Riley takes reigns of Panther basketball program

New Heber Springs senior boys basketball Jordan Riley . Riley’s father, Alvin, coached the Heber Springs boys team to one of the program’s best seasons ever in 1988-89. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Jordan Riley said becoming the new head boys’ basketball coach at Heber Springs was like coming home.

Riley was born in 1990 at Heber Springs when his father, Alvin Riley, coached the Panthers and his aunt, Kristie Dunlap was head coach of the Lady Panthers.

“It will give me a chance of living closer to family,” said Riley when asked about what attracted him to the job. “Heber (Springs) boys do have a good history, but not great lately. It’s an opportunity to build the program back to success. Heber (Springs) is an awesome community with good fan support I feel good about what we can accomplish.”

Riley’s wife, Kelsi, who is a business teacher at Midland High School, will serve in a similar capacity at HSHS. The Rileys are parents of a son, Drew, 14-months-old.

Alvin Riley coached the Panthers for three years, beginning with the 1988-89 season. Riley led the Panthers to a 24-8 record and the quarterfinals of the Class 3A tournament. The 24 wins was a school single-season record at that time.

Heber Springs advanced to the regional tournament under Riley during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons.

Riley said his father has been the biggest influence on his coaching career.

“He won more than 800 games during his career, and he is a tough path to follow,” Riley said. “I will try and carry on that legacy.”

Jordan Riley is a graduate of Vilonia High School. At that time, Heber Springs superintendent Dr. Andy Ashley was the Vilonia assistant principal. Heber Springs athletic director Tim Bullington, who was an assistant coach for Alvin Riley, severed as a school administrator at Vilonia.

Jordan Riley graduated with a degree in management information systems from the University of Central Arkansas in 2013. He worked the next four years at Acxiom in Conway before deciding to pursue his dream of becoming a coach.

Riley received a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in 2017 and was named assistant coach at Two Rivers High School in Ola. He was promoted the next season to head coach and held that position for the next three years.

Riley led Two Rivers to back-to-back state tournaments before becoming head girls coach at Southside Batesville in 2019.

Riley coached the past two seasons at Southside Batesville. The Lady Southerners were 6-21 the year before he was named head coach and finished 17-9 last season.

Riley will be a head coach of a boys’ team for the first time, but he believes the transition will go smooth.

“The key is learn how to handle each player,” he said. “Every person is different. The main thing is to show the players you care for them and want to help them become the best it can be.”

Riley is ready to start as soon as his schedule allows and plans to meet this week with his new players. He will look at the strengths of his players in formulating a system for the Panthers.

“We will play at the pace that benefits us,” he said. “We will not necessary play just fast or slow. I prefer playing a physical man-to-man defense. The most important thing on offense is taking good shots.”

Riley hopes to get a start on Riley will juggle time between Southside and Heber Springs for the remainder of the school year.

“I would love to start practice because some of the players will be in football,” he said. “It takes time to put in a system.”

Riley will become the fifth head coach in six seasons of the Panthers and looks forward to turning the program around. Heber Springs was 1-23 last season.

“I watched the team on film and they have some good players,” he said. “The junior high group coming up is talented. The pieces are there for a good team.”

Dusty West served as interim coach this past season and was teammates with Riley at Vilonia.

Panthers battle Clarksville late

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs Panthers trailed by 16 points early in the third quarter, but didn’t go away with a battle late in the fourth quarter against Clarksville.

Heber Springs rallied within five points, but the Panthers’ comeback bid came up short in the 68-51 loss to Clarksville in a 4-4A Conference basketball game at the Panther Den Tuesday.

“The players played well during the fourth quarter,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “We made shots, played with more intensity and made it a two-possession game. We couldn’t get the defensive stop.”

