Friday, June 23, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot seniors split a pair this week

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Cabot senior American Legion team went 1-1 this week since losing the championship game of the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic on Sunday. The senior Centennial Bank squad lost 3-2 to Clarksville on Tuesday, then traveled to Searcy on Wednesday and picked up a 5-2 victory.

The team was scheduled to play Thursday in Jacksonville in the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior Invitational, but that first-round game was rained out.

In Wednesday’s victory, Cabot picked up nine base hits while allowing just three, and bookended five scoreless innings with a one-run first and a four-run seventh.

Blake McCutchen, Brian Tillery and Michael Crumbly all had two base hits. Tillery, hitting in the three hole, also had a double and the game’s only two RBIs.

Brodey Schluter, Rail Gilliam and Jack Broyles each had one base hit.

Brett Brockinton got the win on the mound, pitching six and one-third innings. He gave up two hits and one run, but it was an unearned run, as Cabot committed three defensive errors. The errors came despite very few balls being put into play. Brockinton finished with 13 strikeouts to just three walks.

Dylan Billingsley got the save by recording the final two outs. He gave up one hit and one unearned run with one strikeout.

In the loss at Clarksville on Tuesday, Cabot picked up six base hits, two more than its host, but still lost thanks partly to four more fielding errors.

Caleb Wilson pitched all six innings for Cabot, and pitched well. He allowed only one earned run while striking out five and walking two. Cabot was facing a tough pitcher as well, and struck out 13 times.

Caleb Harpole led Centennial Bank offensively with two base hits, including a triple, as well as one run scored and one RBI.

McCutchen, Broyles, Tillery and Gilliam had one base hit apiece. Gilliam record Cabot’s other RBI.

SPORTS STORY >> A Team picks up victory at Searcy

Leader sports editor

The Cabot junior American Legion team known as The A Team got a win and a tie Wednesday against Searcy. The Centennial Bank squad beat Searcy 8-1 in the opening game at the Cabot Sports Complex, then rallied from a 5-2 deficit to score three in the bottom of the last inning to salvage the nightcap tie.

In game one, Cabot did most of its damage early, scoring all eight runs in the first three innings, including five in the second.

Searcy struggled on the mound. Cabot finished with just three base hits, but they were timely. The A Team had people on base throughout the contest thanks to eight base-on-balls issued by Searcy pitching.

Jacob Caswell had two of those hits for Cabot, both doubles, and both resulting in two RBIs. Leadoff hitter Coy Lovercheck went 1 for 3 at the plate and drove in a run as well. Hayden Wood added two RBIs on a walk and sacrifice fly, and Braylen Moore also drove in a run.

Austin Calhoun had a good game on the mound. He pitched five innings for Cabot and gave up zero earned runs while striking out seven and walking just two.

The nightcap was on a time limit and lasted just four innings. Searcy took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning before Cabot tied it in the bottom half of the same frame. Searcy then added three more in the top of the second as Cabot went scoreless until the bottom of the fourth.

Both teams managed just three hits in game two, but Searcy issued seven free bases and committed three errors while Cabot walked four and had two errors.

Zach Eveleth went 2 for 2 at the plate for the Centennial Bank squad, and recorded an RBI. Park Ashcraft had the other base hit.

The A team had lost twice previously in the week, falling 10-0 to Vilonia and 6-3 to Mt. Vernon on Tuesday in Cabot. It was scheduled to host Mt. Vernon again on Thursday, but that game was rained out.

The next scheduled game will be another two-team doubleheader, facing Poyen at 6 p.m. Monday, with the makeup game against Mt. Vernon to follow at the Cabot Sports Complex.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial strikeouts dominate Gwatney

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s Centennial Bank Junior American Legion team traveled to Jacksonville on Tuesday and defeated the Gwatney Chevrolet squad 7-2 at Dupree Park. Cabot got an outstanding performance from starting pitcher Austin Scritchfield. After getting into some trouble out of the gate, Scritchfield dominated.

Jacksonville held Cabot scoreless in the top of the first inning, and then took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half. Leadoff hitter Peyton Williams singled to left field on the first pitch. Robert Johnson then hit a grounder to second place that was missed, leaving runners safe on corners. Jaylon McGee then singled to right field, scoring Williams. He also advanced to second on the unsuccessful throw to the plate. That made the score 1-0, and left two runners in scoring position with no outs.

That’s when Scritchfield’s domination started. He struck out the next three batters to keep the damage from the bad start to a minimum. In the bottom of the second inning, Jacksonville’s Clay Burrows hit a leadoff single to left field, but Scritchfield again answered by striking out the side with the next three batters. In the third inning, Scritchfield sat Jacksonville down in order, again all strikeouts, giving the pitcher nine Ks in three innings of work.

He retired Gwatney in order in the fourth inning, but without a strikeout. He then fanned two of three in the fifth inning to end his night on the mound. Scritchfield pitched five innings, gave up three hits and one earned run while striking out 11 and walking zero. The first nine outs of the game were all strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Cabot took the lead in the top of the second inning and never trailed after that. Blake Buffalo hit a leadoff single to start the rally, and Brock Martin walked. Jake Moudy’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position, and two Jacksonville errors on the next two at-bats brought in two runs.

With two outs, Mason Griffin singled to left field to score Graham Turner and made it a 3-1 Cabot lead.

Neither team scored in the third or fourth innings, but the Centennial Bank squad posted three in the top of the fifth. That rally started with another Jacksonville error after Scritchfield hit a grounder to shortstop. He moved to second on a wild pitch, but caught in a rundown and tagged out after Griffin grounded to third base.

