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Amateur Baseball: Rebels top Lightning in North playoffs - Nisswa to face Avon on Saturday

Matt Casperson connects with a pitch in the Lightning's postseason game against Aitkin on Saturday, July 22. Dan Determan/Echo Journal1 / 2
Dan Determan/Echo Journal Nisswa pitcher Scott Sand throws to home in the first inning of the Lightning's game against Aitkin on Saturday, July 22.2 / 2

The Fort Ripley Rebels captured the Victory League North Division amatuer baseball playoff title and advance to this weekend's Region 8C tournament as the North's top seed following a 7-2 win over the visiting Nisswa Lightning on Sunday, July 23.

The Rebels scored four times in the first inning on Bill Sather's two-run single and RBI hits by Dustin Littlefield and Brian Skluzacek. Fort Ripley eventually led 7-0 after four innings before Nisswa scored twice in the eighth on Aaron Jenkins' two-run double.

"It never helps when you're down 4-0 early," said Jenkins, who also serves as manager for the Lightning. "We had some good at bats, but not a lot of hits (4)."

Ethan Branum picked up the pitching win by allowing just two hits in five innings while Logan Kalis tossed four innings to earn the save. In the first round of the region playoffs on Saturday, July 29, in Pierz, Nisswa (No. 2 seed from the North) will face Avon (No. 1 in South) at 5 p.m., and then the Rebels will meet St. Stephen (No. 2 South) at 7:30 p.m. Teams will also play on Sunday, July 30, in the double elimination tournament.

"We haven't played Avon this year, but we watch them each year (at the region playoffs) and they have good pitching and speed," said Jenkins, whose team is 8-10 overall. "We have the talent to play with anyone, we just need to get hot. You pretty much need to win two games in the region playoffs since the top four teams advance to state."

Nisswa will be adding pitcher Drew Nordeen, drafted from Aitkin, and possibly college player Nate DeChaine.

"Drew will help our pitching staff and it would be really nice to have Nate back," Jenkins said.

Nisswa 12, Aitkin 1

On Saturday, July 22, Adam Hardy drove in five runs as the Lightning clinched a spot in the region tournament with a home win over the Aitkin Steam. Nisswa scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning as Drew Boland tied the game 1-1 with an RBI single, Hardy launched a three-run homer and Matt Casperson added a two-run double.

Hardy's two-run single in the second made it 8-1 before Tory Miller added an RBI double in the third, Chris Pederson drilled a solo homer in the fourth, and Luke Schumer's two-run double in the fifth closed out the scoring for Nisswa by the 10-run rule.

Hardy, Boland and Miller each had two hits for the Lightning while Scott Sand tossed a complete game to earn the pitching win.

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