Clarksville led by 16 points with five minutes left in the third quarter. Heber Springs stayed close and pulled to within 46-34 going into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers reduced Clarksville’s lead to single digits on Ryan Crocker’s 3-pointer 53-45 with six minutes left in the game. Two minutes later, Conner Riddle drove and scored as Heber Springs trailed 55-50 with 3:53 to go. Clarksville finished the game on a 13-1 scoring run.

Riddle led the Panthers with 22 points, followed by Crocker’s 16 points. Owen Ashlock scored a game-high 27 points for Clarksville. John Case, who hit three 3-pointers, had 16 points. Hunter Buss, who made four 3-pointers, added 12 points.

“The players still are giving great effort and doing good things,” West said. “We’re trying to get over that hump during the fourth quarter. Conner played well, along with Ryan during the fourth quarter. The team tends to play better when Ryan plays well. We need him to play with more confidence and get going for the entire game.”

Clarksville emerged from a low-scoring first quarter with an 11-5 lead. The Panthers fell behind by double digits during the second quarter, but they remain within range and trailed 26-14 at halftime.

Heber Springs played even during the third quarter and trailed 46-34 going into the fourth quarter.

Clarksville’s 3-point shooting proved to be too much for the Panthers to overcome.

“We knew they could shoot the threes,” West said. “No. 33 (Ashlock) worried us and we focused on containing him. Clarksville deserves credit for making the 3-point shots.”

Heber Springs (0-5 in conference, 1-15 overall) will play at Pottsville on Friday.

“We will be playing another good team,” West said. “The players still have a lot of fight left.”

Clarksville 11 15 20 22–68
Heber Springs 5   9 20 17–51
Clarksville scorers —  Owen Ashlock 27, John Case 16, Hunter Buss 12, Ryan Clark 6, Cody Qualls 4, Abel Dean 3.
Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 22, Ryan Crocker 16, Logan Monahan 8, J.T. Spears 3, Bauer Pruitt 2.

Ramblers defeat Panthers in nonconference tilt

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

It’s back to the grind of the 4-4A Conference basketball schedule for the Heber Springs Panthers.
Heber Springs lost at Sheridan in the first game since Christmas and dropped a 67-43 decision to Rose Bud at the Panther Den on Saturday.The Panthers (0-2 in conference, 1-12 overall) were scheduled to resume conference play at Morrilton on Tuesday.
Conner Riddle and Ryan Crocker scored 38 of the 43 points for Heber Springs. Riddle scored a game-high 24 points, followed by Crocker with 14 points. Rece Hipp led Rose Bud with 23 points and Jace Goodwin had 10 points.
“It was good to get back in the gym,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “A team can learn and improve more playing games than just practicing. We dug ourselves a big hole early in the game, trailing by 17 points at one point in the first half before reducing it to eight points by halftime. We came back for the second half and didn’t play with a lot of energy.”
Rose Bud scored 12 unanswered points to start the game. Riddle put the Panthers on the scoreboard with less than four minutes left in the first quarter by making two free throws.
Heber Springs played almost even during the next three minutes with the Ramblers. Rose Bud outscored the Panthers 9-7 and took a 21-9 lead into the second quarter.
The Ramblers increased their margin to 17 points before Crocker’s 3-pointer started a Heber Springs scoring run. The Panthers pulled to within five points at 24-19, but the Ramblers survived the charge and increased the lead to 34-26 by halftime.
Rose Bud went on an 18-9 scoring run during the third quarter for a 52-33 lead going in the final quarter.
“We had moments when we played well and moments we didn’t play as well,” West said. “We just need to focus on the next two games, which are against conference opponents. The players are still working hard and giving good effort. We need to find a way to get over the hump.”
Rose Bud 21 13 18 15–67
Heber Springs 9 17 7 10–43
Rose Bud scorers — Rece Hipp 23, Jace Goodwin 10, Jared Wray 9, Gavin Vaughn 7, Avery Orman 7, Matthew Waggoner 5, Dalton Gorham 4, Caden Heck 2.
Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 24, Ryan Crocker 14, Gus Hannah 4 Wyatt Winchester 1.

