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Fort Smith Southside’s Sorg headlines large signing day contingent in River Valley

by Leland Barclay | November 13, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
David Sorg, a senior pitcher at Fort Smith Southside, signs his letter of intent to play baseball at Oklahoma University on Wednesday between his mother Pam Sorg and father Eddie Sorg during a ceremony inside Mavericks Arena in Fort Smith. Sorg was one of seven Southside athletes recognized at the event who signed to continue their playing careers in college. The others were Ty Jones, who committed to play baseball at the University of Arkansas-Rich Mountain; Noah Brown, who committed to play baseball at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home; Zeb Allen, who committed to play baseball at the University of Central Arkansas; Robinson Wright, who committed to play tennis at Hendrix College; Reese Robinson, who committed to play softball at Carl Albert State College; and Haley Cline, who committed to play soccer at the University of Dallas. Visit for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FORT SMITH -- David Sorg committed to play baseball at the University of Oklahoma over a year ago.

On Wednesday, the 6-4 Southside standout made it official when he signed his letter of intent to play for the Sooners. Wednesday was the first day athletes could sign college letters of intent in non-football sports.

"My first visit there was a couple of camps," Sorg said. "I really loved the coaches and the culture there. I felt at home. They wanted me there, and I've got a spot waiting for me there."

The Sooners played in the College World Series national title series last year, losing to Ole Miss. Oklahoma finished 45-24 under Skip Johnson, who will be in his sixth season leading the program.

"He's a really good player," Southside coach Dale Harpenau said. "He's a 6-4, left-handed hitting player. His best days are ahead of him. He's coming off an injury, and he'll be completely healthy when he enrolls there. A lot of times after Tommy John surgery kids come back better. I look for that to be the case with David."

As a sophomore, Sorg struck out 50 in 41½ innings and batted .343. This past season, his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury that also cost him playing quarterback this season although he remained active with the team and walked with the Mavericks on Senior Night.

"The first couple of games were really rough," Sorg said. "I've adjusted to it and focused on the next chapter of my life."

He will concentrate on hitting and fielding in Norman.

"I'll be hitting and playing the field," Sorg said. "I won't be able to pitch, so I'll still hit and play the field."

He also won't pitch in the spring for the Mavericks.

"I've been pitching my whole life," Sorg said. "Not being able to pitch my senior year is going to be rough."

Sorg carries a 4.1 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society.

"He has a great work ethic," Harpenau said. "He does a great job in the classroom and has great leadership skills. He has all the things you look for a kid to go play at a power-5 conference."

Ball signs with UAFS

Bri Ball ended a spectacular career as one of the greatest to ever play volleyball at Van Buren. Ball signed to further her career at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

"She's very determined and has this incredible will to win," Van Buren coach Brent Reeves said. "I don't care if we're playing in the state playoffs, a conference game, a nonconference game, if we're doing a drill, she's wanting to win. That took her a long way. I appreciate her leadership."

Ball finished her career with 1,981 assists with 1,200 digs, 877 kills, 146 aces and 101 blocks in her four-year career, which included playing varsity as a freshman.

"What that tells you is that's all-around, playing defense with her blocks and digs and offense with assists and kills," Reeves said. "She also had a positive attitude and showed great leadership on the court. She ran our offense. That's like being our quarterback for four years. She's been a great mentor the younger players."

She was all-conference three times, all-state two years and all-state tournament two years.

Ball comes from an athletic family with both her mom and dad playing multiple sports.

"I grew up with a ball in my hand, living on the baseball field or basketball gym or football stadium," Ball said. "I've been around sports all my life. It helped me a lot just to be in the atmosphere and the people being around me."

Ball also grew up the youngest of three with two older brothers, both athletes.

"Just competitive-wise, I'm the youngest girl with two older brothers, so I had to fend for myself," Ball said. "I've used that in my sport to be competitive."

Ball was instrumental in leading Van Buren into the Class 5A semifinals this past season, the second-best finish in a state tournament in school history.

"We lost to a very good team in the semis, a team that won it all, and I'm at peace with that," Ball said. "I feel like all of my hard work was for something."

Ball chose UAFS in large part because of veteran coach Jane Sargent.

"I did a lot of research, and of all the colleges I visited, I just fell in love with UAFS and really liked the campus," Ball said. "I love Jane Sargent and what she does and the coach she is. She does camps here, and she's mentored me and helped me."

Nichols headed to Crowder College

Presley Nichols has been mostly a hitter for the Pointers the last two years but will be counted on for double duty in the spring as a pitcher as well.

Nichols signed a national letter of intent with Crowder College in Neosho, Mo.

"He started playing toward the middle of the year as a sophomore when we won the state championship," Van Buren coach Luke Weatherford said. "He's been a great player for our program the last two years. He's hit in the middle of the lineup for us."

