Baseball: Perham's clutch hitting notches top-10 wins over Watertown-Mayer and Wadena-Deer Creek
When the Perham baseball team got the timely hits it needed in a pair of top-10 Class 2A wins over Watertown-Mayer and Wadena-Deer Creek on Saturday at Elmer Becker Field.
DEER CREEK – Perham's Rian Rolberg hits baseballs very loud, very hard and very far.
In the Yellowjackets' (8-0) second top-10 matchup on Saturday, Solberg drove in six runs with two home runs, including a fifth-inning grand slam that carried Perham to a 7-2 win over Wadena-Deer Creek.
"I wasn't trying to do too much," Solberg said of his grand slam. "Honestly, I was just looking to put the ball in play or hit a sac fly. When you come around and look at all of your teammates, it's the best feeling in the world. To see everybody crowding around home plate ready to go crazy–it's amazing."
The third-ranked Yellowjackets, according to the MN Baseball Coaches polls, were fresh off an 8-7 walk-off win over fourth-ranked Watertown-Mayer in extra innings in Saturday's tripleheader in Deer Creek. Perham turned around 30 minutes later and knocked off ninth-ranked Wadena-Deer Creek in a rematch of last year's Section 8-2A title game.
"For the day, we knew it would be two tough teams," Solberg said. "Both of them are top-10 in the state. We knew we were going to get a good pitcher from Wadena. We didn't know which one, but they have two really good ones. The mentality was to just come here and learn no matter what the outcome was. (Head coach James Mulcahy) always tells us we're going to learn and get better no matter if we win or lose."
WDC looked like it would have the upper hand in the final game of the day at Elmer Becker Field. After a 16-5 loss to the Royals in game one, the Wolverines took an energized approach to game three.
Josh Dykhoff surrendered only one hit in the first three innings, setting up Payton Rondestvedt to take the lead with an RBI single. Rondestvedt would come around to score on a passed ball to give WDC a 2-0 lead.
The lead evaporated in less than 20 minutes. With Chas Melvin on first base, Solberg put a charge into a two-run home run over the right-field wall.
"I just wanted to put the ball in play," Solberg said of his first home run. "We have a runner on base. I was trying to advance the runner."
Melvin got the start on the bump for the Yellowjackets. The Minnesota State University-Mankato commit rebounded from a shaky start to keep WDC scoreless in the fourth inning. He allowed one earned run, four hits and three walks while striking out two batters in four innings.
Perham broke the game wide open in the top of the fifth. Melvin drove in a run with his second hit before Solberg crushed his second home run of the game. Solberg finished the game 2-for-4 at the plate with six RBIs.
"Three-sport guy and a starter for us over the last couple of years," Mulcahy said of Solberg. "DL hockey and Perham football–a big, strong kid that lifts and dedicates himself in the offseason. When his hands are going at 6-foot, 5-inches and 225-pounds, he can ride them out. He got his pitch in his zone. Boy, that was a big lift."
Perham's Austin Aanenson closed out the night on the mound for the Yellowjackets. He threw the final three innings and allowed just one hit. It was a relatively anticlimactic ending for Perham compared to its first game of the day.
Watertown-Mayer jumped all over the Yellowjackets in the first two innings. Nick Andashom drove in a run with a fielder's choice in the top of the first before Ben Trucke got a hold of a ball for a three-run home run. Despite Solberg's first-inning RBI single, the Yellowjackets trailed 5-1 before the bottom of the second.
The Royals made it a 6-1 game on Trucke's second long ball of the game in the top of the fifth inning. He was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a walk. For the first time this spring, Perham trailed late in the late innings.
"This is exactly why we've done this over the last couple of years," Mulcahy said on playing two top-10 teams on the same day. "We want to put ourselves in pressure situations. We need to understand that overcoming adversity is bigger than baseball. It's a huge part of life. If they can learn that and know how to handle it when things aren't going right, then we've done our job. We were down 6-1 to Watertown-Mayer. We just kept saying, 'This is life.' The challenges are going to come, so learn how to overcome them."
