Sylvan Hills and remodel much of the rest of the campus, he said.

The millage extension election is set for June 13. Early voting begins June 6.

A “yes” vote won’t cost property owners more per year, but it will extend the commitment to pay the current 40.7 mill tax 17 years longer than the current 13-year commitment, according to Sherwood Alderman Beverly Williams.

At its regular May meeting Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to hire Baldwin & Shell as construction manager for the project and to accept WER Architects plans and drawings to date.

Currently Baldwin and Shell is working with WER on the new Jacksonville High School and the new Jacksonville elementary school.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” she said.

“We need to extend the bond issue so we can build a state-of-the-art facility, including science labs to meet new standards, a cafeteria large enough that students don’t have to eat in three shifts and an auditorium large enough to seat everyone,” Williams said.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills upsets Lakeside

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls’ soccer team pulled off a minor upset in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Thursday. The Lady Bears grinded their way to a 2-0 lead and then held off a furious late rally to beat Hot Springs Lakeside 2-1 at Valley View High School.

“They were the higher seed,” said Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson. “They were stronger and faster and more physical than us, but the girls played an outstanding game.”

About 20 minutes into the match, Nakiya Smith placed a perfect pass to Maddie Sheridan that got behind the Lakeside defense. Sheridan put the goal in for a 1-0 Lady Bear lead.

“It was a great goal,” Persson said. “It was an excellent lead- through pass by Nakiya. Maddie followed it right into box and very calmly put it in. And it took a lot to get to that pass. There was a lot of teamwork that went into that goal.”

The second goal came after a penalty kick by Elizabeth Riley. Sylvan Hills missed on three opportunities, but rebounds kept coming off into play until Smith finally put one in. Jade Joiner got the first shot and it was blocked. Riley and then Joiner again each had one blocked before Smith scored for the 2-0 lead.

“We really had them scrambling down there and we just kept at it until we got the goal,” Persson said. “That changed the whole game, and it turned out to be a huge goal.”

Lakeside’s superior athleticism became a factor late in the match, but Sylvan Hills goalkeeper Alexis Knight was an even bigger one.

“Oh, they were dominating us so badly the last 10 minutes,” Persson said of the Lady Rams. “They were just getting shot after shot and Alexi was just making spectacular save after spectacular save. She really did become the hero tonight.”

Knight’s heroics continued to the final seconds. Trailing by one with just 20 seconds left, Lakeside got what appeared to be a near certain scoring opportunity with a shot in front of an empty left side of the night.

But Knight dived, fully stretched, to deflect the ball out of bounds as the final seconds ticked away.

Sylvan Hills (10-8-1) entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed from the 5A-Central Conference. They were scheduled to play 5A-East champion and state tournament host Valley View (19-3-1) at 2 p.m. Friday, but weathered disrupted the original schedule. Look for more details of the Lady Bears tournament run in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Weather, new rules predicate Titans’ fall

Leader sports editor

The recent storm system that just moved through Arkansas didn’t just bring rain; it brought lightning and bad luck for the Jacksonville baseball team. The weather, one fielding mistake and new national rules for high school pitchers conspired to help bring the Titans’ season to a close Friday with an 11-1 loss to Texarkana in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament at Benton High School.

Jacksonville and Texarkana were scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Because of earlier delays, the game didn’t start until almost 6 p.m. and was halted because of lightning just a few pitches into the top of the first inning.

After about a 40-minute delay with no severe weather, the game resumed with Texarkana’s leadoff hitter Drake Browning on second base with one out.

Jacksonville pitcher Jordan Wickersham attempted to pick him off, but he threw wildly and the ball got into center field while Browning trotted to third.

Austin Nix then hit a grounder to shortstop where Trent Toney let it carom off his leg and into center field while Browning scored.

Dylan Adcock popped up in the infield, and Titan catcher Kameron Whitmore threw Nix out attempting to steal second base to get out of the jam.

Jacksonville had a chance to tie in the bottom of the inning. Trent Toney was in scoring position after a double to right field with the cleanup hitter at the plate with two outs. But Caden Sample struck out.

Another error in the top of the second, this one with two outs, extended Wickersham’s pitch count. Those three defensive mistakes in just two innings of play proved huge when play was stopped in the middle of the second.

New rules for pitchers go by pitch count instead of innings. The amount of rest required for a pitcher depends on pitch count. If a pitcher reaches 30 pitches, he cannot pitch the next day. Wickersham had thrown two innings and was at 34 pitches when play was stopped. Adcock, Texarkana’s ace, had thrown one inning, and was only at 17 pitches.

That meant when the two teams went back at 10 a.m. Friday to finish, Texarkana would have its ace while Jacksonville would not. Even more, Adcock’s pitch count started over. So he would’ve been allowed to throw 127 pitches in the game, since he was still allowed his maximum of 110 on Friday.