Panthers lead late, fall to Searcy

Heber Springs sophomore Conner Riddle dribbles past a Searcy defender Tuesday night at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Ready or not, the Heber Springs Panthers will begin the
4-4A Conference basketball schedule at Subiaco Academy on Friday.

In a final tune-up, the Panthers (1-7) led 40-39 going into the fourth quarter against Class 6A Searcy at the Panther Den Tuesday before dropping a 60-55 decision to the Lions in a nonconference game.

“The guys competed hard,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “We made a lot of big shots during the first half and cooled off in the second half. Our defense was scrambling, and we were out of position at times, but the players gave great effort.”

Sophomore Conner Riddle scored a game-high 24  points for the Panthers. Braden Watson led Searcy with 16 points. Cameron Hicks contributed 14 points.

West said Riddle continues in his development not only as a scorer, but running the team’s offense.

“Conner had another great game,” West said. “He is handling the pressure of running the offense. He generated a lot of offense not only with his scoring, but getting the ball to other players for open shots.”

Ryan Crocker had one of his best performances this season by scoring 20 points.

“I challenged Ryan to be that type of player before the game,” West said. “He handled the pressure, did a good job of rebounding, utilized his size on defense and gave the other team a lot of trouble. He also did a good job of driving to the basket. We need to get that every game from him to do well in conference.”

After a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter, Heber Springs pulled ahead by scoring scoring quickly during the next two minutes. Logan Monahan made a 3-pointer and Riddle’s basket built the lead to 17-12.

Searcy responded with three unanswered baskets, but the Panthers regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Riddle, 20-18.

Searcy rallied for a 23-18 lead, but the Panthers finished the second quarter strong, outscoring the Lions 9-1 and led 29-24 at halftime.

Heber Springs survived a charge by the Lions during the third quarter. Crocker scored at the buzzer, giving the Panthers a 40-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Searcy took the lead midway through the fourth quarter and held off Heber Springs’ late challenge.

“Searcy switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense in the second half,” West said. “That was the difference in the game. I told the players before the game that the pressure was not on us to win because Searcy is a 6A school. The games that matter are conference games. We just need to go out there and give it our best shot, and we did that.”

Five nonconference games remain, but West said the team’s focus will be to become successful during conference play and make a run for the regional tournament.

“Games like against Searcy will help get us ready for conference play,” West said. “Our last two games (Riverview and Searcy) are similar teams in playing style of most of the conference teams. We are excited about Friday’s game.”

Searcy 12 12 15 21–60
Heber Springs 12 17 11 15–55
Searcy scorers — Braden Watson 16, Cameron Hicks 14, Ckyler Tenger 7, Jack Stafford 6, A’mariyon Briscoe 5, Willie Bowser 4, Landon Hambrick 2, Daniel Perry 2, Zyron Williams 2, Eli Wilson 2.
Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 24, Ryan Crocker 20, Logan Monahan 7, Gus Hannah 2, Austin Winchester 2.

Panthers fall late to St. Joseph

IMG_9923(1)
Heber Springs’ Conner Riddle runs into a Conway St. Joseph defender in action Tuesday night from the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs never successfully solved Conway St. Joseph’s change of defense during the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s nonconference basketball game at the Panther Den.

St. Joseph went on a 21-7 fourth quarter scoring run and defeated the Panthers, 43-33.

Heber Springs led 18-16 at halftime and took a 26-24 lead into the fourth quarter.

“St. Joseph made defensive adjustments against what we were doing in the first half at halftime,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “They were playing a 2-3 zone and a soft man-to-man defense during the first half. They switched to a full-court man defense and forced us to play at a different pace during the second half. We took a lot of quick shots and were held to seven points in the fourth quarter.”

West said work remains on the team’s conditioning, so the players can maintain that pace for four quarters.

“We looked tired and fouled too much,” he said. “We have been working on our conditioning. St. Joseph’s man defense made a difference in the fourth quarter. We were getting good shots in the second quarter, but we didn’t do that during the second half.”