Tanner Wilson was hit by a pitch to put two runners on base. Masen Wade and Buffalo then hit back-to-back singles to drive in two more runs. Griffin later scored on a wild pitch to give Cabot a 6-1 lead.

Jackson Olivi took the mound for Cabot in the sixth inning. He also struck out the side, but scattered those Ks among four walks that gave Gwatney Chevrolet another run.

The game’s final run came in the top of the seventh inning. Martin got a two-out single, and two more infield errors brought him around to set the final margin.

Logan Bell pitched the final inning for Cabot. He sat Jacksonville down in order, striking out two.

Cabot’s three pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts over seven innings.

Jacksonville finished with six errors, all in the infield. Of Cabot’s seven runs, only the three in the fifth inning were earned.

SPORTS STORYS >> Former Devil wins Gold Glove

Leader sports editor

One of the least heralded players coming out of one of the most talented Jacksonville baseball teams in recent decades, Ryan Mallison has become the most successful college player from the JHS class of 2015.

Mallison, who just completed his sophomore season as the starting second baseman at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, was just awarded the NJCAA Gold Glove for top defensive second baseman in the nation. He was also given the Gold Glove for his conference, and named to the second team Academic All American team.

But it is the national Gold Glove award that he is most proud of.

“It’s a little bit of excitement,” said Mallison. “A big part of my game is defense. I take pride in that. It’s nice to be rewarded from something I had worked so hard for a long time.”

The JHS baseball class of 2015 won 24-straight conference games over its last two years, won back-to-back conference championships, placed nine players on the All-State list, two in the All-Star game and the entire starting lineup received offers to play college baseball.

Mallison made All-State, but was not on the All-Star team, and did not receive many college offers beyond ABC.

But a look at Mallison’s season statistics makes it clear how he was chosen as the best junior college defensive second baseman in America. Mallison started all 57 games for ABC this year, and committed just two errors all season long. He finished with a .992 fielding percentage and led the nation in double plays turned with 44.

Players don’t just walk onto the field at game time and record season stats like that, and Mallison is no exception. He would stay after practice to field ground balls, and do hand-eye coordination drills whenever the opportunity arose.

He also couldn’t have done it alone.

“Some days our pitchers would stay and help out,” Mallison said. “Tirrell Brown, our assistant coach, would stay late and hit ground balls. It’s definitely something people have helped me achieve.”

Brown is also a former Jacksonville player, as is ABC head coach, who is also Ryan’s dad, Roger Mallison.

Ryan, however, says playing for his father was no different than any other coaches he played for.

“There was no extra pressure,” Ryan said. “It’s still the same game. He’s a guy who’s been pushing me my whole life. I just looked at it as him doing what he’s always done. We left the father-son relationship off the field. When we stepped on the field it was coach and player. I enjoyed it, but it was nothing different than what it’s always been.”

While defense gained him a huge national honor, Mallison was no slouch in other areas. He carried a GPA high enough to earn second team Academic All-American, and the classroom and second base were still not the only places he excelled.

He leaves Arkansas Baptist College as one of the top hitters in school history. Ryan finished his sophomore year with a team-high batting average of .410, which is the third highest in school history. His 21 doubles led the team and set an ABC single-season record. Add to that his 14 doubles from his freshman year, Ryan also holds the school’s career record in doubles.

He also had six home runs, and his 75 base hits is another school record for a single season. He’s among the leaders in several career categories, including the school record in total double plays at 68.

Ryan finishes his junior college career second in school history with 125 base hits, second in runs scored with 83, and fourth in the ABC record books in RBIs with 73.

Ryan Mallison has been offered scholarships by numerous NCAA Division II schools, but he has his eye on bigger things.

The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff is the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship, but Arkansas State University and the University of Central Arkansas have offered him a preferred walk-on spot.

He plans on accepting one of those three offers by the end of next week.

“The (JUCO) league we played in had, I think, 17 guys drafted and more than that signed DI,” Mallison said. “It was like playing DI baseball a lot of the time. I don’t like sounding cocky. It’s just confidence, but I know I can play at that level.”

EDITORIAL >> Replacement hits roadblock

Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton remain silent on the newly unveiled health-care bill introduced Thursday in the Senate after much secrecy. Although Cotton helped fashion the controversial bill, he won’t say if he supports it, and neither will Boozman, even if hundreds of thousands of Arkansans will lose their health insurance if the bill passes.

Several Republicans have spoken out against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan, some because it doesn’t go far enough in reducing federal spending on health care, while other Republicans are saying the bill will end coverage for millions of Americans.

The proposal remains unpopular, with perhaps just 25 percent of Americans favoring it. While Boozman and Cotton are keeping out of sight, profiles in courage are emerging among Republicans and more are to follow this weekend, putting the future of McConnell’s healthcare bill in doubt.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said Friday he will not support the Republican Senate health-care bill without changes, making him the fifth GOP senator to oppose the secretive proposal, which was finally released Thursday.

Heller said millions of people will lose their insurance if Medicaid cuts in the bill are enacted. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will announce Monday how many working poor will go without insurance, but Heller has good reason to guess it will be in the hundreds of thousands, just like in Arkansas.

But he’s willing to speak out, unlike Boozman and Cotton. “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans,” Heller said.

Nevada, like Arkansas, expanded Medicaid, which helped 300,0000 Arkies get insurance for the first time. A quarter of a million could lose their coverage if the Senate bill passes. Why aren’t Boozman and Cotton addressing this issue? Dozens of hospitals and clinics will close if the McConnell bill becomes law, which will further hurt our state’s fragile health-care system.

