Senior night smiles: Solberg, Rogstad have game to remember as Detroit Lakes rolls over Pine River-Backus
Christian Solberg has played dozens of home games in Detroit Lakes, but his last baseball game on Monday night will stick with him for a long time.
DETROIT LAKES – Christian Solberg couldn't wipe the smile off of his face after he found out he would pitch in the final inning of Detroit Lakes' last home game on Monday night.
"I don't think I've stopped smiling since I've started pitching," Solberg said.
The Lakers (12-4) led Pine River-Backus 16-0, heading into the top of the fifth inning. Head coach Terry Eiter had been waiting for the right situation to materialize to put Solberg on the rubber for the first time in his varsity career.
"I heard a lot about getting Christian into the game to pitch," Eiter said. "We went to a team bonding camp earlier this year. Everybody wrote down their goals. One thing that Christian wrote down was he wanted to pitch one time this year. I put that in my memory bank, and I thought today was a good day for that to happen."
Solberg got two outs before another senior, Carson Rogstad, got Irvin Tulenchik to ground out with the bases loaded. Detroit Lakes sent the Washington Park crowd home happy after the 16-5 win.
"I got an opportunity earlier this season in Crosby," Rogstad said. "It was definitely fun to go out there again. I wasn't expecting it. The umpire told (Eiter) 'Go let this kid get an out.' It was pretty funny."
"There are a lot of nerves. Even though the scoreboard might not be close, you still want to impress. Everyone is giggling at you when you're up there. It's just fun all around. I talked to (shortstop Noah Reiber) before, and I told him that if I get up there, he better not make an error behind me. He bobbled the ball, but he got the out. I couldn't be too mad at him."
The Lakers hung eight runs on Pine River-Backus in the bottom of the first inning with just one hit. Grady Kirchner drove in two runs with a double in his second at-bat of the game. Detroit Lakes would score in every inning in the mercy-rule win.
"We were down games, and we were looking for one," Eiter said. "Pine-River Backus was gracious enough to come give us a game today. It turned out to be a good opportunity to showcase our seniors and give them some playing opportunities. It's a good deal."
Five seniors cracked the starting lineup for the first time this year, including Solberg, who is playing his first season of baseball since eighth grade.
"I just wanted to hang out with my friends in a fun atmosphere in my senior year," Solberg said on playing baseball for the first time in five years. "It's a great feeling to know that these guys have my back, and I will always have theirs. I know that we're a great team."
Solberg battled the sun to make a few catches in left field before making some noise at the plate in the third inning. He smacked an RBI double over the head of the Tigers' center fielder in what he called his "best hit of the season."
Before Solberg's big hit, Eiter told him to take Brock Okeson to the bullpen to warm up. Okeson is one of the Lakers' regular pitchers and was coming in relief for starter Cade Jackson, who threw three shutout innings and allowed one hit.
"I thought to myself, 'Brock is going to finish out the game,'" Solberg said when he was asked to help Okeson warm up. "I wasn't going to worry about it. Then (Eiter) handed me the ball before the top of the fifth, and I just got really nervous."
Eiter gathered the team in front of the dugout to let them know Solberg would be taking the mound. Their reaction left Eiter smiling through the end of the night.
"Truth be told, I'm a big crybaby when I talk about stuff like this," Eiter said. "They're such great kids. It's tough to put into work. In education, you don't always get to deal with the best of kids, quite honestly. When I come to practice, it's kind of a refuge. These kids are awesome, and I'm blessed to be their coach."
Every senior that played on Monday had a moment. Jordan Tucker belted a home run in the third inning. Bradly Swiers made a diving play at third base. Markus Lyman smoked a double into the right-field gap before Solberg and Rogstad took the mound.
"I love all of these guys," Rogstad said. "We've all been playing for a while. It's just great to go out there with them and a great experience to share with them."
Solberg has played dozens of home games in Detroit Lakes in football, basketball and now baseball. Next fall, he will attend St. John's University, where he will play football. While it is possible that Monday was the final time Solberg will compete in front of the home fans, it hasn't hit him yet.
"It's pretty crazy. It's odd to think this could've been the last one," Solberg said on playing his final home game for Detroit Lakes High School. "This place feels like home. I know I have a place here, and I'm always welcome. Everyone is family here."
Detroit Lakes has two more games on the road against Alexandria, one of the top teams in Section 8-3A. It's the final measuring stick for the Lakers as they look to shake things up ahead of the section playoffs.
When asked if Solberg thinks if Eiter will put him on the mound one more time, he said with a laugh, "Uhh… probably not."