For Kurt Silbernagel, it was tough to watch for multiple reasons.
In the district tournament on Monday against Hazen, the Belfield/South Heart Knights plated four runs in the fourth inning tying the game. The contest went into extra innings and Astros walked-off in the ninth inning breaking the Knights hearts and sending them to the losers bracket.
Fast forward about 24 hours, and the Knights were in a similar position.
Belfield/South Heart was up 8-2 going into the final half inning vs. Hettinger on Tuesday needing only three outs to advance to advance and eliminate the Bears.
However, Hettinger posted six runs in their last chance tying the game and they went on to win by one run and a walk-off in extra innings giving the Knights their second heart crushing loss in as many days, but this time it ended their season and the careers of Ian Silbernagel and Shay Olson.
Ian just happens to be the son of Kurt, and the last memory the pair will have on a baseball field together is the two extremely close contests, but that does not discount all the work they have put in over the last decade plus in the sport.
“They both have the same backstory in baseball. I have coached them their entire careers,” Kurt said. “They were both 12 and on the first team when we started a little league program here. They were both on the first Babe Ruth and Legion teams here as well.”
While the Knights were the first team to be eliminated from the district tournament this week, Kurt believes that they were just as good as any other team in the tournament.
“They have had to endure a lot of blowouts throughout their career with it being a new program. The first couple years of the programs we didn’t have any older kids,” Kurt said. ‘They have both been real solid baseball players and they have always set a good example for the other kids in the program. They always had great attitudes even through all the rough times and I am glad at how they progressed. We went from kind of the doormat to where we started to being very competitive.”
Ian gave credit to Hazen and Hettinger for their relentlessness in the two district tournament games, but he also acknowledges that if they had made a few more plays that the Knights could still be playing baseball.
As for Olson, he said they worked hard every day to make a name for themselves. The group as a whole was very competitive and he will miss playing with Ian and for Kurt.
“Kurt has been my baseball coach since I was 10 years old,” said Olson. “I love him and Ian is my best friend and I love him too.”
Ian has countless memories from time spent with his teammates and dad, but one from this season stood out to him.
Earlier this year, Ian was on the verge of throwing a no-hitter when his dad came out to visit the mound. Kurt told him ‘whatever happens, happens’ and Ian wondered what he was talking about, because he had now idea he was throwing a no-no at the time. He recalled that he replied to his dad, “what’re you talking about, we are just trying to win a baseball game.”
“I am going to miss being around the guys. … The bus rides, practices and games are things I will all miss,” Ian said. The relationships with guys from even other teams too. I am going to miss it.”
Both Ian and Olson are recent graduates of South Heart High School.
Ian plans to pour concrete and work for the fall and winter before trying to figure out what his next step in life is.
Olson is set to go to Bismarck State College this fall to get a carpentry degree, and after that he aspires to go to lineman school and become a lineman working on power poles.
“They are a huge part of the program. They were always two of the best players. Lead by example is how they have played the game. They have always carried themselves with class and never complained,” Kurt said. “They do their job and they are coachable. I think that is one of the reasons why we are where we are as a program. The younger kids saw that and followed along.”