Perham scored five runs in the final three innings to tie the game. Gage Germolus and Aanenson scored on an error to make it a 6-3 game in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Watertown-Mayer was one out away from beating Perham two separate times. Ben Shumanskuy drew a walk with two outs before Solberg drove in Blaiz Schmidt with an RBI single. That set up Logan Pulju's game-tying double.
"I think it's just we're mentally tough," Solberg said of what it takes to come through in the clutch. "We find ways to stick with it, and we have a lot of energy coming from our bench. We have lots of guys picking each other up and supporting each other–lots of leadership."
Watertown-Mayer was quick to get the run back in the top of the eighth when Connor Donovan drove in Logan Bullock with a sacrifice fly.
In the bottom of the frame, Aanenson ripped a one-out single to right field. After Schmidt struck out, Gamble Bye reached base on a throwing error, setting up Melvin with runners on second and third. Melvin took a pitch to the opposite field for Perham's first of two comeback wins on the day.
"These guys work really hard and do everything that's expected of them," Mulcahy said. "A lot of the guys that keep coming in clutch are multi-sport guys. Playing other sports like wrestling, basketball, football and hockey puts you in other high-pressure situations. When you have a team of guys with that experience, you're confident that any of them can get it done."
All three teams that played against each other on Saturday are in different conferences and sections. However, few will be surprised if they play each other again in June.
"These wins really help us get ready for when it comes time for playoffs," Solberg said. "It really helps to see good pitching and good teams that have quality at-bats. Games like this make all three teams better."
For Perham, it was its first chance to face adversity in a season with Class 2A state tournament hopes.
"We knew it was a test because it's 14 games in 14 days," Mulcahy said. "These were games five and six for us this week. We wrap around and play six more next week with a Monday doubleheader after that against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. We knew it was a test. I told them to enjoy Sunday. As far as building confidence, it's good to see this and to know what we can do. We have the toughness down the stretch when it's really going to matter. Both of the teams we played are coming out of their section, so we need to see this stuff to be playoff ready."
PERHAM 000 250 0 - 7
WADENA-DEER CREEK 002 000 0 - 2
PERHAM PITCHING- Chas Melvin (W) 4IP, 4H, 2R, 1ER, 2K, 3BB; Austin Aanenson 3IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 5K, 1BB
PERHAM HITTING- Gamble Bye 0-3, R, BB, K; Melvin 2-4, 2R, RBI, K; Ben Schumansky 1-4, K; Rian Solberg 2-4, 2R, 6RBI, K; Logan Pulju 1-4; Jack Mensing 1-4; Gage Germolus 0-3, 2K; Aanenson 1-3, R; Blaiz Schmidt 1-3, K; Colton Dilbeck R
WDC PITCHING- Josh Dykhoff (L) 7IP, 9H, 7R, 7ER, 7K, 1BB
WDC HITTING- Isaac Hamann 1-3; Dykhoff 0-2, R, BB; Payton Rondestvedt 2-3, R, RBI, BB; Connor Davis 0-4, 2K; Tyson Barthel 1-4, K; Evan Lunde 1-3; Brandon Wheeler 0-4, K; Breaden Redfield 0-2, K; Carson Kern 0-2, BB, 2K
WATERTOWN-MAYER 140 010 01 - 7
PERHAM 100 020 32 - 8
PERHAM PITCHING- Logan Pulju 5IP, 6H, 6R, 3ER, 5K, 4BB; Ashton Detloff (W) 3IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 4K, 2BB
PERHAM HITTING- Bye 0-3, R, 2BB; Melvin 1-5, R, 2RBI; Shumansky 0-2, BB, K; Solberg 2-4, 2RBI, K; Pulju 1-4, 2RBI, K; Mensing 0-3, BB, K; Germolus 1-3, R, K; Aanenson 2-4, 2R; Schmidt 1-3, R, RBI, K; Dilbeck R, Gage Aanenson R