Opponents of the health-care proposal include:

The Association of American Medical Colleges says millions of people will go without health coverage.

The American Medical Association opposes limits on Medicaid spending, raising premiums and reducing benefits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says cutting Medicaid would hurt children.

America’s Essential Hospitals says the bill will close hospitals and/or reduce services.

AARP is calling on every senator to vote no.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says the plan will hurt the fight against opioid addiction.

Catholic hospitals and nursing homes say the Republican health-care bill would have a “devastating impact” on the poor and frail.

The Association of State Medicaid Directors also opposes the Senate bill. They warned this week that “no amount of administrative or regulatory flexibility can compensate for the federal spending reductions that would occur as a result of this bill.”

Gov. Hutchinson, the Legislature, our congressional delegation must speak out before the Senate bill comes up for a vote next week. Arkansas would be among the states hardest hit. We’ve worked too hard to go down that route.

TOP STORY >> Commander attends retiree event

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Col. Charles Brown, 19th Airlift Wing commander, gave his farewell remarks as the guest speaker at the monthly retiree breakfast June 16 in Hangar 1080 on Little Rock Air Force Base.

“I’m here to say thank you,” Brown said. “The priorities we’ve laid out as a team start with people – from my airman and their families, to everyone who’s served.

“You deserve the best for what you provide and that’s support, so we can sustain our next priority, which is readiness,” Brown added.

The monthly retiree break-fast helps to foster close relationships with service members and to disseminate information from units to the retired community.

“Even though we’re re-tired, we still feel like we’re a part of the military family,” said (Ret.) Chief Master Sgt. Donald Smith, 19th AW Retiree Activities Office assistant retiree activities director.

“Once you’ve served for 20 to 30 years, you want to retain the relationships you’ve made with your fellow military members,” Smith said.

During the breakfast buffet, speakers from the 19th Medical Group, and outside organizations spoke as well to the audience about service updates and offers.

Arkansas has more than 58,000 retired service members who provide support to the Combat Airlift mission and the many amenities on base, such as the commissary and base exchange.

“We’ve had excellent support from the 19th Airlift Wing leadership,” Smith said. “Col. Brown and (Vice Commander Col. Christopher) Bennett have been huge supporters — they realize the importance of what retirees brings to the base.”

Brown will relinquish command Col. Gerald Donohue in a change of command ceremony on July 11.

Brown has been named senior assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium.SHAPE, as the command is known, is the headquarters of Allied Command Operations, which controls all NATO operations.

Donohue is 86th Opera-tions Group commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

TOP STORY >> District salutes staff for service

Leader staff writer

Tolleson Elementary School secretary Ava Coleman, Jacksonville Middle School attendance clerk Adrienna Williams, district maintenance director Kevin Stalnaker and Bayou Meto cafeteria manager Sherry Ottis were honored at the last district school board meeting for their dedication to students, staff and the district.

Coleman, Williams and Stalnaker were honored with the inaugural Titan Service Awards.

Ottis was named classified employee of the year.


Principal Gary Beck said, “Walking into the cafeteria at Bayou Meto Elementary, one might enter a forest of trufulla trees and Dr. Seuss characters or be transported into a fall wonderland of colors or the magic of winter with Olaf and the cast of Frozen. Why would someone take the time to transform a cafeteria in that way? Because our cafeteria manager, Sherry Ottis works hard to have a warm inviting cafeteria for all to enjoy.”

Ask her what she loves about her job and she will tell you it’s the kids.

“These kids are her kids and she will do everything she can to help them become the best that they can be,” Beck wrote.

He added, “She is open and accessible, hardworking and understanding, letting one know when things are going right and always willing to help when things go awry.”

“For you see, it is not just the shiny decorations that adorn the walls of our cafeteria, it is the brilliance of Sherry’s character that has touched our hearts and blessed the lives of so many,” Beck wrote.


“Ava Coleman is truly the glue that holds Tolleson together,” her principal, Angela Stewart, wrote in the nomination, “and I do not know what we would do without her.”

The nomination continued, “Ava goes above and beyond to assist our students and parents at Tolleson. She is always accommodating to parents and helps them with resources when they need help. She is friendly to everyone and always has a smile on her face.”

“‘That is not my job’ are words that one will never hear Ms. Coleman say. Anything one asks of her, she will try to do or find someone who knows the answer. She goes out of the way to find things to make the teachers’ jobs easier. She is always accessible to parents, teachers and students. Applying that magic band aid to a wounded first grader, rounding up stray supplies needed, to soothing the nerves of a new parent or maximizing partnerships – our nominee does it all,” wrote the principal.

The principal added, “Ms. Coleman has such a great sprit. Her joy shines and makes the day brighter.”

Stewart closed the nomination by saying, “Ava Coleman feels her role in the school allows her to be a social change agent, to help create a better future for our children and a better tomorrow.


Principal Mike Hutchinson nominated Williams because “she is always willing to help out whenever needed, she goes above and beyond what is expected of her. Williams comes in daily with a big smile and a positive attitude.”

Williams joined the middle school staff as attendance clerk after the school year had already started. “Accepting a position that had some instabilities. When she began, there were three weeks of attendance data to review and repair. She had to learn the computer system on the job, as well as become acquainted with the staff and JMS office and school procedures. Despite these challenges, she came to school every day with a smile and a kind heart,” the principal write.

He added, “She became our supply orderer, helped with discipline input, managed phones and parents, assisted with timekeeping records, all on top of handling attendance.”


Dr. Janice Walker, the principal at Arnold Drive, nominated Stalnaker.