St. Joseph built an 11-5 lead and increased it to 14-5 by early in the second quarter.

Conner Riddle led the Heber Springs’ rally, scoring eight points, while Ryan Crocker made a 3-pointer and Austin Winchester scored as Heber Springs led 18-16 at halftime.

The Panthers kept the momentum at the start of the second half and led 26-22 going into the fourth quarter.

Riddle scored 17 points for Heber Springs. Luke Bruich led St. Joseph with 18 points.

“Conner had a good game,” West said. “He handled the ball and the pressure of bringing the ball up well. I’m proud of how he played. The team keeps improving overall, but we let this game get away from us. We led going into the fourth quarter and had a change at winning.”

Heber Springs (1-5) will play Riverview in Searcy at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“Riverview will be a challenge,” West said. “It will be a different style of game because Riverview will play at a faster pace. We are giving a great effort, and that is all you can ask from them.”

Conway St. Joseph 11 5 6 21–43
Heber Springs 5 13 8 7–33
Conway St. Joseph scorers — Luke Bruich 18, Luke Pope 8, Jake Hill 7, Jacob Williams 6, Gage Kordsmeier 3, Matt Brorman 1.  
Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 17, Ryan Crocker 6, Austin Winchester 4, Gus Hannah 3, Logan Monahan 3.

Heber Springs runs into Batesville buzzsaw

IMG_6003(1)
Heber Springs’ Conner Riddle drives along the baseline against Batesville Tuesday night at the Panther Den. Also pictured is Batesville’s (23) Kyrese Johnson. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs started a tough two-game stretch before Thanksgiving week with a 71-40 loss to Batesville in a nonconference basketball game at the Panther Den Tuesday.

Batesville built a 26-6 lead by the end of the first quarter and increased it to 45-20 by halftime. The Panthers trailed 67-29 going into the fourth quarter.

“You could tell that Batesville is a senior team,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “They have played together for four years and were playing in mid-season form. Batesville made a lot of shots and has a great post in J.P. Morgan. We didn’t have an answer for him, but battled as best we could. Morgan’s physical strength and basketball skill were on a different level.”

Sophomore Conner Riddle, who just completed the football season, scored 10 points for the Panthers in his season debut. Bauer Pruitt, also a sophomore, added seven points.

Morgan led the Pioneers with a game-high 21 points. Caden Griffin had 11 points.

West, who assumed the head coach duties last week, took over Heber Springs program following the resignation of Scott Bramlett, hopes his players will follow Batesville’s example in the future. Thirteen of the Panthers’ 16 players are underclassmen.

“After the game, I told the guys that is the type of a team  we want to become,” West said. “We want to push the ball up and down the floor, pass the ball inside and throw it out to the perimeter and make 3-pointers.”

West said his team’s second-half performance illustrated what the future may hold.

“I was happy with our effort,” he said. “Despite trailing by double digits, we still were taking charges, hustling for loose balls and fighting for rebounds. “We played well during the second half and executed better.”

Heber Springs (0-2) will host nonconference rival Greenbrier on Thursday.

“The players were energetic and positive in the locker room after the game,” West said. “They are ready to get back on the floor against Greenbrier on Thursday. Greenbrier will test us, and we hope to show how much fight we have. I prefer playing these type of nonconference games, so we can become a better team and prepare for conference play.”

Heber Springs will play Guy-Perkins, Shirley, South Side Bee Branch, Conway St. Joseph, Riverview and Searcy before the start 4-4A Conference opener at Subiaco Academy on Dec. 11. The home conference opener will be against Ozark on Dec. 18.

The Panthers will play finish Cedar Ridge, Newport, Sheridan, Rose Bud and Clinton before resuming conference play at Morrilton on Jan. 5.

“I told the players not to get caught up with the number of wins and losses, but work to get better and hope it leads to winning conference games,” West said. “The nonconference schedule will benefit us in the long run.”