He was all-conference last year, driving in 26 runs, driving in 30 runs with two homers.

"In the baseball work, junior college is a big thing," Weatherford said. "Crowder is one of the top junior colleges in the country. Every year, they're in the top 10 and go to the Junior College World Series all the time."

Nichols is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Van Buren.

"I want to thank the Lord for blessing me with this opportunity," Nichols said. "I wouldn't be anything without Him."

Nichols chose Crowder because of that tradition.

"They send a lot of players to big school," Nichols said. "I'm just really excited about it. Hopefully, they can develop me and make me a lot better."

Griffiths inks with Arkansas Tech

Drew Griffiths had a stellar golf career at Van Buren and signed with Arkansas Tech, which made five-straight appearances in the medal match portion of the NCAA Championship Tournament.

"They're getting a really good player and a really good person," Van Buren coach James Lemley said. "I think he can come in and compete for a spot immediately."

In 15 of the 24 matches Van Buren played over the past two season, he was the low scorer.

He was all-conference twice and helped Van Buren to two conference championships.

Van Buren was state runner-up last year and finished third this past season.

"Coach Lemley came and he already played at college and knew college coaches, and he really prepared me," Griffiths said. "He said he was going to get me ready. Sure enough, here I am a senior and going to the next level."

Caldwell signs with WBU

Emberlin Caldwell still has her senior softball season left but is already among the career leaders in several pitching categories at Van Buren. Caldwell is headed to Williams Baptist University.

Last year as a junior, Caldwell pitched 178 1/3 innings and the Lady Pointers played 178 1/3 innings.

"Every game, every inning, every pitch," Van Buren coach Andy Williams said. "She's No. 3 in the all-time win list, she's No. 3 in the innings pitched list, and No. 3 in strikeouts. She loves the game, gives lessons after practice to young kids and umpires. If she's not playing softball, practicing softball or working with softball, she's probably eating or sleeping."

Caldwell moved from Alma to Van Buren before her freshman season. She won 20 games last year with a 3.31 earned run average with 155 strikeouts.

She was all-conference as a sophomore, and all-conference, all-state and all-state tournament last year in leading the Lady Pointers to their first ever conference championship.

Caldwell chose Williams Baptist University because of the atmosphere.

"When I went there, my family and me just felt comfortable there," Caldwell said. "It felt like home. I loved it."

Jones signs with UA-Rich Mountain

Ty Jones pitched and hit for the Mavericks and helped them to the second round of the Class 6A state tournament last year.

Jones signed Wednesday to continue his career at the University of Arkansas at Rich Mountain.

"It felt like the best fit for me to grow and develop as a player," Jones said. "I want to move on and eventually try to play at Arkansas."

Jones played infield when he wasn't pitching, but on the mound is where he excelled and where he will play in college.

Jones had a 1.65 earned run average last season and gave up just one earned run in the first round of the state tournament in a 6-2 win over Northside. He also homered in the game. He also pitched Southside to a 3-2 win over Springdale in the final 6A-West series of the season, going eight innings and allowing just one earned run.

"Ty's a utility guy for us," Harpenau said. "He's a guy that we're going to rely heavily on. He'll be one of our front-line pitchers and hit in the middle of the lineup. He's a big asset to our lineup."

Playing in the state's largest classification helped Jones prepare the next level.

"The speed of the play, everything moves so much faster in this classification," Jones said. "It gets me that much closer to what college ball will be."

Jones carries a 4.0 grade point average and is a National Honor Society member.

Southside's Brown signs LOI

Noah Brown had a solid season during the summer for the Fort Smith Junior Sportsman American Legion team.

"Noah was a fantastic player for us this past summer," Sportsman coach Shea Hamilton said. "He did a little bit over everything for us. He started out in the outfield, moved to full-time shortstop midway through the year and was exceptionally good on the mound all season."

Brown was second on the team in inning with 22, was 2-0 with a save and had 30 strikeouts. Offensively, he hit .274 and stole six bases.

"Coach Adcock at ASU-Mountain Home is getting a great pitcher and an even better person from a great family," Hamilton said.

Brown should also help the Mavericks in the spring.

"He's worked his butt off and turned into a good player for us," Southside assistant coach Ben Stovall said. "He doesn't even look like the same kid."

He is a member of the National Honor Society.

"Noah's one of those kids that's a late bloomer," Harpenau said. "We're finishing up the fall in our world series and we're looking for guys to throw, and we ran him out there. He worked last spring on becoming a pitcher. The more he's worked at it, he's progressed and gotten stronger, and he's going to get the opportunity to play at the college level because of it."

Allen going to UCA

Fort Smith Southside's Zeb Allen will take his fleet-footed defense to the University of Central Arkansas.

