Lightning capture first Region 8C title
Jason Roepke drove in six runs as the Nisswa Lightning claimed their first Region 8C title and also earned a first-round bye for the Class C state tournament with a 14-8 win over Sobieski in an amateur baseball slugfest that featured a combined 3...
Jason Roepke drove in six runs as the Nisswa Lightning claimed their first Region 8C title and also earned a first-round bye for the Class C state tournament with a 14-8 win over Sobieski in an amateur baseball slugfest that featured a combined 38 hits on Saturday, Aug. 15.
In earning its seventh straight win and 14th victory in 15 games, Nisswa improved to 30-3 overall, and
will next play in the second round of state on Saturday, Aug. 29, in Cold Spring against the first-round winner between Long Prairie and Loretto. Sobieski will be playing in the opening round of state on Saturday, Aug. 22.
The Lightning were region runners-up to Sobieski in 2011 and Lastrup in 2014. Meanwhile, the loss marked the first time that the Skis have lost a region championship bid in nine opportunities. Last year, Sobieski finished fourth in the region and went on to win the Class C state title.
"This is our eighth season, and third time in the (region) final, so it's great to actually have the first region championship under the belt," said Nisswa player/manager Aaron Jenkins, who was also chosen MVP for Region 8C. "We now look forward to state. We really want to win state after twice finishing among the top eight."
On Saturday, both teams finished with 19 hits. Nisswa's offense was led by Luke Schumer with four hits and Roepke and Tyler Wittwer with three each and Drew Boland, Aaron Jenkins, Jeremiah Piepkorn and Adam Hardy each had two. Scott Litchy and Andrew Gurbada each had four hits for Sobieski.
"It's rare to see two teams combine for 38 hits, but both teams do have solid lineups," Aaron Jenkins said. "I knew it was going to be a slugfest early, especially after both teams scored right away."
The Skis grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first off starting pitcher Scott Sand. The Lightning answered on Boland's leadoff homer to cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first against pitcher Luke Thoma.
Nisswa broke the game open in the bottom of the third as it sent 14 hitters to the plate and scored eight runs. The first three runs came on Roepke's long three-run homer.
"I never saw it land, but you knew the ball was out when it left his bat," Aaron Jenkins said of Roepke's homer. "Jason is hitting around .400, but he hasn't had huge power numbers this year. It's nice to get him going in the playoffs because he's one of the best power hitters in the state."
Nisswa eventually loaded the bases before Brett Jenkins was hit by a pitch and Boland delivered an RBI single. Aaron Jenkins drew a bases-loaded walk and Piepkorn and Roepke both added RBI singles to make it 9-2 after three innings.
The Skis answered with two runs in the fourth when they took advantage of five straight singles. Sobieski continued to chip away in the fifth by scoring twice to make it 9-6. Any further threat ended when Nisswa reliever Tory Miller induced an infield popup to end the inning.
The Lightning extended the lead to 10-6 on Wittwer's RBI single in the fifth. Nisswa then put the game out of reach with four runs in the bottom of the sixth as Aaron Jenkins had an RBI single, Roepke added a two-run single and Schumer capped the rally with a run-scoring single to make it 14-6.
The Skis added two runs in the eighth and then loaded the bases in the ninth before Schumer came into pitch and forced Sobieski to ground out to end the game.
Miller, who didn't allow a run in 2.2 innings, was the winning pitcher while Thoma, who allowed eight runs in 2.2 innings, took the loss.