The Panthers gained six new players — Zach Thomas, Gus Hannah, Dakota Farmer, Riddle, Austin Winchester and Wyatt Winchester — following completion of the football season. West said those players are currently in transition and will become more involved in future games.

“We will be trying to establish our rotation and work with the football players on basketball conditioning,” West said. “You will see the team come more together as the season goes. We have a lot of room for growth. The players have potential.”

Batesville 26 19 22 4–71
Heber Springs 6 14 9 11–40
Batesville scorers — J.P. Morgan 21, Caden Griffin 11, Gunner Shell 8, K.J. Cross 6, John Morgan 6, Kyrese Johnson 6, Wes Lange 5, Logan McSpadden 4, Ben Hopper 2, Kolby Young 2.
Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 10, Bauer Pruitt 7, Gus Hannah 5, Dakota Farmer 4, Zach Thomas 4, Harley Bresnahan 4, J.T. Spears 3, Joseph Ferris 2, Zach Stogsdill 1.  

Heber Springs falls in opener

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs couldn’t overcome Central Arkansas Christian’s 8-0 scoring run at the start of the fourth quarter as the Panthers lost their basketball season opener 52-46 to the Mustangs at the Panther Den Thursday.

CAC held a 38-37 lead going into the fourth quarter. Andrew Haughaboo started CAC’s scoring run by making back-to-back 3-pointers. Karsen Richard connected on a jumper, increasing the lead to 46-37 with five minutes to go.

J.T. Spear, who transferred from CAC to Heber Springs this year, pulled the Panthers within 46-40 by making a 3-pointer. The Panthers never pulled closer.

“We were winded at the beginning of the fourth quarter and let No. 3 (Andrew Haughaboo) get loose for 3-point shots,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “The 3-pointers separated us. We kept battling and adjusting to CAC’s defense, and they were resilient and played with a lot of pride.”

Bauer Pruitt, Logan Monahan and Ryan Crocker each scored 11 points for the Panthers. Haughaboo (19 points) and Richard (16 points) scored 35 of CAC’s 52 points.

“Three guys scored in double figures and for the first game, that was encouraging,” West said. “We had great effort and kept competing. I told the players if we kept doing that, we would have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.”

Monahan and Crocker are the only two Panthers who played last year. West said those players’ experience benefitted the team.

“A senior point guard (Monahan) is important,” West said. “Logan can take control and doesn’t let the pressure get to him. We have a lot of positives. We started three sophomores (Pruitt, Spear and Bent McClain), and they played well.”

Heber Springs trailed 10-8 midway through the first quarter. CAC went on an 8-0 lead before Monahan made a 3-pointer as the Panthers trailed 18-11 going into the second quarter.

The Mustangs maintained the lead throughout the second quarter. Heber Springs trailed 24-18, but made a move late in the first half. Crocker started the scoring run with a 3-pointer and McClain had a field reducing CAC’s lead to 24-23.

The Mustangs increased the lead to 28-23, but Spear pulled the Panthers within two points on a 3-pointer by halftime, 28-26.

Heber Springs took the early in the third quarter, 32-31, on 3-pointers by McClain and Crocker. CAC regained the lead until Pruitt’s 3-pointer gave the Panthers a 37-36 advantage late in the third quarter. Haughaboo made 2-of-2 free throws as CAC led 38-37 going into the fourth quarter.

West also liked the crowd support for the first home game.

“We had a great student section and a loud crowd,” he said. “The team gained confidence. We had a lot of new faces, and we will get a few more players from football. We are excited to get those guys because they will make us better. But we need to get to the free-throw line more. We only shot seven free throws. This team has a lot of potential.”

Heber Springs will host Batesville in a nonconference game Tuesday.