“Kevin Stalnaker (district maintenance director) exhibits the epitome of professionalism,” Walker wrote in her nomination of Stalnaker. “It was a huge undertaking to ensure all schools within the district were ready for students. He not only supervised his limited number of workers, but worked alongside them to make sure our schools were ready.”

In his nomination, it stated that, “When he enters a building he is always friendly, professional and focused toward addressing the concern. It is also evident that he has instilled this approach with the individuals he supervises.”

Walker closed the nomination by saying, “He is a maintenance director who truly has a passion for his job and working to ensure quality service and customer satisfaction.”

All four winners received a trophy, medallion, and gift cards.

TOP STORY >> LRAFB group tops in U.S.

The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council has received the 2017 Member of the Year Award from the Association of Defense Communities for its support of Little Rock Air Force Base for more than 60 years.

The council includes local leaders who, with residents and businesses in Jacksonville, Little Rock, Cabot, Sherwood and other communities surrounding the base, form “Team Little Rock,” which hosts the base and supports its mission and personnel.

Annabelle Davis and Barbara Merrick of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, which helped bring the air base to Jacksonville in 1955, accepted the award in Washington this week.

Merrick, the council’s president, said Friday, “I’m so grateful that Entergy allows me the time to work in support of the base, and not just my company, business and industry leaders all around central Arkansas go the extra mile to care for the airmen here.”

“I think ADC also recognize how well the communities in the area join together to support our base,” Merrick continued. “It’s truly a team effort and a labor of love for all of us.”

Davis, who is the group’s executive secretary, said Friday, “We were thrilled at being selected as the 2017 ADC member of the year. This just confirms that all the community council and our members do to support LRAFB has been noticed and recognized on a national level.”

The Association of Defense Communities praised the council for its support of the base and its outreach program.

“In addition to the great work the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council does locally, it is also an outstanding example of leadership in our organization,” said ADC president Michael Cooper. “The council members’ work shows their understanding of how to use all resources available to make things better in their community, which perfectly illustrates the ADC mission.”

ADC is the nation’s leading association representing communities and states with a significant military presence and their partner organizations. The group promotes defense infrastructure, community-military partnerships, defense real estate, mission growth, base redevelopment and support for military families and veterans.

Jacksonville and Arkansas have adopted ordinances and regulations that prevent civilian encroachment that would impede aircraft operation, and many military-civilian partnerships have been formed to provide mutual services that improve quality of life on both sides of the fence, while reducing military expenses.

These partnerships include cooperation in ensuring the availability on base of Central Arkansas library services and materials, the development and use of recreational facilities, collaboration on programs involving traffic signals and recycling, and plans to partner on bulk materials ordering and sharing on-base youth resources with local families.

Throughout the year, the Jacksonville Fire Department and Emergency Services team participates with their military counterparts during exercises and to respond to emergencies and disasters.

“The LRAFB Community Council, made up of local leaders, has been a champion of the base’s mission, directing the efforts of both the military and civilian communities to further integrate the two through mutual support,” wrote Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Second District Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) in a letter saluting the council’s achievements.

“During this time of economic uncertainty, when our defense and Air Force are facing extensive budget cuts that could affect LRAFB, the community council has been indispensable in working with our offices to provide critical information to the LRAFB community, airmen and their families,” they wrote.

In 1953, Pulaski County formed a committee that raised $1.2 million to buy 6,000 acres of land in north Pulaski County, which it donated to the Air Force for the base.

Since then, the council has launched many initiatives to ensure that the Air Mobility Command’s 19th Airlift Wing and the 314th Airlift Wing, a component of the Air Education and Training Command, can carry out their operations and that those who work at the base feel welcome and cared for by the community.

A council subcommittee has raised more than $70,000 in community sponsor donations to support the 60th anniversary gala, which drew more than 800 military and civilian attendees, including 140 airmen who participated free of charge.

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History hosts many memorials, ceremonies and other events to honor airmen and veterans.

In September 2016, LRAFB and Team Little Rock hosted its first-ever military expo, which included all branches of service in the state, provided displays, demonstrations and performances, raising more than $10,000 in cash and contributions.

In recognition of the council’s strong and varied support of the base, Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed immediate past council president Brad Hegeman to chair the Governor’s Military Affairs Committee, which was created in 2015 to address the assets, economic impact, benefits and needs of military installations and military-related businesses in Arkansas.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney goes 2-1 at Sheridan

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team won in its third game of pool play in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic tournament on Saturday night, defeating the Benton Harmony Grove Cardinals by a score of 12-1.

Gwatney, however, had lost to Sheridan’s McCoy Tygart team 6-5 on Friday. Sheridan won all three games in pool play to advance to the bracket games on Sunday. Jacksonville had defeated Stuttgart, also 12-1, on Thursday, and finished pool play with a 2-1 tally.

Gwatney, the visitor on the scoreboard, did not score in the first inning, but Harmony Grove did score one run. Jacksonville then scored every inning through the fifth and final frame, while not allowing the Cardinals to score again.

“Thank goodness we didn’t have to play as good as we should, but we played good enough to win,” Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham said after Saturday’s game. “We hit the ball a little better at times tonight and got a little bit better pitching tonight than we did last night. We’re proud of where we are, and we’ve got to get ready. We’ve got sixstraight days next week of playing. We don’t miss a day until a week from Sunday. We’ve got a tournament starting Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Jacksonville.”

Gwatney went in order in the first inning.

Harmony Grove’s first base runner reached on a strikeout in the dirt. A double by Sean Small gave the Cardinals runners on second and third. A ground out to first base scored the runner from third for the only run and only lead of the game. The next batter grounded out to second on a nice play by Trent Toney.

