Cassidy Davis holds memories of her friend Casey Crowder near and dear to her heart.

Cassidy Davis holds memories of her friend Casey Crowder near and dear to her heart.

“My sister, Samantha, and I grew up with Casey,” she said. “Our parents were friends with her parents, our brothers were friends with her brothers. In age, Casey was right between my sister and me. We all played league softball together for years.”

Crowder, who played softball at Watson Chapel and in the American-Eastern Little League, was kidnapped and murdered near Dumas in August 2006 at age 17. According to Davis, Crowder left a friend’s house early one morning and ran out of gas on the side of a highway as her phone went dead. Her body was found several days later.

Crowder’s disappearance and death drew national attention. A year after her passing, her mother Melinda started a softball tournament to raise teen safety awareness while remembering the legacy of her daughter.

The Casey Crowder Memorial Softball Tournament, of which Davis is chairman, is now in its seventh year. It will be held Saturday and Sunday at Monroe-Ryburn Field.

The event includes a 13- to 18-year-old “Big League” division, 8- to 12-year-old “Little League” division and 4- to 7-year-old T-ball exhibition games.

The tournament also raises money for scholarships awarded to high school senior girls. Scholarships of $1,000 to $1,500 have been awarded to one recipient each of the tournament’s first three years and to two recipients each of the last three years.

“A few young ladies, including myself, have been able to help fund college through this gift while many young ladies have been educated on how to take more precautions in life,” 2011 recipient Lola Johnson said.

Said Samantha VanVeckhoven, a 2008 recipient: “I now have my bachelor’s degree in biology and will not forget that the special remembrance of Casey helped me get this far.”

Davis said the scholarships and the message of the tournament have made an impact on many young girls.

“We want the girls to be aware of their surroundings,” Davis said.

The tournament will begin with a ceremony at 1:20 p.m. Saturday. Speakers will include Melinda Crowder and Desha County Sheriff Jim Snyder. Mrs. Crowder also will deliver the first pitch.

Brianne Cheek will give the opening prayer and Morgan Monk will sing the national anthem and the Carrie Underwood song “Jesus, Take the Wheel”.

Anyone interested in donating to the scholarship can mail a check or money order to: Pine Bluff Community Foundation, For Benefit of Casey Crowder Scholarship Fund, 211 West Third Avenue #105, Pine Bluff, AR 71601.

Casey Crowder Memorial Softball Tournament Brackets

(Both are double elimination)

Big League bracket

Saturday’s games

Game A: PBNB vs. Shannon’s, 10:30 a.m.

Game B: State Farm vs. BSC, 2:15 p.m.

Game C: Game A loser vs. Game B loser, 4:45 p.m.

Game D: Game A winner vs. Game B winner, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday’s games

Game E: Game D loser vs. Game C winner, 2:45 p.m.

Game F: Championship, 5:15 p.m. (second game, if necessary, at 7:45 p.m.)

Little League bracket

Saturday’s games

Game 1: Simmons vs. Hood Towing, 8 a.m.

Game 2: V Wright vs. Arkansas Printing, 9:15 p.m.

Game 3: Simmons/Hood Towing winner vs. EASI, 11:45 p.m.

Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 3:30 p.m.

Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.

Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday’s games

Game 7: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 winner, 1:30 p.m.

Game 8: Championship, 4 p.m. (second game, if necessary, at 6:30 p.m.)