"UCA has been such a great school, and I've been around there all my life," Allen said. "I love the atmosphere. I love the guys that are there right now. I thought it was a great fit for me."

Allen batted near the top of the lineup all season for the Mavericks, which finished 19-11.

"It was a blast, we had a great time last year," Allen said. "Our team chemistry is just getting better."

Allen led the team with a .379 batting average. He's a two-year captain on the baseball team, a three-year starter and a member of the National Honor Society.

Playing in the 6A-West helped prepare him for college baseball.

"It's challenged me to be the best player that I can be," Allen said. "Since my freshman year, I've worked hard to maintain my varsity status. The classification has helped me prepare for that."

Wright off to Hendrix College

Robinson Wright is three-time all-conference and all-state in tennis and will play collegiately at Hendrix.

"I liked the team and how they bonded," Wright said. "The coaches was my favorite out of all the schools that I visited."

Wright qualified for the state tournament all three years, finishing in the quarterfinals as a sophomore and in the semifinals as a junior in single play. This past season, he teamed up with Grayson Conley in doubles and finished third in the Class 6A state tournament in Little Rock in October.

"I've been playing for about 10 years," Wright said. "I like the individualism of it. I like being out there myself. I take the blame for everything. I have to hold myself accountable. I can show more emotion out there when it's just me even in doubles."

He's also been valuable to the tennis team riding shotgun for coach Ben Stovall.

"One thing he told me that growing up his dad wouldn't let him get on the phone or get on the tablet, he made him sit up front and help him navigate," Stovall said. "When we went to Little Rock this summer, I made a few wrong turns but he saved me a lot of trouble. He was my human GPS."

Wright has a 4.1 grade point average and scored a 31 on his American College Test. He was selected to Arkansas Boys State in May.

Southside's Robinson chooses CASC

Reese Robinson has played through pain all three softball seasons, and the perseverance paid off.

"She's a walking testament to hard work and dedication," Southside coach Craig Jones said. "I watched her take cuts in the cage with tears in her eyes, and I watched her get back in there every time to take more cuts and get better every day."

She's got the scars to prove her toughness, too, with surgeries each of the past three seasons although at least she still was able to play and is looking forward to a surgery-free senior season.

"Yes, that's very exciting," Robinson said. "I had two surgeries in October and one in July, but I was back for the season."

Her natural position is third base, which she will play in college, although she pitched last year out of necessity.

Cline signs with University of Dallas

Haley Cline will finally get to play soccer alongside her sister after signing to continue her career at the University of Dallas.

"We've never been played together so that's exciting," Cline said. "The bond of the ladies at the University of Dallas is so unique. I've gotten to experience that first hand since my sister goes there. I love the chemistry of that team, and I'm excited to be on that with them."

Cline's sister, Kaitlyn, is a junior on the team, which just completed their season two weeks ago.

Haley Cline has played soccer since she was just 5 and started as a freshman for the Lady Mavericks.

"She's one of our hardest workers on and off the field," Southside coach Mahmoud Ihmeidan said. "She sets a great example for the other kids."

She's also earned the opportunity to play big-time soccer on the next level.

"If you think football is big in Texas, you should check out some soccer programs," Ihmeidan said. "I'm super excited for her."

Northside's Duggar going to Crowder College

Jayden Duggar's will leave the infield behind and make the walk to the mound after his recent meteoric ascent.

"I was excited for him," Northside coach Will Hankins said. "At the end of the last season and into the summer, he blossomed. This summer he blew up and had a great summer. I had coaches calling me and asking me who he is."

Duggar signed with junior college power Crowder College on Wednesday morning.

"Him going there is pretty big," Hankins said. "It's exciting to see."

Duggar made the jump in velocity after being able to play this summer.

"Beginning of my junior season, I was probably upper 70s, low 80s," Duggar said. "Toward the end of the season, I was mid-80s. All summer, I was upper 80s."

Duggar has mostly been an infielder growing up but relishes the opportunity to take the mound.

"I've always played the infield and hit," Duggar said. "I'm excited to just pitch."

Cartwright inks with Tulsa

It's been quite a basketball journey for senior forward Madison Cartwright at Greenwood. Her next chapter was put into motion Wednesday when she signed her letter of intent to play at Tulsa.

Cartwright, who also played softball, has done it all for the Lady Bulldogs. She has more than 1,000 career points and has been a key cog in winning state titles in 2020 and 2022. But before Cartwright becomes a Hurricane, she still has a season left as a Bulldog and couldn't be more excited for a final run.

"It's been so exciting playing here," Cartwright said. "I've gotten to meet a lot of awesome girls here. I've been through it all with them in every grade. We are looking to have another good season. We want to get another state championship ring and a conference championship. That's been our goal, so we want to make it happen again."