Adcock was in good form on Friday, and Jacksonville did not have the pitching depth to keep the Razorbacks off the board.

Jacksonville’s season ends with a record of 15-14. Texarkana improved to 11-15 and advances to today’s quarterfinals.

SPORTS STORY >> ’Rabbits roll past Apaches

Special to The Leader

The Lonoke Jack-rabbit baseball team advanced to the second round of the 4A state baseball tournament with a 5-1 victory over the Pottsville Apaches in the opening game on Thursday morning. Lonoke is the host team and also the number three seed from the East with a record of 21-12.

Pottsville was also a number three seed, but from the North and ended their season with a record of 25-7.

“They came out and played like we’ve practiced all year,” Lonoke coach Chris Foor commented. “They ran the bases, had timely hitting, and strong pitching. We had some very timely hits. Keith Lingo, Haven Hunter, big timely hits. Then Casey (Martin) stepped up and delivered the knockout blow there at the end.”

The Apaches were the first to score in the top of the second inning. Will Stewart drew a base on balls, and Cole Duvall dropped a base hit into short right field that got by the fielder and scored Stewart for the 1-0 advantage.

Lonoke answered in the bottom of the frame to tie. Keith Lingo singled to left and moved to second on a balk. Christian Cooper got the ball to drop into short center field for a hit. Kameron Cole bunted to advance the runners, but got an infield hit as no Apache covered first base. Casey Martin came up with the bases loaded and hit a ground ball to the shortstop who chose the force out at third allowing the trying run to cross the plate.

The Jackrabbits picked up another in the bottom of the third. Haven Hunter led off with a base hit to left and moved to second on a fielding error. He then tagged and went to third on a long fly out. Tallon Swint got a slow infield hit down the first base line, bringing in Hunter for the 2-1 lead.

After a scoreless fourth, Lonoke again picked up a single run in the fifth frame. Pitcher Kade Stuart started the inning with a ground rule double to center. Julian Medina entered as his courtesy runner and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Swint. A double to deep left by Lingo scored him and the lead was 3-1. Brayden Knox came in to run for Lingo and was thrown out at the plate attempting to score on a base hit by Caleb Horton.

Pottsville threatened in the sixth. Kyle Hudson walked and Greyson Stevens followed with a double deep down the left field line. Hudson was cut down at the plate on the throw by shortstop Martin and the tag by catcher Daniel DeViney. Martin then moved to the mound to take over the pitching duties for Lonoke in relief of Stewart and got a strikeout and ground out to end the inning.

The Jackrabbits sealed the deal in the bottom of the inning on a two-run home run by Martin to set the final score of 5-1.

The Apaches got a base hit to start the seventh, but a double play by the Lonoke infield cleared the bases and a strikeout ended the game.

Lingo had three hits for Lonoke. Swint, Cooper, and Cole each had two.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers beat Cardinals

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badgers put some runs in the bank early, and needed about all of them to hold on for a 9-7 win over Camden Fairview in the Class 5A state softball tournament at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Beebe, the No. 1 seed from the 5A-Central, 9-0 after four innings, but defense got a little shaky late and the Lady Cardinals got some timely base hits to make a game of it in the last three innings.

“They put down some good bunts, we made a few errors,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers. “We were patient at the plate for about the first half of the game and got away from that. We just weren’t very focused after we got ahead. But we’ll take it. A win is a win in the state tournament.”

Neither team was very sharp defensively throughout. Beebe’s defense came through with some plays to get out of early jams, while Camden-Fair-view’s did not.

The Lady Cardinals (11-13) got two runners in scoring position with one out in the top of the first inning and cleanup hitter Sarah Key at the plate. Key hit a hard grounder back to pitcher Abby Burch. As she threw to first for the force out, Kynzi Morgan tried to score, but was thrown out at the plate for the 1-3-2 double play.

Beebe also made its last out of the first inning on a double play at the plate, but scored three runs before that happened. Leadoff hitter Katlyn Gordon singled to start the inning. Nikita Howell then bunted for a single. Hannah Gammill’s grounder to short bounced off Makenna Smith, leaving everyone safe. Haley Dinapoli then singled to left field to drive in two runs.

Lexy Lockhart grounded out to first base for the first out while Gammill stayed at third and Dinapoli at second. Burch then singled to center field to score Gammill. Dinapoli also tried to score, but was thrown out at the plate. Burch tried to sneak into second on the throw home, but was also thrown out for the 8-2-4 double play.

Beebe (19-12) committed two errors in the top of the second, but got out of a jam that had two in scoring position and one out.

Beebe’s Lexi Devore then reached on an error by the pitcher to start the bottom of the second. After Paige Sharp lined out to third base, Molly Poe singled to put two on for Gordon. She singled to center field to score Devore for a 4-0 Beebe lead. Howell flew out to center field, but Gammill hit a two-RBI double to left to make it 6-0 Beebe.