CAC 18 10 10 14–52
Heber Springs 11 15 11 9–46
CAC scorers — Andrew Haughaboo 19, Karsen Richard 16, Levi Smith 9, Jeff Gilbrech 4, Jack Devitt 3, Eli Echols 1.
Heber Springs scorers — Bauer Pruitt 11, Logan Monahan 11, Ryan Crocker 11, J.T. Spear 8, Bent McClain 4, Harley Bresnahan 1.

Bramlett ready to take over Heber Springs hoops

April 28, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Scott Bramlett remains ready to take the reins of the Heber Springs High School boys’ basketball program.

Scott Bramlett

The Corona 19 virus prevents Bramlett from meeting his players in person or conducting workouts, but he’s excited about the opportunity of returning to basketball.

Bramlett, who recently completed his third year with the district, was named head coach at a recent Heber Springs school board meeting. He had been an assistant football coach and the head baseball coach. Before coming to Heber Springs, Bramlett coached basketball two years at Augusta.

“I always hope to get back in coaching basketball and baseball,” he said. “I was glad to become head baseball coach last year. I never thought the opportunity to coach basketball would come this soon.”

Bramlett replaces Chad Johnson, who coached the past two seasons when the Panthers were 9-43. Johnson remains a classroom teacher at the high school.

“When they offered the job to me, I took a weekend to think about,” Bramlett said. “I didn’t want to jump right into the job. “I didn’t take the job lightly. I wrote down the pros and cons before making my decision.”

Bramlett will assist Dusty West with the junior high school boys’ basketball program and coached the seventh grade team. West will be Bramlett’s assistant for the high school team and also remains head softball coach.

“I worked with a lot of good coaches and talked with them before making the decision,” Bramlett said. “I want to become more a part in the community, along with the program. I want the players to become not just good basketball players, but learn how to become good men.”

Bramlett said it will be a clean slate for all players. He plans to take a similar apporach to the basketball program as he did with the baseball. The Panthers were 2-1 under Bramlett before the season was cancelled by Covid 19.

“I don’t know of any specific changes for next year, but every change will be to help the program become more successful,” he said. “I know some kids are walking the halls at the school who need to play basketball. “They make not have played basketball in the past, but I want to give them an opportunity to play.”

Bramlett is looking forward to coaching the players in person.

“I talked with some of the returning players on the phone and got a good response,” he said. “I coached a lot of those players in other sports and we know each other. They know they my passion for athletics and that I want the best for them.”

Bramlett said he will decide once the players get on the court of what style of player is best for the players.

“I want to put the players in the best position to win,” he said. “I prefer playing man-to-man defense, but we will play some zone. I like playing with patience on offense, but the players will dictate that.”

Bramlett said he hopes to increase the number of players on the roster and put a competitive team on the court.

“We will work as hard as any team,” he said. “The players will become more involve with the community and create an atmosphere that people want to be a part of. I believe we can cause the same excitement like the fans do for  football.”

Bramlett said he also agrees with other coaches that athletes should participate in more than one sport.

“All of the coaches are in agreement with that,” he said. “We want the best for our athletes and our teams.”

Panther 7th-grade boys finish season with 8-1 mark

Heber Springs’ Weston Warden dribbles past at Mount Vernon-Enola defender in seventh-grade action at the Panther Den this past season. PHILIP SEATON FILE PHOTO

February 14, 2020

The Heber Springs seventh-grade boys basketball team closed out its season on February 6th with a victory over Cedar Ridge.

The Panthers finished the season with an 8-1 mark with several games canceled due to weather and one game with Quitman because of the flu.

Heber Springs coach Dusty West was pleased with how the season went for the Cubs.

“This group showed promise and a lot potential,” West said. “The class has some good guard play, got some bigs (post players) and gives us something to look forward to toward the future. If that core groups stays together, Heber basketball is about to improve.”

