Lilledahl’s illustrious high school career comes to an abrupt end
The news that many student-athletes, especially the seniors, were dreading became official late last week: all activities and athletics for the spring season were canceled.
It was a gut punch to many local students who were clinging to hope that at least part of the season could be salvaged.
“I was speechless. I later walked over to the baseball field and thought to myself about all of the great memories made here and how these past few years we changed this baseball organization around for the better, and hoped that continues for years to come,” said Triton senior pitcher Derek Lilledahl.
Even though it’s not how he wanted his high school career to end, he’s satisfied with what he and his teammates have achieved since he joined varsity as a freshman.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished here. My freshman year we won three total games, then my sophomore year we won 15 games,” he said. “Not only did we start winning more games, we did it the right way and had fun doing it with a great group of guys.”
On top of team success, he also earned individual success – he was an All-Conference selection his sophomore and junior season.
Despite those honors, he said his favorite part of his years playing for Triton was seeing his teammates invest more into helping the team succeed.
“Each year more and more teammates started to become more passionate about the game and loved being a part of the team. It made us not want to let each other down and give all that we got. That is something you just can't teach and is a reason for our successes,” Lilledahl said.
Another reason for the Cobras’ success was his pitching. He went 5-3 with a 2.18 earned run average and 45 strikeouts last spring. Over his past two seasons, he accumulated a 10-4 record with 73 strikeouts.
Tom Lilledahl, Triton Co-Head Coach and Derek’s father, said his son’s winning record is a result of time spent working on his delivery and pitches.
“He has good mechanics and he is confident in his abilities,” he said. “He spots his fastball well and can throw his curveball over for strikes.”
In addition to his strong pitching, he led the team in hitting with a .383 batting average last year and tied for the team lead with 15 runs batted in.
However, what Derek Lilledahl will remember the most are the moments he shared with teammates.
“I have many games and moments with my buddies that are unforgettable, but my [favorite] memory is probably when we beat a good Lourdes team back in 2018 in the subsection game to advance to the section final,” he said.
While that game stands out, his high school career was made unforgettable by the people he shared it with.
“I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys, and I was lucky to have them. All great people who I have known very well for 10 plus years. They also were great teammates and did what needed to be done for the betterment of the team,” he said. “I will definitely miss lacing up and competing with them and especially the laughs we had together. I wouldn't have wanted to compete with any other guys.”
Part of what made those teammates such good teammates, Lilledahl said, is that each of them gave baseball their all.
“All of them bring good vibes into each practice or game and play with heart. Austin Melder is fast and athletic. He was one of our best hitters and can play anywhere on the field and will do it at 100 percent. Austin is a guy that will do whatever it takes for his team to win and has the abilities to play at the next level. Jay Yankowiak is a smart guy who was our first baseman last year, and it was his first time ever playing first base and he did it well. He is another athletic guy who gave it his all and really developed into a great hitter and a base running threat.
“Parker Boe became more and more in love with the game each year. He is one of those guys that will always take more reps then what is asked of him. Parker developed into a better baseball player each year and made one of the best catches I have seen with the game on the line. Clay Rollins always has a smile on his face. He brought the whole team together and everyone loves being around him. He brought good attitude and some big hits when he is at the plate,” he said.
While Derek Lilledahl would prefer to be playing baseball with those teammates, he’s making the most of his time at home.
“I am working on developing new pitches, getting stronger, faster, and getting my arm and mind ready for the next level,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tom Lilledahl said he can continue to work on, “Trusting his changeup and building more strength in his legs and arm.”
Derek Lilledahl said he’s excited to keep working on his craft this fall when he joins the baseball program at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“MSU has an amazing coaching staff and I am excited to learn from them on how to better my game and myself as a person. They have great ball players in their organization and I am excited to meet and learn from them as well,” he said. “Also, playing where my Dad played and hearing about all the great memories that I have been hearing as long as I can remember and the great friends he made at MSU. I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity.”