Jacksonville scored three times in the top of the second inning. Brandon Hickingbotham and Jayden Loving drew base on balls, and DeBoious Cobbs found the grass in short right field for a hit that scored Hickingbotham. Brandon Hawkins walked, Kameron Whitmore was hit by a pitch which scored Loving. Toney reached on an error on which Cobbs scored to give Gwatney a 3-1 advantage.

The Cardinals had a runner reach on an error, but the Jacksonville infield turned a double play to erase him.

Gwatney doubled their score in the third to take a 6-1 lead. Hickingbotham singled to right field, Tyson Flowers walked, and Jordan Wickersham put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a hit to load the bases. Then, after two outs, Hawkins walked which scored Flowers, and Whitmore singled to right center to score Wickersham and Loving.

Harmony Grove had runners reach on a walk and a hit by pitch, but both were caught stealing by catcher Wickersham, one at second, and the next at third.

Jacksonville added two in the fourth on an infield hit by Cobbs that scored two runs as the bases were loaded at the time.

Loving struck out the side in the Cardinal half of the inning. Loving pitched the entire game for Gwatney, and also struck out the last two Harmony Grove batters in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville had scored four runs on two hits and two Cardinal errors in the top of the fifth to set the final score of 12-1. Toney and Cobbs had the hits, and Toney, Caden Sample, Flowers and Bo Self all scored.

Cobbs had three hits to lead Gwatney. Whitmore, Toney, Hickingbotham, and Wickersham all had one hit each. Flowers reached base three times on two walks, on an error, and scored three runs, Wickersham reached twice more on walks, and Hawkins reached base three times on base on balls.

The Gwatney senior team (6-2) added a win on Monday, going on the road and beating Searcy 13-3. Hawkins pitched two innings and got the win. Wickersham pitched two innings and Hickingbotham threw the final three to preserve the victory.

Jacksonville begins hosting its annual Senior American Legion Invitational today at Dupree Park. The tournament opens at 5:30 p.m. with Cabot taking on Searcy. Jacksonville faces the Little Rock Vipers at 7:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Jacksonville plays Cabot at 5:30 p.m while the Vipers and Conway follow. On Friday, Cabot plays Conway and Jacksonville faces Searcy. Saturday’s schedule has Little Rock facing Searcy at 1:30 p.m. and Jacksonville playing Conway at 4 p.m. The event closes Sunday with Searcy playing Conway at 1:30 p.m. and the Vipers facing Cabot at 4 p.m. The best record wins the tournament.

The Gwatney junior team lost to Searcy on Monday to fall to 9-5 overall.

SPORTS STORY >> Jumping Jeff after his third U.S. title

Leader sports editor

Olympic gold medalist Jeff Henderson will defend his 2016 long jump national championship this weekend at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Sacramento. Before taking Gold with his final jump at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last September, Henderson won his second USA title with his personal best jump of 8.58 meters at the 2016 Olympic Trials, which doubles every Olympic year as the USA Championships.

Henderson, a native of McAlmont and 2007 graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, also won the 2014 USA Outdoor championship. He finished second to Marquis Dendy in 2015, though Dendy’s winning jump was with a +3.7 wind aid while Henderson’s best jump was against a -0.3 wind factor.

Henderson followed the loss in the 2014 national meet by beating Dendy and winning Gold in the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Two competitors in this weekend’s championships have jumped farther than Henderson this year. One is Dendy. The other is the University of Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson, who caused an unnecessary controversy with his last jump at the Olympics, complaining that his final jump was measured short, though replays clearly showed his right hand dig into the sand several feet behind where his feet landed.

Henderson’s friend, Adidas teammate and fellow Olympian Michael Hartfield will also be competing.

He also has multiple wins on the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Diamond League circuit, which is the premier international track and field circuit for professionals.

In two international meets this season, Henderson has had varying results. He fell well short, almost three feet, of his personal best and finished fourth in the Mülluer Grand Prix Indoor Meet in Birmingham, England on Feb. 22.

He got back to form on April 30, winning the Asian Grand Prix Outdoor Championship in Taipei City with a leap of 8.15 meters. It was his fourth victory on the IAAF circuit.

Henderson also has IAAF wins in Glasgow, Scotland, Portland, Ore. and Sacramento.

The USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships begin on Thursday, but the men’s’ long jump will not begin until 10 a.m. on Sunday, the final day of the event.

NBC will televise the meet, splitting coverage between NBC, NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Gold, an internet live streaming app.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot drops Wood Bat final

Special to The Leader

The Sheridan Yellowjacket Senior American Legion team is beginning to make a habit of knocking off local teams in the finals of its annual Wood Bat Classic. Sheridan defeated Cabot’s Centennial Bank squad 5-0 on Sunday to win the tournament for the second consecutive year. Last year, the host team knocked off Jacksonville in the final round.

Cabot managed five base hits and two walks, and Sheridan committed two errors, but the Centennial Bank squad couldn’t manage the timely hits in the shutout loss.

One and two hitters Blake McCutchen and Caleb Harpole combined for four of the five hits, two apiece. Only once did the hits come in the same inning, and with wood bats, extra base hits are difficult to accomplish.

Cleanup hitter Dillon Thomas had the other base hit while Brian Tillery and Jack Broyles drew the two walks.

Earlier on Sunday, Cabot scored two ninth-inning runs to beat Magnet Cove 4-2. Starting pitcher Brett Brockinton pitched a gem for seven innings, giving up just two base hits and one earned run with three walks and six strikeouts.

Koletan Eastham and Caleb Wilson finished it off, each pitching one inning of no-hit ball. Wilson got the win for pitching the bottom of the ninth after Cabot took the lead.