BOXSCORES 
January 30 
HEBER SPRINGS AT SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE 
Southside Batesville  3  7   4  5 - 19 
Heber Springs         9  6  15  7 - 37 
SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE SCORING (19): Kiefer 8, Calhoun 5, Force 3, Keeling 2, German 1 
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (37): Liam Buffalo 16, Ty West 5, Jude Herring 4, Weston Warden 3, Braden Biggs 3, Lawson Greenwald 3, Cooper Cantrell 3 

January 27 
HEBER SPRINGS AT MAYFLOWER 
Mayflower      8  10 - 18 
Heber Springs  6  14 - 20 
MAYFLOWER SCORING (18): No. 35 9, No. 20 5, No. 11 2, No. 10 1, No. 21 1 
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (20): Liam Buffalo 7, Ty West 6, Weston Warden 3, Jude Herring 2, Jacob Harrod 2  

‘Super Tuesday’ for Heber Springs softball

Heber Springs pitcher Nicole Rackley delivers a pitch against White County Central on Monday. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 3, 2020

By PHILIP SEATON

Nicole Rackley went two-for-three at the plate and struck out in nine in relief as Heber Springs defeated White County Central, 13-2, on Tuesday.

Heber Springs improved to 2-0 on the young season and won back-t0-back games for the first time since the 2017 season.

The Panthers trailed 2-0 after the Bears plated two runs off Heber Springs starter Madison Clemons before the freshman gave way to Rackley in the second inning.

Clemons struggled in her second start of the season walking four, allowing one hit while striking out two.

“She is going to be in the circle a majority of the year,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West. “She is just getting these first-game jitters out of the way. She’s going to be fine. She has all of the tools that we need out there.”

Clemons also struggled on Monday in the Panthers opener at Maumelle as the Hornets plated eight runs before also giving way to Rackley.

The senior came on in relief on Monday against the Hornets and scattered one run and eight strikeouts over six innings of work as Heber Springs plated five in the fifth, four in the sixth and six in the seventh to claim the win, 16-9.

“I’ve been really happy with Nicole Rackley coming in a as a senior,” West said. “Kinda playing a back-up role in the pitching realm and doing great.

“The last two nights been really proud of Nicole. She’s come in in relief and given up only one run in two games. She’s been a monster on the mound for us.”

Rackley struck out the side in the top of the second before Heber Springs gave her the lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Ninth-grader Hope Turney led off the inning by reaching on a walk, taking second on a sacrifice bunt by Adyson Curtis and touching home on an RBI double down the right-field line by freshman Anna Carroll.

Heber Springs catcher Gentry Hamilton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Carroll would touch home after a wild pitch while freshman Jaylea Hooten would score the third run on the inning later after following Carroll with a walk, taking third on the passed ball that scored the Panthers second run and scoring on an RBI ground out off the bat of Gentry Hamilton.

” We put the ball in play and we have good speed this year, and hopefully we’ll use that a lot and small-ball people,” West said. “I am just real proud. First two games of the year, facing live pitching for the first time and to be able to put the bat on ball in play and hit it hard at places, that’s what you are excited about.”

Heber Springs would plate five more in the third. Zoe Monroe and Turney led off the inning with back-to-back singles and both would later score on a single by Carroll.

Carroll and Clemons would touch on a triple by Rackley while Hamilton would drive in Rackley to make it 8-2 Heber Springs after three innings.

“The last two nights we scored a lot of runs, 16 last night and 13 tonight,” West said. “Our bats one through nine have been really solid.”

The Panthers would add five more runs in the fourth as an RBI triple by Curtis and a bases-loaded single by Rackley would plate two more.

“With have only three upperclassman (Rackley, Monroe and Hamilton), a lot of freshmen and sophomores, so it’s always good to start 2-0,” West said. “It’s a good confidence booster for us to get us ready for a conference doubleheader on Monday.

“The three seniors that have been with me for four years, and we are trying to send them out on a good note. They were with me as freshman and we made the state quarterfinals. Our goal is to get them back to the postseason and get these young girls some experiences.”

Carroll paced the Panthers at the plate by going three-for-three with a double, three runs scored and four RBIs.