Dinapoli reached on another CF error, but Gammill was tagged out when second baseman Bailey Carmody gathered up the ball she booted and threw home.

Neither team scored in the third, but Beebe added three more in the fourth to go up by nine runs. Gordon was hit with one out and was still on first when Howell popped up to second base. With two outs, Gammill doubled for the second time to drive in another run. Dinapoli singled to score Gammill for an 8-0 lead. Lockhart then doubled to put runners at second and third. Devore singled to shortstop to score Gammill for Beebe’s final run of the game.

In the top of the fifth, the Lady Cardinals got a base hit to right field and back-to-back bunt singles to load the bases. Morgan was then called on when she stepped across the plate to foul off a 0-2 pitch. Smith then singled to score one run and leave the bases still loaded. Key then hit a grounder to third that was booted into left field, allowing two more runs to score. Two batters later with two outs, Kori Smelser singled to make it 9-4 before Burch struck out Delaney Fogle to get the inning over.

Two more errors helped Camden-Fairview add three more runs in the top of the seventh inning before Beebe finally sealed the win.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers survive scare at 7A state

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panthers’ quest to return to the Class 7A state championship game endured a nerve-wracking and wet start Friday in Fort Smith. In a game that never felt as close as the score, Cabot found itself in a downpour and tied with Bryant with 14 minutes to go, but managed to control the action down the stretch to earn a 4-2 victory at Southside High School.

With 14:53 left in the match, Bryant’s Caroline Campbell scored a one-on-four goal to tie the match 2-2. It was a shocking turn of events in a game that the Lady Panthers had dominated in every facet.

Cabot led 2-1 at halftime, and Bryant’s first-half goal was equally as abrupt. The tying goal in the second half seemed to spark the Lady Hornets, and for the next two or three minutes, Cabot appeared on its heels as the Hornets aggressively attacked.

That’s when the Lady Panthers’ experience and conditioning took over.

Senior Hadley Dickinson stole a Bryant pass at midfield and delivered a perfect pass to Kiley Dulaney, who had gotten behind Bryant’s defenders.

With a one-on-one with the Bryant goalkeeper, Dulaney was tackled from behind and a foul was called. Dickinson took the penalty kick and slid it into the bottom left corner of the goal for a 3-2 Lady Panther lead.

Cabot coach Kerry Castillo was able to joke about it afterwards, but was feeling the stress until that goal.

“You talk about breaking the pressure,” said Castillo. “You could almost feel it after that penalty because all of a sudden they’re the ones who are under the gun. When they tied it I felt like I needed an AED. Then it was just a matter of will and fitness. Who was going to work, and who was going to be able to work in the final minutes to produce one more chance.”

When Castillo saw his squad withstand the initial intense attacking after the tying goal, he thought there were some things his players could exploit, and they came through.

“It was big in a game like this to have those seniors who have that experience,” Castillo said. It took a bit of composure on their part. We stayed organized and patient. They were pushing players forward and we were able to direct the ball to the center of the field where we kind of like to set traps. And then they passed it right into Hadley’s feet.”

Cabot added one more goal with 1:29 remaining when Tristyn Edgar took advantage of some Bryant indecisiveness. The Lady Hornet goalkeeper and a defender couldn’t decide whether to shield or pick up the ball. Edgar slipped in and poked it from in between them and into the goal.

“That was really kind of a big mistake they made there,” Castillo said. “And a player like Tristyn, you’re not going to get away with that. She saw a chance to sneak in and steal one and she took it.”

The Lady Panthers scored first seven minutes into the match. Dickinson passed from midfield to Dulaney on the left sideline. She took it all the way to end line behind the goal and skied a pass back towards Edgar, who had a clear path to the goal. Her first shot careened off the cross bar and right back to her, where she poked in the rebound for the 1-0 lead.

Campbell scored for Bryant 10 minutes later, but Cabot took the lead into halftime. This time Dickinson looped a high pass from one side of the field to the other, where Dulaney took it in the air and scorched on the ground from right to left into the corner of the goal.

Cabot (22-2) will face Fayetteville at 10 a.m. today in the semifinals. Fayetteville is responsible for one of Cabot’s two losses this year. The Lady Bulldogs beat Cabot 2-1 on March 4. The Lady Panthers avenged that loss with a 4-0 win just six days later. The winner of today’s game will play for the state championship next weekend at Razorback Field in Fayetteville.

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside Bears hold off a late rally by Rams

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills baseball team won its first game as host of the Class 5A state baseball tournament Thursday at Mike Bromley Field in Sherwood. The Bears led 7-1 and then held off a late rally to beat Hot Springs Lakeside 8-6.

Less than a week after a sterling outing against Beebe in the 5A-Central Conference tournament, Sylvan Hills pitcher River Hunt struggled to find the strike zone. But the offense was good early and Hunt battled through five and a third innings to get the win.