Cabot only had six hits, and they were from familiar names. McCutchen and Tillery had two hits apiece. McCutchen and Thomas each hit a double and Harpole had the other base hit for Centennial Bank.

Cabot defeated El Dorado 17-5 on Wednesday to start the tournament. It defeated Sheridan’s junior team 11-7 in their first game on Saturday. Sheridan was forced to enter its junior team into the senior tournament after Benton canceled late.

Centennial Bank then lost 4-1 to White Hall Relyance Bank in the 3:00 Saturday game, but the 28 runs scored in the first two victories won pool play for Cabot to advance to the semifinals on Sunday.

In the loss to White Hall, while playing on Oliver Williams Field, home of the 6A state champion Sheridan Yellowjackets, Cabot fell behind 2-0 quickly on a first inning two-run home run over the left field fence off the bat of Relyance Bank’s starting pitcher, Layne Hartsfield.

Centennial Bank cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the second. Tillery singled to left center and moved to second on a bobble in the outfield. Brockinton and Rail Gilliam both drew base on balls to load the bases, and then Broyles also walked to force in a run.

No runs scored in the third or fourth innings, but Hartsfield hit his second two-run home run of the game, this time to center, in the top of the fifth to increase the lead to 4-1.

Cabot’s starting pitcher, McCutchen, tripled to right in the bottom of the frame, but did not score. McCutchen pitched the first five innings and struck out seven, while allowing seven hits and no walks. Tillery pitched the sixth and seventh, had two strikeouts, allowed two hits and two walks, but no runs.

Relyance Bank had runners on in the top of the seventh, but Tillery and catcher Gilliam got a runner out at the plate on a squeeze play, and Tillery got a strikeout to end the inning with no runs scoring.

Brockinton also tripled to right field in the bottom of the frame for Centennial Bank, but three strikeouts stranded him there to end the game.

“You saw the two home runs they hit,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross after the White Hall loss. “But we’ve got both our starters coming back tomorrow for the semifinals and the championship, and I think we’re sitting really good to win it.”

Tillery had one hit and the one run scored for Centennial, and McCutchen and Brockinton had the triples.

EDITORIAL >> Make schools world-class

(An area teacher we know sent us this summertime analysis.)

“World-class” schools are what the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is striving for. With their first year in the history books, how did they do?

Well, first one must define “world-class.”

Look up that term on Google and 500 million results pop up, immediately telling you that there is no valid, agreed-upon definition.

It seems, according to Merriam-Webster, that the term first came into use in the early 1950s and was used mostly in the sports arena.

So let’s look at what David Kirk, captain of a “world-class” rugby team thinks. Why Kirk? He is one of the experts, one of the world-class people interviewed for the book “What Makes a World-Class School and How We Can Get There.”

Kirk says, “If world-class teams can be recognized from the outside by a lack of mistakes, an ease of performance that leads to high margins of victory and a joy in going about their business, what is it about them internally that enables them to perform so well?”

It’s easy to spot a top-notch sports team, an outstanding business and even a whiz-bang school district. But the details that make them great are often harder to spot, understand and duplicate.

Kirk believes there are four pillars to a world-class organization: Vision, ability, divine discontent and discipline.

Vision, as Kirk sees it, is “something to believe in, something to achieve, something to become.” He said, “Visions must be rational, but they must also be emotional. They are often distant. They must excite and engage and frighten. They must be big.”

Take a look at the district’s vision: Jacksonville-North Pulaski will be a school district of choice that fosters student achievement and success.

Rational? Yes. Emotional? No. Exciting, engaging, frightening? No. Big? Yes.

When it comes to “world-class,” the ability of the team is essential. Paraphrasing Kirk, the district needs leaders, teachers and staff who exhibit ability – a mastery of skills. Equally crucial is complementarity – the ability to generate an energy and synergy that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Is the district hiring the masters? The district is rightly concerned about money, and so the focus has been more on hiring the best staff it can find within its budget, and it’s shaping up to be a fantastic team with an admirable gestalt.

Cynics may point to winning World Series and Super Bowl teams with high salaries that won it all thanks to too much money, but “Moneyball” strategies built the Golden State Warriors, ended the Red Sox curse and have saved many of the greatest baseball teams in America.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is still finding itself.

Discipline begins with developing a set of boundaries that define “what is acceptable and unacceptable.”

Why so many district expulsions this year? Maybe the boundaries weren’t clear or maybe they were clear but higher than what they were in the past. Those boundaries must be non-negotiable and not confusing.

The district is headed in the right direction. It’s important to remember that none of the expulsions were contested by parents or students.

Divine discontent is an area where all school districts suffer. It refers to highly analytical and self-critical behaviors. It’s about “What mistakes did I make? What mistakes did we make?”

It’s hard to get teachers, principals and administrators to admit they were wrong. Spewing over tons of data, the focus is what can we do to raise test scores and lower the discipline rate? Sometimes teachers should admit their mistakes. Yes, teachers do make them.

Divine discontent, according to Kirk, “is an attitude of learning and growth that is never satisfied with past achievements.”

The infant district has a lot to be proud of, but to rest on those laurels means the forward movement slows or stops. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the good as we move on to better…to world-class. Together we can do it!

TOP STORY >> New 913th AG commander

Maj. Gen. John Stokes, commander of the 22nd Air Force at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., installed Col. Christopher Lay commander of the 913th Airlift Group during a ceremony June 3 at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Lay replaced Col. Craig Drescher, who commanded the 913 AG from April 2015 until July 2016. Col. Anthony Brusca, the group’s vice commander, has been in charge since Drescher’s departure.

