A tragedy occurred on Aug. 27, 2006, when 17-year-old Casey Crowder was kidnapped and killed after running out of gas while driving alone on U.S. 65 near Dumas. But her spirit lives on and is commemorated annually through a special softball tournament.
The Casey Crowder Memorial Softball Tournament has been a success over the years, and in remembrance of her, multiple softball teams get together in competition to raise scholarship funds. The tournament began Friday and will finish with two championship games Sunday.
The tournament features two different age groups that make up the Little League Division (ages 8-12) and the Big League Division (ages 13-18). The tournament format consists of a double-elimination-only-if-necessary ruling.
The four teams in the Little League Division are Arkansas Printing, Charros, NESCO's High Voltage and Simmons Bank. The five teams that are in the Big League Division are Bank of Star City, Scat Pools, Hunter's Slammers, Relyance Bank and EASI Ambulance.
Last year's defending champions from the Big League Division, EASI Ambulance Service, were awarded a bye in the first round. The Little League championship game last season featured an intense match up between Charros and Simmons Bank. Both teams cruised in their opening games as Charros beat NESCO's 14-4, and Simmons beat Arkansas Printing 10-4.
In Big League Division action, Bank of Star City took down Scat Pools 11-1 to advance in the winners' bracket to take on EASI while Scat Pools will fall to the losers' bracket. In the second of the two first-round games Hunter's beat Relyance Bank 9-1.
Although EASI was the No. 1 seed and had the bye, Bank of Star City didn't make it easy. EASI advanced in the winners' bracket in a close 7-6 outing, forcing Bank of Star City into the losers' bracket.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday between games, proceeds for two $1,500 scholarships raised from the previous tournament, acquired through donations and t-shirt sales, were given out in a ceremony. Two student-athletes received the scholarships, and Melinda Crowder and her administrators who help put this tournament on said they are pleased to be able to give these gifts each year.
After the scholarships were presented, Officer Richard Wegner of the Pine Bluff Police Department spoke to the young ladies about safety and how important it is in everyday life.
Wegner talked about the importance of staying hydrated by drinking water. In the conditions that the girls play their softball games in, water is the best option, not a soft drink. Wegner's second point was to tell the young women to make sure they pay attention to their surroundings.
"Every one of you I'm willing to bet has one of these," Wagner said as he pulled his phone from his pocket. "The number one thing that a criminal is going to look for if they want to do you harm is you not paying attention. You not being aware of what's going on around you. A person that is walking around with their head up and paying attention is not the kind of person a criminal wants to mess with. When it comes to social media, you may think it's real cool to have as many friends as you can possibly have, but keep in mind not all those people could possibly be your friends."
Today, only three teams from each division will still have a chance at winning the championship.
The first game is set for 1:30 p.m.