“I think we just played tight,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “We’ve been waiting for this all season. We’re hosting. We were just a little tight. Obviously it wasn’t River’s best stuff today. But we’ll take it. We get to keep playing, and the good news is we know we can play a lot better than this.”

Hunt only gave up four base hits, but he walked six and hit one while striking out seven.

The Rams had two runners on with one out in the first inning before Hunt fanned the next two batters. Sylvan Hills (30-7) then got the first of two home runs to take an early lead.

Zach Douglass singled with one out before Nick Fakouri smashed one over the wall in left field for the quick 2-0 lead.

Lakeside got one back in the top of the second inning. Brody Prince hit a leadoff double and scored on a single by Race Tittle. Hunt then fanned the next two batters. Leadoff hitter Justin Scott walked, but Jack Bornhoff grounded back to the mound to end the inning.

No one scored again until the Bears posted five runs in the bottom of the third inning. Leadoff hitter Michael Coven walked to start the rally, and scored on a double to center field by Douglass. Fakouri and Ryan Lumpkin drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Douglass and a sacrifice fly by Hunt brought in Fakouri. Chaz Poppy then blasted a two-run home to make it 7-1.

That’s how it stayed until the top of the sixth, when Lakeside (17-10) scored three runs on no hits. Hunt walked Tittle and hit Ethan Bates to start the inning. He then struck out No. 3 before walking Scott to load the bases. That was it for Hunt, and Ray Young replaced him on the mound.

Young walked Bornhoff to make the score 7-2. A grounder to first base scored Bates and left runners at second and third. Young then hit Colton O’Keefe to load them up again, and then hit Carter West to make the score 7-4.

Young was replaced by Camron Flippo, who needed just one pitch to get Prince to fly out to center field and thwart a near disaster.

In the bottom of the sixth, Coven hit a one-out single and made his way around the bases by stealing second, taking third on a passed ball and scoring on a wild pitch.

Tittle got a leadoff single to start the top of the seventh. Flippo then walked Bates to put two on with no outs. He got No. 28 to ground out to third base and then fanned Scott. Bornhoff then hit a two-RBI single to left to make it 8-6, and stole second base.

Zack McLugin then hit a fly ball to deep center field, but Hunt got under it for the final out.

Douglass was the only Bear with multiple base hits. He went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Bornhoff and Tittle each had two base hits for the Rams.

“Fakouri got a home run for us in the first inning, and Chaz got one in the third and those were huge for us,” said Tipton.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills wins 5A-Central

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears breezed through the 5A-Central Conference tournament last week in Sherwood, winning its three games by a combined score of 32-1, and closing it out with an 8-1 victory over Pulaski Academy on Friday. That win gave the Bears the No. 1 seed from the 5A-Central going into this week’s Class 5A state tournament, that Sylvan Hills will also host at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Nick Fakouri, who was one of the key starters on last year’s state runner-up team, pitched in a varsity game for the first time this season due to a shoulder injury. He threw five innings, including four innings of one-hit ball before a single in the fifth inning finished off the Bruins’ offensive output.

He finished with four strikeouts and four walks, allowed one unearned run and left the game after issuing a walk to start the sixth inning.

“We’ve been trying to get him ready for this,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton of Fakouri. “He could’ve thrown a little earlier. He threw in a JV game last week. We had saved him up until tournament time, and it’s good to have him back.”

Pulaski Academy pitcher Layne Hatcher forced a lot of pop-ups early, but Ryan Lumpkin hit a leadoff double in the top of the second inning. It came to nothing, however. That wasn’t the case in the third.

Kyle Clayton got the Bears’ second base hit of the game, a leadoff single to left-center field. He stole second base, and then scored on a double by leadoff hitter Michael Coven to put the host team up 1-0. Coven later scored when Gavin Glasgow couldn’t handle Fakouri’s shot to third base, making the score 2-0.

PA got its unearned run in the top of the fourth on a base hit, two walks and an E4. Sylvan Hills answered with four runs in the bottom half of the same frame.

It started with a sole home run by River Hunt when he crushed a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left field. Chaz Poppy followed with a single and Caleb McMunn reached on an error.

Two passed balls scored Poppy and moved McMunn all the way to third. Clayton then hit an RBI single that made the score 5-0. Poppy later scored on a sacrifice grounder by Coven for the 6-1 lead.

The Bears set the final margin in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, McMunn and Clayton were hit consecutively. Both scored on Pulaski Academy’s fourth error of the game.

Sylvan Hills (29-6) also committed three errors, and it was the only deficiency the entire week.

“I don’t like that we did make some errors tonight,” Tipton said. “Typically for us, the key is to play good defense. We’re going to battle at the plate. So from that standpoint, I don’t like the mistakes, but at the same time, I wouldn’t trade the results.”