The 913th Airlift Group is an Air Force Reserve unit at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The six squadrons and group staff include nearly 460 people. Approximately 80 of the group’s personnel are traditional reservists who at a minimum perform duty one weekend each month and two weeks during the year.

The group’s personnel are mostly from central Arkansas.

In his acceptance speech, Lay noted the many mission and aircraft changes the group has undergone since first being activated in July 2014, and he recognized members for their dedication during the unpredictable times.

“The airmen I’ve talked with are eager to contribute and ready to answer our Air Force’s call,” he said. “The 913th has had a long-period of uncertainty, but we’ve now been charged with a clear and important mission. I’m excited to be joining the 913th Airlift Group at such a key moment as we strive to become a combat C-130 Airlift Group.”

Lay said his priorities were his people and the group’s mission.

“I want the 913th Airlift Group to be a combat-focused organization known for taking care of its airmen while expertly accomplishing its assignment. I expect us to be able to accomplish this and expect our leadership team to remain focused on that which is most important: Our mission and our airmen,” he said.

The Reserve Group, which is associated with the 19th Airlift Wing, will continue to work closely with their active-duty counterparts, according to Lay.

“I look forward to identifying opportunities to partner with our base counterparts,” he said. “I’m a strong proponent of synergistic training.”

Lay was previously assigned to the Pentagon.

The 913th Airlift Group recently completed the group’s first readiness exercise, Prime Horizon, since its activation in 2014.

The four-day exercise evaluated the group’s ability to move assets between two locations in preparation for real-world deployments or missions.

Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., was used as the forward location during the exercise, since the 403rd Reserve Wing at Keesler supports C-130J aircraft and could assist in the event of mechanical issues during the exercise.

TOP STORY >> Melda Rice turns 100

By JEFFREY SMITHLeader staff writer

Longtime Jacksonville resident and retired banker Melda Rice is turning 100. A birthday celebration will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Jacksonville First United Methodist Church youth building.

Rice was born on June 28, 1917, in Perry County. Her dad was a county judge and state welfare commissioner. Her mother was an assistant postmaster and a school teacher. Together they operated a general mercantile store.

Rice graduated from Perry High School in 1934. She met her husband, Ben, when he came to Perryville. He was a county extension service agent. They married in 1936 and were together for 45 years until his death in 1981.

They had a son, attorney Ben E. Rice, who passed away in 2014. Melda has three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The Rices moved to central Arkansas in 1942, when her husband’s two brothers visited and asked him to run the family farm in Furlow.

Melda worked at the Arkansas Ordnance Plant in Jacksonville from 1942 to 1945. She was happy making about $3 a day.

“Farming was not a profitable business. I was cooking for my husband and three helpers at the farm,” she said.

She was a secretary and clerk in the shipping and receiving department. She wrote bills of lading on boxcars to return materials as the plant closed down after the end of World War II.

Rice said the plant “was a new and different world of interesting people. I made some mighty good friends.”

She drove to work in a carpool with two carpenters Joe Bob Lee and Max Nailling and high school senior Beulah Garringer.

“Military Road was not paved. In the winter the ruts were very deep and in the summer the car had no air conditioning. You either got covered in dust or you rolled up the windows and burned up,” Rice recalled.

The Rices sold the farm in 1945 and moved to Jacksonville since Melba was working at the AOP.

The couple lived in the Sunnyside Addition, where houses did not have natural gas but had kerosene tanks. They later built one of the first houses on North James Street.

After the AOP closed in 1945, Rice was hired as a Jacksonville High School secretary for three years.

“It was a good school. Many teachers lived in Little Rock and liked working here,” she said.

When Jacksonville State Bank (now First Arkansas Bank and Trust) opened in 1949, Rice she was hired as a cashier. She worked 33 years at the bank until retiring in 1982.

“When we came here there was no bank. The school did not have a football team. A lot of people wanted improvements and worked to get them,” she said.

Rice is member of Jacksonville First United Methodist Church, where she was the pianist and organist. She plays cards at the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center.

“Some of my best friends are there,” she said.

Rice gave some secrets for her longevity.

“God is good, and I used a treadmill 10 minutes a day for exercise,” she said.

Rice gives a lot of credit to her daughter-in-law, Susan.

“She is the daughter I didn’t have,” Rice said.

“She has been like a mother to me,” Susan Rice said. “She always wants me to do something for someone else. She is a a sweet lady.”

Melda has a brother, Carl Adams, 95, who lives in Hot Springs. Their sister, Farrell, passed away.

Her advice for a long life is, “Do the best you can at what you want to do.”

TOP STORY >> Chief to stay on as judge weighs suit

Leader staff writer

A hearing was held before Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Monday afternoon to determine whether or not Geoffrey Herweg will remain the Jacksonville Police Chief.

He is accused of filing a false police re-port after he crashed his car into a garage almost 17 years ago in Texas and allegedly lying about the termination of a police officer in New Mexico.

Judge Gray said at the end of the hearing she will decide early next week on whether to dismiss the lawsuit against Herweg brought by Alderman Tara Smith, who claims Herweg is ineligible to serve as Jacksonville police chief under the Arkansas Constitution, which bans anyone convicted of an “infamous crime,” including a crime of dishonesty, from holding an office of public trust.

Jacksonville attorneys have argued that the law doesn’t apply to appointed officials and that Smith has not followed procedures in her effort to oust Herweg.

The last question asked in the nearly 90-minute hearing came from Alex Gray, one of Smith’s attorneys, who asked Mayor Gary Fletcher, “Will you remove yourself from office if the police chief is removed?”