Heber Springs travels to Sherwood on Thursday to face Sylvan Hills.

“We have got a tough challenge on Thursday,” West said. “We’ll get a quick measuring stick on where we are at.”

The Panthers will open conference Monday against Ozark with a doubleheader in Conway on the University of Central Arkansas campus.

“Getting to play at UCA on the turf in front of college coaches, that is something neat for a girls to do and something we haven’t done in a while,” West said. “We are excited about it.”

Heber Springs was scheduled to face Pottsville on Friday, but because of the state basketball tournament that conference contest will be rescheduled for a later date. Instead, West was able to schedule a junior varsity doubleheader with Batesville at the Heber Springs softball complex. Both games will be five innings.

WHITE COUNTY CENTRAL AT HEBER SPRINGS
March 3
White County Central (0-1)  200 00 -  2  2  0
Heber Springs (2-0)         035 5x - 13 11  0
WP - Nicole Rackley (2-0)
LP - Micah Todd (0-1)
HEBER SPRINGS HIGHLIGHTS: Madison Clemons 1-for-1, stolen base, two walks, HBP, two runs scored; Nicole Rackley 2-for-3, triple, run scored, stolen base, two RBIs and HBP; Gentry Hamilton 1-for-4 with an RBI; Zoe Monroe 1-for-2 two runs scored, HBP and stolen base; Brooklyn Barnes, HBP; Hope Turney 1-for-2 with a walk, two runs scored; Adyson Curtis 1-for-2, triple RBI, run scored and stolen base; Anna Carroll 3-for-3 with a double, three runs scored, three runs scored and four RBIs; Jaylea Hooten 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored; and Jade Adamson, HBP.
WHITE COUNTY CENTRAL HIGHLIGHTS: Gracie Rogers, walk, stolen base and run scored; Kalista Altom, walk and run scored; Micah Todd, two walks; Jaci Beals 1-for-3 with an RBI; Taryn Blanton, walk; Kendall Talieje 1-for-2, Maliah Litaker, walk.

HEBER SPRINGS AT MAUMELLE
March 2
Heber Springs (1-0)   010 054 6 - 16
Maumelle (0-1)        801 000 0 -  9
WP - Nicole Rackley (1-0)
LP - Morgan Krebs (0-1)
HEBER SPRINGS HIGHLIGHTS: Madison Clemons, three runs scored; Nicole Rackley, two runs scored; Gentry Hamilton, three runs scored; Brooklyn Barnes, two runs scored; Zoe Monroe, two runs scored; Adyson Curtis, one run; and Jaylea Hooten, three runs scored.
HEBER SPRINGS 2020 SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
COACH DUSTY WEST
RECORD: 2-0
4A-4 RECORD: 0-0
March 2   Heber Springs 16, Maumelle 9
March 3   Heber Springs 13, White County Central 2
March 5   at Sylvan Hills              V/JV      5 p.m.
March 6   Batesville                   JV-DH     4:30 p.m.
March 9   vs. Ozark at UCA *           V DH      4:30 p.m.
March 12  at Riverview                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 13  at Conway St. Joseph         V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 14  Heber Springs Tournament     V
March 16  at Dover *                   V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 17  Dardanelle *                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 19  Clinton                      V/JV      5 p.m.
March 30  at Clarksville *             V/JV      4 p.m.
March 31  Morrilton *                  V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 3   Dover *                      V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 6   Jacksonville                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 7   at Pottsville *              V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 13  Cedar Ridge                  V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 14  at Dardanelle *              V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 16  at Calico Rock               V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 20  at Cave City                 V/JV      4 p.m.
April 21  at Morrilton *               V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 23  at Mayflower                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 27  4A-4 District Tournament at Dover

(* - Indicates 4A-4 Conference Contest)
(Note: Schedule is subject to change due to weather)
(Note: The Heber Springs/Pottsville contest for March 6 will be re-scheduled due to a basketball conflict)