With the state tournament looming and the Bears hosting it, the head Bear feels good about how his team played in the tournament play leading into the big one.

“I really, truly have felt that they’ve been ready to play the tournament,” Tipton said of his squad. “The whole deal with this blended conference, it really didn’t matter. Just from the standpoint of the competitive nature and coming out every night, I think they’ve been waiting for this time. I think they’re ready to play.

“Now we could get beat. In the game of baseball, you can get some breaks. But I do like how we’re playing. We’re wanting to compete. We’re playing it our place and hopefully that’ll help.”

Sylvan Hills had six base hits against PA, with Clayton’s 2 for 2 outing leading the way. He added an RBI and scored three runs.

The Bears will face the four seed from the 5A-South, Hot Springs Lakeside (17-9). That game is scheduled to open the tournament at 10 a.m.

The Bruins (21-14) will play South three seed White Hall (21-9) at 5:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbit baseball settles for three seed

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits will have to settle for a three seed when it begins hosting the Class 4A state baseball tournament on Thursday.

The Jackrabbits suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss to Jonesboro-Westside in the 4A-East Regional semifinal. That dropped them to the third-place game against Heber Springs later Monday afternoon. The Rabbits won that game 12-9 after trailing 9-3 through four innings.

In the loss to the Warriors (20-4), Lonoke struggled at the plate against Westside’s soft-tossing pitcher Avery Felts. Casey Martin and Daulton Smith got base hits on the game’s first two at-bats, and they were Lonoke’s last until the seventh inning.

“He was really good with his angles, very accurate hitting his spots,” said Lonoke coach Chris Foor. “I thought we had a good game plan and good approaches. We put it in play, had very few strikeouts. We were just underneath everything. The kid pitched a great game.”

Lonoke loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh. Kade Stuart got a leadoff base hit. Caleb Horton was hit by a pitch with two outs and Will Risner reached on an error at first base. Kameron Cole then drew an RBI walk for Lonoke’s first and only run. That brought Martin, the team’s best hitter, to the plate with the bases still loaded, but he flew out to left field to end the game.

The Jackrabbits (20-12) gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the first due to an error at third base. In the sixth inning, Haven Hunter walked Westside’s leadoff hitter, and back-to-back singles led to a 2-0 Warrior lead.

Martin started on the mound, threw four innings and took the loss. He gave up four hits while striking out five and walking one. Hunter threw the last two innings, giving up two hits with one strikeout and one walk. Felts threw all seven innings and gave up only three hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

Against Heber Springs (21-8-1), Martin led the Jackrabbits back from a 9-3 deficit with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning and a grand slam in the fifth. Lonoke compiled 12 base hits in the victory.

“We were still getting underneath everything really until about halfway through the second game,” Foor said. “We weren’t playing, I don’t think, with much energy or focus. This was the first time all year we stayed overnight. I don’t know if that had something to do with it, but this was not a typical effort by us. We were finally able to turn it around. I think we’re going to regroup and look a lot better on Thursday.”

Martin went 3 for 4 with two home runs and seven RBIs in game two. Greg Lingo went 2 for 3 while Smith and Stuart each went 2 for 4.

Lonoke will open the tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday against 4A-North three seed Pottsville (25-6). The winner of that game will face 4A-South Regional champion Nashville (21-8) at 10 a.m. Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers complete perfection

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers completed a clean sweep of the 7A-Central Conference last Friday with a 7-0 demolition of North Little Rock, and will carry the No. 1 seed into the Class 7A state playoffs.

Those playoffs begin on Thursday, but the Cabot girls get a bye, and will not play until 10 a.m. Friday against the first-round winner between Rogers and Bryant.

The Lady Panthers have been on an impressive run towards the end of the season. They have outscored their last two opponents 14-1, and even their 3-2 win over Bryant three matches ago was impressive.

Head coach Kerry Castillo is encouraged by how his squad is playing heading into the state playoffs.

“Even in the game against Bryant, the score line wasn’t really indicative of the game,” Castillo said. “We created so many chances in the last few minutes. We hit the cross bar with one, shot one into the goalkeeper who was laying on the ground. We blew a few, but we created so many we finally put a couple more in late to get that one. The last two opponents haven’t been that strong, but we did what we should’ve done.”

Against North Little Rock, junior Tristyn Edgar got her second hat trick in as many games. Freshman Kiley Dulaney added two goals and an assist. Sophomore Tatum Moore had a goal and an assist, and senior Hadley Dickinson assisted three goals while scoring another.

“One thing I’ve noticed about our stats recently is that most of our goals have been assisted,” Castillo said. “Early on we relied a lot on individual efforts because we have some great players. Recently we’ve been working as a team and those goals have been created.”

Better rhythm between midfielders and forwards has been a big key to the Lady Panthers’ success. It’s one of the few things the head Panther thought needed to improve by this point in the season.

