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Nisswa Lightning advance to state

It was a good weekend for the Niswa Lightning amateur baseball team. First, the Lightning qualified for the Class C state tournament for the third time in four years after defeating Freeport 8-1 in the Region 8 playoffs on Saturday, Aug. 2.

Then on Sunday, Aug. 3, the Lightning added wins over Sobieski 5-3 and Fort Ripley 5-4 to advance to the region championship game, and a rematch at the Lastrup Lakers at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9. Lastrup had defeated Nisswa 8-6 earlier in the region playoffs. It would be the first region title for the Lightning or Lakers, who will be the top two seeds at state from Region 8.

"We will need to beat (Lastrup) twice on Saturday to win the region," said Lightning player/coach Aaron Jenkins. "I think we have a really good chance to win both games. We are playing well and have a lot of momentum after this weekend."

Jenkins added that Nisswa's playoff run is "special" since the Lightning didn't advance to state last summer.

"When you go (to state) a couple years in a row, then you sort of take it for granted," he said. "It's nice to be going back, but we want to make a deep run, and possibly win the whole thing."

Jenkins was also encouraged by the two close wins on Sunday.

" We haven't played a lot of close games this year, so playing and winning both games against two really good teams in Sobieski and Fort Ripley was a huge confidence boost," he said. "Those were two of the better games all year, but we know there is still room for improvement as well."

Lightning 5, Fort Ripley 4

Nisswa assumed a quick lead in the first inning when Luke Schumer singled and scored on a double by Jeremiah Piepkorn. Jason Roepke followed with his fourth homer of the tournament to make it 3-0.

Lightning starting pitcher Jake Lynn, who was drafted from Cuyuna, didn't allow a run until the fourth inning as the Rebels cut the deficit to 3-1. Jason Sather's RBI single cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth, and then reliever Brett Jenkins surrendered a game-tying single to Jim Kramer. Jake Caughey's RBI single gave Fort RIpley a 4-3 lead.

Nisswa regained a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh on a groundout and Jeremiah Piepkorn's RBI single. The Rebels threatened in each of the final two innings, but couldn't tie it.

Brett Jenkins, who didn't allow a run in 3 ⅔ innings, was the winning pitcher while Kramer took the loss. Sather was 3-4 for Fort Ripley while Piepkorn, Roepke and Mark Germain each had two hits for Nisswa.

Lightning 5, Sobieski 3

Nisswa defeated the Skis as Kyle Schaible picked up his second complete game pitching win. The Lightning scored three times in the second as Morgan Shepherd scored on a wild pitch and Luke Schumer and Piepkorn added RBI singles.

Sobieski rallied behind a two-run double by Isaac Smieja, but Aaron Jenkins' RBI hit increased Nisswa's lead to 4-2. The Skis added a run on Josh Wenzel's solo blast, but Aaron Jenkins answered with a home run to make it 5-3.

Lightning 8, Freeport 1

Nisswa eliminated the Black Sox, and clinched a state berth with a convincing win as Luke Schumer, Piepkorn and Brett Jenkins each had three hits. Piepkorn drove in three runs while Roepke added a two-run homer. Roepke was also the winning pitcher, allowing 10 hits and striking out three in nine innings.

Nisswa scored twice in the first inning on an RBI single by Piepkorn and a run-scoring groundout by Adam Hardy. Roepke's homer made it 4-0 in the third inning. Piepkorn's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made it 5-0.

Nisswa added its final three runs in the eighth on Schumer's RBI single, Aaron Jenkins RBI groundout and Piepkorn's RBI double. Roepke's shutout bid ended on an RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning.