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Lightning stay perfect in playoffs

The Nisswa Lightning amateur baseball team remained unbeaten in the Victory League North Division playoffs with a 9-8 win over the Fort Ripley Rebels in 11 innings on Sunday, July 13, in Nisswa. The Lightning had advanced with a 13-0 win over Cuyuna Range in seven innings on Saturday, July 12.

At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 20, the Lightning will host the winner of the Saturday, July 19 playoff between Rebels and St. Mathias. That team would need to defeat the Lightning twice on July 20 to win the division title. Nisswa was the North Division regular season champions, which earns them an automatic berth in the Region 8C playoffs.

Lightning player/manager Aaron Jenkins said the extra-inning win was big for his team going into next weekend.

"It's always a good feeling going into a game (Sunday) knowing that the team you will be playing had just played a must win game the day before and will have to beat you twice," he said.

On July 13, Nisswa fell behind 7-0 after four innings before rallying. The Lighting scored three times in the fifth on Jeremiah Piepkorn's two-run homer followed by a solo blast off the roof of Pickle Factory to make it 7-3.

In the top of the sixth, Fort Ripley gained a run back loaded the bases, but the inning ended on a double play. Nisswa chipped away at the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Tyler Wittwer came home on a sacrifice fly, and Morgan Shepherd also scored on the play after an error to make it 8-5. Relief pitcher Brett Jenkins quieted the Rebel hitters while Nisswa chipped away at the lead when Roepke blasted a solo homer in the seventh.

The Lightning tied it 8-8 in the ninth when Luke Schumer opened the inning with his third hit, and eventually scored on Roepke's double. Piepkorn then scored the tying run from third base after an infield error.

Fort Ripley went down 1-2-3 in the top of the 10th against Brett Jenkins while the Rebels switched pitchers in the bottom of the inning as Brett Kramer replaced starter Logan Kalis, who had thrown 157 pitches in nine innings. Kramer walked two hitters with two outs, but a ground out ended the threat.

Brett Jenkins allowed a two-out hit but no runs in the top of the 11th before the Lightning rallied to win in the bottom of the inning. Adam Hardy had a one-out single and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wittwer. Hardy reached third base on a wild pitch, and then slid home to scored the winning run after another wild pitch.

"It really was like two separate games for us," Aaron Jenkins said. "We came out flat and didn't play very well in the first 4 ½ innings. Then our bats came alive after the homers by Piepkorn and Roepke, and our confidence kept growing. Brett (Jenkins) then came in to pitch in the seventh, and had a quick inning. We really gained momentum and he shut the door the rest of the way."

Brett Jenkins pitched five shutout innings to earn the win. Roepke, the starting pitcher, allowed three runs in four innings. Roepke and Schumer each had three hits.

Lightning 13, Cuyuna Range 0

On July 12, Nisswa opened the playoffs with a seven-inning win over the Miners as Kyle Schaible pitched a one-hitter to earn the victory.

Schaible struck out three and walked two in six innings before Schumer pitched the seventh. Piepkorn drove in four runs while Roepke, Hardy, Shepherd, Drew Sannes and Brett Jenkins each had two hits.