“I think defensively we’re solid, and the other thing is our midfielders and attacking forwards are finding one another,” Castillo said. “The forwards are getting more involved in the midfield and helping us pull apart defenses. There are a couple of instances I can recall when we put together four, five, six passes on our way to getting behind the other team.”

Making those improvements and seeing the results on the field is what every coach wants to see happen as the postseason approaches. The Lady Panthers seem to be peaking at the right time.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Castillo said. “I’ve been waiting for us to peak. Another thing is, the girls are anxious to play it. The closer the playoffs have gotten, the more focused they seemed to become. With such a big group of seniors, you always worry they’ll have other things to occupy them. That has not been the case. These girls are focused.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe topples SH ladies

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badger softball team entered the 5A-Central Conference tournament as a two seed, they leave it as a No. 1 after beating Sylvan Hills 4-2 Friday in the tournament championship game.

The Lady Bears were the top seed in the conference tournament by virtue of a 5-4 win over Beebe on April 13, but the Lady Badgers’ bats have improved since that game, especially in the power department.

That was evident in Beebe’s big third inning, when senior Nikita Howell and freshman Hannah Gammill hit back-to-back home runs to give the Lady Badgers (18-11) a 3-0 lead.

We’re playing good,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers. “We’re hitting the ball hard. I thought both teams played tremendous defense the whole game. They played awesome. We played awesome. Those back-to-back home runs were big for us. It was just two good teams played an excellent softball game. We were fortunate to come out on top.”

Sylvan Hills threatened first in the bottom of the second inning. Joy Franco drew a leadoff walk and Destiny Sanders doubled to left field to put two runners in scoring position. After a strikeout, Doma’Nique Hunt walked to load the bases with one out.

Beebe pitcher Abby Burch then fanned Anna Sigler and Tristen Goodson back-to-back to leave the bases loaded and escape the jam.

The momentum of those two strikeouts carried over into Beebe’s offense in the top of the third. Nine-hole hitter Molly Poe hit one that worked out just like a perfectly-placed bunt. Sylvan Hills catcher Cara Pozza fielded the ball but couldn’t make the throw in time.

Leadoff hitter Katlyn Gordon sacrifice bunted to move Poe to second. Howell then stepped into a 2-2 pitch and sent it sailing high over the fence in left field for a 2-0 Beebe lead.

Gammill then came to bat, and drilled a hard line drive over the fence in straightaway center field for a 3-0 lead with one out.

Haley Dinapoli and Lexy Lockhart then hit back-to-back singles, but Sanders got out of the predicament with a pair of groundouts.

The score stayed 3-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning. Sylvan Hills’ MacKenzie Rodgers hit a leadoff single to shortstop. Franco then sent two pitches over the fence in foul territory, down the third baseline before popping up to first base.

No matter, Sanders came to bat and hit a monster fly ball to left-center field that cleared the temporary fence by several yards and pulled the Lady Bears (20-10) to within 3-2.

Lynlee Broadway replaced Sanders on the mound in the top of the seventh, and got into trouble quickly. She gave up a single to Gordon and a bunt single to Howell before hitting Gammill to load the bases. A passed ball allowed Gordon to score, but Broadway turned things around from there and didn’t give up another run.

The Lady Bears, however, couldn’t produce a base runner in the seventh, as Burch got two fly balls and a grounder to third to preserve the Badger victory.

“We hit the ball like that and Abby (Burch) stays in the game, we’re in pretty good shape,” Chambers said.

Howell went 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs to lead Beebe offensively. Poe went 2 for 3 while Dinapoli and Lockhart went 2 for 4.

Sanders had two of Sylvan Hills four total base hits.

Beebe will open tournament play at 10 a.m. Thursday against the four seed from the 5A-South, Camden Fairview (11-12). State tournament host Sylvan Hills will play South three seed Magnolia (16-8) at 5:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans hold on to beat Patriots

Leader sports editor

After being in control from the opening pitch through six innings, the seventh almost turned into a complete nightmare for the Jacksonville Titan baseball team Saturday at Dupree Park. In the end, the Titans held on for a 7-5 victory over the Marion Patriots to earn the three seed from the 6A-East in the Class 6A state tournament that begins Thursday in Benton.

The Titans led 7-0 going into the top of the seventh, but needed four pitchers to stop the string of walks, balks and hit batters that led to Marion being one base hit from tying the game.

Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows couldn’t have been more pleased after the game.

“I love it,” Burrows said. “That’s what makes this game great. There ain’t no clock and it happens every day. It’s how this game goes, man. It’s awesome.”

The Patriots scored all five runs without a single base hit. Starting pitcher Jordan Wickersham dominated through six innings, and Jacksonville coaches expressed some regret for pulling him after walking the leadoff hitter in the top of the seventh.

Freshman Kyle Williams replaced him and hit the next two batters before being replaced by Jayden Loving.