He didn’t say. A few minutes earlier, Gray had asked if it was true the mayor was staking his reputation on his police chief pick as reported in numerous media.

“Yes, given the chance the chief will do an outstanding job for the city of Jacksonville,” Fletcher said.

Gray then continued, “So, if he is removed, will you remove yourself from office?”

This exchange came about five minutes after Gray had asked the mayor if he had met with the police department and told officers their new police chief was a liar.

Smith’s attorneys made their case during a two-part hearing to determine whether the judge should side with the city and dismiss the case or if she should side with Smith and have the police chief removed from his position while the case continues through the court system.

Fletcher said removing Herweg would create more chaos and a black hole. “People believe the department is moving forward,” he said. “You can’t make a decision in fear.”

Judge Gray (no relation to Smith’s attorney) told the attorneys — Nate Steel and Gray for Smith and City Attorney Robert Bamburg representing the city, the mayor, the police chief and City Clerk Susan Davitt – that she would take the request for dismissal under advisement and decide on the removal of the chief by early next week.

Only three witnesses were called – Herweg, Fletcher and Police Officer Jennifer Corbin -- during the 90-minute proceeding that saw Judge Gray overrule Bamburg’s objections more than 20 times.

Steel pushed his position that even though the mayor has the right to hire and fire department heads the state constitution supersedes his power and that Article 9, Section 5 prohibits anyone convicted on a variety of charges including “infamous crimes” cannot hold a position of trust.

Bamburg argued that section of the constitution only applies to elected officials, not those appointed. He cited that all the case law related to that section involved elected officials.

“But does any of the case law specifically state it does not apply to appointed officials?” the judge asked. Bamburg said the cases were all about elected officials as that was what the constitutional section was about. “But show me the words,” the judge insisted. “Just because the cases have always been about elected officials doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to appointed officials. Show me the words.”

Bamburg respectfully disagreed with the judge’s stance.

To establish that Herweg is a liar who would jeopardize all cases developed and brought to court by the police department, Steel asked Herweg about the 2002 misdemeanor conviction of filing a false report, then introduced into the record a certified copy of the case and its disposition and then tried to interrogate Herweg again about the case.

All over the objections of Bamburg, who said, “This is all in the record and what does this 17-year-old case have to do with this man serving as a police chief of Jacksonville?” Steel said it had to be brought out to show a pattern of lies as the definition of a so-called Brady cop is one who has a record of lying.

Herweg has not been on a Brady cop list in any state that he worked and is not on any list in Arkansas, according to the Attorney General’s Office and the Pulaski County Prosecutor’s Office.

Steel brought up three cases in his effort to show Herweg’s history of lying: The 2002 Taylor, Texas, conviction, a recent New Mexico civil suit where an officer who resigned filed suit against the Lovington Police Department, as well as then-Deputy Chief Herweg and Police Chief David Rodriguez.

The suit alleges that Travis Anthony Hobbs had to resign because of an investigation conducted by Herweg into Hobbs giving alcohol to underage girls at a party. Even though the Lovington police chief (not Herweg) offered Hobbs a choice of resigning or being fired and Hobbs decided to resign, he blames Herweg for losing his job.

The Leader has requested a copy of all investigative reports from the incident but the New Mexico city and county officials have yet to respond with the requested items.

Steel also brought up a suit to stop Ledell Lee’s execution which named the chief, who had only been on duty for eight days, and numerous other county and state officials.

In his efforts to have the judge dismiss the case, Bamburg argued that Smith, as an alderman, had not exhausted all legal means to remove Herweg from office because as a mayor’s appointment, Herweg’s appointment can be overruled by two-thirds vote of the council.

Judge Gray said the complaint only mentions Smith as an individual and not as an alderman and as an individual she has the right to sue regardless of any other posts or positions she holds.

Bamburg said the complaint did state Smith was an alderman and that her position had to be taken into consideration.

The judge disagreed.

The second paragraph of Smith’s original complaint says she is a Jacksonville alderman.

Bamburg also told the judge that if she ruled in favor of Smith, the hiring of every department head in every city in Arkansas would have to be questioned.

“I can’t consider that. I’m only looking at this case,” the judge said.

Bamburg argued that by Smith and her attorneys calling payment of Herweg’s salary as “illegal extraction” was not so. “Federal law says salaries must be paid.” He argued that the case was asking for money if that tax money had to be repaid.

Steel said that Smith was not asking for personal damages, but did insist that taxpayers’ money be returned.

If there’s money involved, Bamburg insisted that city officials had “qualified immunity.”

To emphasize his point of Herweg being a Brady cop, Steel called Police Officer Corbin to the stand. Corbin is an eight-year veteran with the department with six of those years as a school resource officer.

Steel thanked Corbin for speaking out even though “you put your job in jeopardy by being here today.”

Corbin most likely is protected under the state’s Whistleblower’s Act and cannot lose her job or suffer retaliation because of her stance.

She told the court that it was her opinion that Herweg was causing problems for the department and the city just by being the police chief. Why? “Because he is a Brady officer and I’m afraid that after we make arrests and build our cases, they will get thrown out.”

When Steel asked if Jacksonville and the police department would be better off if Herweg were removed as chief and given a police position equal to Corbin. She replied, “Yes, he’d be removed from the basic chain of command.”

Bamburg reminded the court that Corbin was one out of 73 police officers and does not live in Jacksonville. The judge said being a school resource officer or a non-resident did not take away from Corbin’s knowledge of the police department or city.

The judge told the attorneys at the end of the hearing that she would rule on the request for the temporary restraining order to remove Herweg early next week and to be ready to appear in court on short notice.