Black Hills anxious to begin trip

Besides baseball gloves, bats and uniforms, Black Hills All-Stars coach Keith Stottlemyre wants to make sure his 12-year-old players don't forget to pack one more important item Thursday when they fly to Aberdeen, Md., for the Cal Ripken World Series.

He wants them to pack their "cool."

"Keeping them relaxed is going to be the secret," Stottlemyre said.

That may be tough task. A coast-to-coast airplane trip, a 10-day international baseball tournament and a side trip to Washington D.C. on an off day might be a bit of a sensory overload for a team of 12-year-olds.

But Black Hills players certainly were "cool" customers when they won a regional championship last week to earn a trip to the World Series.

Their journey of a lifetime begins early Thursday morning, They'll catch a chartered bus for Portland at 4 a.m. and a plane for Maryland at 8 a.m.

Black Hills opens play Saturday.

"You can sense things are a little tense," said Steve Loague, a Black Hills assistant coach whose son, Elliott, plays for the team.

"But I think the parents are more nervous than the kids."

Black Hills defeated Idaho Falls in the regional championship game to earn a spot at the World Series.

"I've never been nervous before a game, but I was nervous before the Idaho Falls game," Stottlemyre said. "There was so much at stake."

Black Hills, which has gone 32-4 this summer, practiced Sunday and Tuesday. The All-Star team also held a hit-a-thon Sunday at Lacey's Bucknell Park for a fundraiser.

"They were relaxed and played great," Stottlemyre said.

The tournament begins with pool play Saturday and the top eight teams then advance to the single-elimination round, with the championship game on Aug. 19.

"Anything can happen," Stottlemyre said.

Alex Johnson, who plays the infield and outfield for Black Hills, was optimistic and anxious. Black Hills has depth at pitching, a key in any tournament.

"I think I'll have trouble sleeping the night before the game," Johnson said. "It's going to be exciting."

Gail Wood can be reached at or 360-754-5443.