With the bases loaded, Loving threw a wild pitch to score the first run of the inning, and then balked to bring in another. Leadoff hitter Tony Rudd finally walked to put two runners on with no outs and the score 7-2. Hayden Hodge then hit a grounder to shortstop, where Trent Toney flubbed the play, leaving the bases loaded.

A grounder to second base scored another run, and left runners on second and third with one out. Loving then walked Mathew Baker to load them up again, He threw a wild pitch that scored Rudd to make it 7-4 before walking Tyler Steele to load them up again.

That brought Ean Long to the mound. He threw the ball away on a pick-off throw to first to make it 7-5, and then hit Peyton Walker to load the bases with one out.

Cody Smith worked the count full as Jacksonville catcher Kameron Whitmore saved several difficult pitches to keep the runners in place. Long finally came through with a huge strikeout for out number two.

Marion’s Peyton McElroy then hit a hard line drive to shortstop, where Toney made a stabbing catch to prevent a certain two-run, game-tying base hit and end the game.

Burrows credited his team for holding it together, much like it did during a mid-season slump. The head Titan drew the comparison.

“It’s like I told them,” Burrows began. “We lost seven in a row there at one point, and an average group of guys would have shut it down. This group ain’t average. They stuck together. They didn’t quit on each other. I mean, you throw that part of the season out, we’ve had a really good year.”

Jacksonville (15-13) failed to capitalize on its first good chance to score in the bottom of the first inning. The Titans had runners at second and third with no outs, but couldn’t push one across the plate. They went down in order in the second inning. Joe Cummings hit a single to right field, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double.

Marion (13-15) got a one-out double and Wickersham walked a batter in the third, but he picked off the runner at first and then fanned McElroy to end the frame.

Jacksonville then went up in the bottom of the third.

Nine-hole hitter Gabe Helsley hit a leadoff single and Whitmore followed with a single to center. Caleb Smith bunted the runners into scoring position. Toney then smacked a two-RBI base hit to center field for the 2-0 Titan lead. Caden Sample was hit before Loving and Cummings got back-to-back RBI singles for a 4-0 lead.

That’s how it stayed until the bottom of the sixth, when Jacksonville added three unearned runs. Quentin Stallard and Helsley hit consecutive one-out singles before Whitmore flew out to right field. Smith walked to load the bases with two outs. Toney then popped up to shortstop. With runners on the move, Rudd missed the catch as Stallard and Helsley both scored.

“If Gabe’s not hustling and running full speed, it’s just 6-5,” Burrows said. “That was a huge play by Gabe. You can’t ever sit in this game. You never know what’s going to happen. Gabe made a great play.”

A single by Sample loaded the bases again before Wickersham walked to drive in Jacksonville’s final run.

Whitmore was one of four Titans with two base hits, but it was his defense that drew Burrows’ praise.

“Kam was unbelievable behind the plate for us, like he has been all year,” Burrows said. “He’s sort of figured Wick out. He knows the angle every time and they’ve been really good together.”

Wickersham was also outstanding. He pitched six innings, giving up just three base hits while striking out 10 and walking two.

“Wick was good, ain’t no doubt about that,” Burrows said. “His last three or four outings have been outstanding. I’m really happy with him.”

The other three Titans with multiple base hits were seven, eight and nine hitters Cummings, Stallard and Helsley.

Jacksonville will open tournament play in Benton at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against 6A-South No. 6 seed Texarkana.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers set new record with last win

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panther baseball team reached 22 wins for the first time in school history Friday night with a 7-4 victory over the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats in the last home game of the season.

The Panthers have 23 wins against only seven losses overall after adding a 6-4, nonconference win over Bentonville West on Monday. They are conference champions with a 13-1 record, and will be a number one seed in the 7A state tournament which begins Thursday in Bentonville.

Cabot will have a bye and not play until Friday. North Little Rock is 19-8 overall and ended the conference season with a record of 10-4.

“It was a good game, well pitched on our end,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Their guy pitched well as well, just had two hiccups there. But, they’re really good, and we’re pretty good. It’s just on to the playoffs at this point.”

On his seniors, Goodwin had this to say.

“They’ve just made history. They now have the most wins in Cabot baseball history in a single season. This is the first group that I had. When I got here, they were ninth graders. For them to accomplish this, with all the work that we’ve made them do, they’re very deserving, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’ve earned this. They’ve definitely put in the time and the energy.”

North Little Rock was first to score, getting one run in the top of the first inning on three consecutive base hits with two outs. Nick Butler got the first into short center field, followed by a Ryan Maloch hit into the gap in right center.

Reed Shepherd then singled to left center to score Butler for the 1-0 lead. A fly ball to left ended the inning with the two runners stranded.

It was the bottom of the third when the Panthers made their first move. Kyler Franks led off with a base on balls, then Blake McCutchen lined the ball back up the middle for a hit.