Cartwright made an impact throughout the 5A state tournament earning MVP honors earlier this year for Greenwood's sixth title. She scored 29 points in a quarterfinals win over West Memphis and had 23 in the semifinals against Marion.

Greenwood coach Clay Reeves, who has more than 700 wins, said he has been blessed to coach a lot of talent over the years.

"She has had a great career with two state championships in three years," Reeves said. "Now we get her back for a senior year. We know she is going to have a great year. We know she will do great things on and off the court. She loves to compete and does whatever it takes for our team to win."

Cartwright, who verbally committed back in April, said she felt like Tulsa was the right place for her playing at the next level.

"Tulsa coach Angie Nelp runs a great program," Cartwright said. "She has only been there for a few years, but she has really helped the program a lot. She's made a big difference. The coaching staff and the girls there are so welcoming and amazing. I know I'll enjoy my time there. It's not too far from home, and the program is heading in the right direction."

Pugh, Cowart stay in-state

Greenwood softball players Paige Pugh and Rylee Cowart wouldn't have had their national signing day any other way. The teammates had tables set up right beside each other with Pugh signing with Arkansas State and Cowart with Williams Baptist University.

"This is such a special day, and I'm so proud of Paige," Cowart said. "This is something we will remember forever. We've had some very special teams over the years. It's been a good run for us here at Greenwood."

The Lady Bulldogs last year finished with a 19-9 record and made it to the quarterfinals after winning 8-0 in the opening round of the 5A state tournament against Little Rock Christian.

Pugh and Cowart each played key roles last season, and now they look to make an even bigger impact as seniors.

"I'm so excited for the season," Pugh said. " It's been so much fun playing here. My freshman year got cut short with covid. My sophomore year felt like a freshman year with upperclassmen helping me out. Now I get to be that senior leader. It's so much fun coming together as a team with new players. Signing day has been a surreal moment. I've always dreamed of having a signing day since I was little and going to college and playing softball. Now here I am."

Pugh makes her impact at first base, while Cowart thrives in a utility role. Cowart can play catcher, in the field or in the outfield. There is only one spot she doesn't want to play: pitcher.

"Just don't put me in the circle," Cowart said with a laugh. "I can't do that. But I can help with everything else though. Being able to go anywhere on the field, it makes me feel like a team player. They just need to point where I need to play that day."

Elmore signs with Arkansas Tech

Kaitlynne Elmore had a bit of a good problem to have on signing day. It was hard to fit all the trophies she has contributed to Greenwood on her table.

On full display were five different titles from state to conference championships when Elmore signed her letter of intent Wednesday to run track and cross country at Arkansas Tech.

"It has been so much fun making an impact here," Elmore said. "It's fun to show off the trophies. This day is just a dream come true. I'm very excited to go do what I love at the next level. I just really love running. I'm excited about the future, but I'm really looking forward to this track season at Greenwood. We want to make new memories here."

Greenwood earlier this month took home the Class 5A cross country title, ending Mountain Home's three-year run at the top. Elmore finished 34th overall with a 5K time of 21:41.49.

Elmore in her career has helped win two state titles and a runner-up finish to go with two conference championships. She also has a pair of top five finishes in the 800 meter race and a fourth-place relay finish in state competitions.

  photo  Van Buren seniors Drew Griffiths (from left), Bri Ball, Presley Nichols and Emberlin Caldwell signed letters of intent to play college sports on Wednesday during national signing day. (Submitted Photo)
  photo  Jayden Duggar of Forth Smith Northside signs to play baseball at Crowder College in Neosho, Mo. (Submitted Photo)
  photo  Kaitlynne Elmore of Greenwood signed with Arkansas Tech. (Submitted Photo)
  photo  Madison Cartwright of Greenwood signed with the University of Tulsa. (Submitted Photo)
  photo  Paige Pugh of Greenwood signed with Arkansas State University. (Submitted Photo)
  photo  Rylee Cowart of Greenwood signed with Williams Baptist
  photo  Fort Smith Southside athletes Reese Robinson (from left), Robinson Wright, Ty Jones, Zeb Allen, David Sorg, Noah Brown and Haley Cline pose for a photo Wednesday at a signing day ceremony inside Mavericks Arena in Fort Smith. Each of the seven athletes signed letters of intent at the event to continue their playing careers in college, with Robinson committing to play softball at Carl Albert State College, Wright committing to play tennis at Hendrix College, Jones committing to play baseball at the University of Arkansas-Rich Mountain, Allen committing to play baseball at the University of Central Arkansas, Sorg committing to play baseball at Oklahoma University, Brown committing to play baseball at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home, and Cline committing to play soccer at the University of Dallas. Visit for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

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