ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
For a couple of Hillsboro High School baseball team members, the summer of 2000 is a season they are not likely to soon forget.
Jerod Metcalf of Lehigh and James Bina of rural Lincolnville were members of the Cottonwood Valley Eagles, a 15-and-under Babe Ruth all-star team that fell just short of their age group’s World Series, finishing third out of nine teams.
“These guys just did an awesome job,” said Ray Bina, head coach of the squad. “I have known the guys on this team had the potential since they were 10 years old.”
Ray Bina, James’s father, has been coaching the Lincolnville-area team in the Cottonwood Valley League for a number of years. As winners of the CVL this year and past years, he has also become coach of the all-star team.
The all-star season begins when the regular season ends. Players from other league teams are added to the winning team’s roster.
“We told the guys when they were 12 years old that, if they worked hard, they would be state champions by the time they were 15,” the elder Bina said. “We beat that by winning it at age 13.”
This year’s team went beyond the squad from two years ago by advancing to the semifinal round of the Midwest Plains Regional in Bismarck, N.D. It proved to be an exciting experience for the boys.
“It showed us how good we could be as compared to some of the other teams in the nation,” said Metcalf, who pitched for HHS last year as a freshman. “We stayed with host families, so we got to see a little bit of their lives, what they like to do for fun.
“It also gave me a chance to face some really good hitters. They have all won state championships to get to the tournament.”
Metcalf said he wanted to thank the sponsors of the team. They came up with extra money on short notice when the squad won the state title. The funds were used for transportation and lodging. He also said he appreciated the support from his family.
“It really shows how much they want me to play ball,” said Metcalf, who hopes to play college and possibly professional baseball someday. “They are really dedicated. I think we put over 2,000 miles on our truck.”
“Jerod did an awesome job for us,” Ray Bina said. “He has great stuff. All he needs is to become stronger.”
Metcalf pitched in three games in the regional tournament. He took the loss in a 6-1 decision against the Yankees of Bismarck, then rebounded to shut out La Junta, Colo, 11-0. In their 2-1 loss to Omaha, Neb., in their final game, he gave up only two hits and no runs in six and a third innings of relief.
James Bina started behind the plate as an HHS freshman this year.
“He’s caught for me since he could walk,” the elder Bina said. “Hillsboro High School coach Phil Oelke has helped him a lot.”
James said the summer ball experience will help him next season with the Trojans and possibly at the next step.
“There were lots of scouts at the tournament,” James said. “It will open up opportunities later.”
James said he enjoyed the experience this summer, which he shared with teammates he went to school with in elementary and junior high school.
“Some of us have been together as a team since we were eight years old,” he said. “It was a lot of fun for all of us. We saw a lot of good players and good teams. We always thought we were good enough to play with them, but we finally got it together this year.”
Metcalf and James Bina took their turns as most valuable player in post-season tournament games. In the second game of the regional against Rapid City, S.D., Bina was three-for-four batting with a double and four runs batted in. Metcalf was two-for-three with a double.
“Baseball is a real passion for me,” Ray Bina said. “It is also a passion for the boys. Only two members of the team have access to high school baseball. So, this is their only chance to play ball.”
Besides Metcalf and James Bina, other members of the team were: Nick Morgan, White City; Kyle Luna, Marion; Preston Boeh, White City; Phil Unruh, Peabody; Dusty Caldwell, Tampa; Todd Stahlecker, Lincolnville; Curtis Gutsch, Lincolnville; and Jackie Gage, Lincolnville. Coaches were George Luna of Marion and Tom Holub of Tampa.
In addition to their heroics on the field, the team won the sportsmanship award at the district, state and regional tournaments.
“That says a lot for these boys,” Ray Bina said.
James Bina and Curtis Gutsch were selected to play for the West team in the Kansas Babe Ruth Classic All-Star Game, Aug. 13, in Pittsburg. The West lost both games, 7-6 and 8-7.
Bina caught and played in the outfield while Gutsch pitched and played first base.
Tournament game summaries
State: July 27 to Aug. 1, Ottawa
Defeated Parsons, 24-2; lost to Ottawa, 8-3; defeated Golden Belt, 2-0; defeated Parsons, 10-8; defeated Ottawa, 15-8; defeated the Jayhawks, 12-2; defeated the Jayhawks in the finals, 10-7.
Midwest Plains Regional
Aug. 4-9, Bismarck, N.D.
Lost to Bismarck, 6-1; defeated Rapid City, S.D., 17-7; defeated La Junta, Colo., 11-0; defeated East Tonka, Minn., 6-0; lost to Omaha, Neb., 2-1 (8 innings).