Clayton Gray grounded out to the first baseman, but moved the runners to second and third. Catcher Denver Mullins drove the ball to left field to score both, and moved to second when the left fielder fumbled the ball.

Caleb Harpole entered the game as a courtesy runner, moved to third on an error, and scored on a base hit by Houston King to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead after three innings.

After a scoreless fourth frame, Cabot struck again in the home half of the fifth. Mullins started the rally with another base hit to left, and King went the other way with a hit to right center. Bobby Duncan hit a ground ball to the shortstop, everyone was safe, and the bases were loaded.

Evan Hooper brought in one with a hit to right field, Eric Larsen brought in two more with a hit to left, and Hooper followed them in to score the fourth run of the inning. The Wildcats turned a double play to end the frame, but the lead was now 7-1.

Michael Shepherd took over the pitching duties for Cabot in the top of the sixth, relieving starter Logan Gilbertson who allowed only the one run on three hits while striking out five batters.

NLR had consecutive hits in the sixth, but two strikeouts and a runner caught stealing by Mullins ended the threat in that frame.

The Panthers went in order in the bottom of the inning, and the Wildcats came to bat in the seventh. Dezmond Cordova reached on an error to start things off. Zac Freeman singled to right and went to second on the throw to third.

After a fly ball to center for the second out, Butler singled to left, scoring both runners, and advanced to second on the throw home. Maloch scored him with a base hit, but a foul fly ball was caught by Duncan to end the game and set the final score of 7-4.

Mullins had three hits for Cabot and scored two runs. McCutchen, King, and Hooper all had two hits, and each scored a run.

Butler had two hits and scored twice for the Wildcats.

EDITORIAL >> Jim Johnson left big legacy

Former Jacksonville High School Principal Jim Johnson, 68, passed away April 28 in Rogers, where he was assistant superintendent of secondary education for many years. Johnson then worked for the Arkansas Department of Education, training and consulting educators throughout the state.

Most of us remember him as the towering principal (in more ways than one) at Jacksonville High School from 1984 until 1994. He was only 36 when he became principal, and he made a difference in the lives of thousands of students. As his family wrote in Johnson’s obituary, “He cherished his time as a Red Devil. He was dedicated to serving and mentoring his faculty and ‘kids.’”

He was also director of secondary education in the Pulaski County Special School District from 1994 until 2002, when he was assistant superintendent for eight years.

Jim Johnson was old school. He was born in Memphis to a family of modest means. He made you feel you were a valued member of society, either as a student, faculty member, neighbor or friend. He loved his family, he enjoyed life and believed in a solid education to prepare young people for productive lives.

He was proud of his many successes at Jacksonville High School and was happy to share them with The Leader. He loved Jacksonville and asked to be buried here.

The family has set up the Jim Johnson Memorial Scholarship fund to be given each year to a graduating senior at Jacksonville High School who will go into the field of education. Donations can be made at First Arkansas Bank and Trust.

What a fitting honor for a wonderful educator whose legacy lives on in the lives of thousands of graduates all over Arkansas.

EDITORIAL >> Col. Brown is in SHAPE

Congratulations to Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, whose next assignment will be as senior assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium.

SHAPE, as the command where Col. Brown is headed is known, is the headquarters of Allied Command Operations, which controls all NATO operations. Western security will be stronger thanks to Col. Brown.

Our air base is a talent pool for future leaders, and several of its past commanders have gone on to top posts at the Pentagon and elsewhere.

Col. Brown’s successor at LRAFB will be Col. Gerald Donohue, 86th Operations Group commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

We are grateful for Col. Brown’s two years of leadership of the 19th Airlift Wing, the host wing at LRAFB, which has become the best C-130 training base in the world, and its airmen have been on constant deployment since 9/11.

Col. Brown will be a top aide to the Supreme Allied Commander, Army Gen. Curtis Michael Scaparrotti, who took the post a year ago. Previous Supreme Allied Commanders include Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Alexander Haig, Little Rock native Wesley Clark, James L. Jones and other distinguished Americans.

NATO, a military alliance of the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and 24 European nations, plus Turkey, has been responsible for protecting the security and freedom of Europe since the Second World War.

The organization’s importance is as clear today as it was in 1949, when it was founded in the early days of the Cold War to thwart Soviet expansion.

The Russian threat is again on the rise. Its operatives are as determined as ever to infiltrate our country and destabilize democratic nations around the world. But NATO is also working to combat terrorism among other security fronts.

Community newspapers don’t often weigh in on international affairs, but NATO is a community of nations. To that end, we will miss Col. Brown, who has been a valued member of our central Arkansas community, advocating everyday for the quality of life for airmen and their families.

Col. Brown will take that same kind of dedication to Mons, Belgium, and beyond and succeed in all future missions. Our loss is NATO’s gain.