Three wins away from a state championship the Nisswa Lightning will attempt to seize the opportunity this weekend.
Nisswa plays Isanti in the semifinals of the winners’ bracket in the Class C state tournament at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Brownton. If it beats Isanti it will play the Waconia-Big Lake winner at 7 p.m. Saturday at Glencoe.
If the Lightning lose Friday they would have to play at 4 p.m. Saturday at Brownton against the New Prague/Mankato Mets winner. Nisswa would then have to win two more games just to get to the championship at 1 p.m. Monday at Brownton. A second championship game, if necessary, would follow Monday.
“This was our goal coming into the season, to get to the state tournament and compete for the state title,” Lightning manager Aaron Jenkins said. “We thought we had a good shot to get here, and now that we’re here we’re trying to make the most of it.”
Nisswa beat Isanti 9-5 for the championship in the Sartell-St. Stephen tournament June 5. That fact, Jenkins said, doesn’t necessarily give the Lightning an edge Friday.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “We did not see either of their top two pitchers, It could be more of a challenge against those guys this time.”
Nisswa is coming off a thrilling 2-1, 13-inning win over Fairmont in the first round of double elimination. Jason Roepke turned in a monster effort on the mound, throwing 148 pitches and a complete game. He walked just one and struck out six. He allowed just four hits and one run (unearned).
Roepke threw eight shutout innings before Fairmont scored in the top of the ninth.
“He was definitely on,” Jenkins said. “It was the best I’ve ever seen him pitch. It was probably one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen.”
Jenkins believes Nisswa has the pitching depth to contend for the title, whether it has to win three or five games. Luke Schumer, Lincoln Messner, Aaron and Brett Jenkins, Brett Cloutier and David Berndgen round out the pitching staff.
“I think with Brett (Kramer) and Jason going on the mound for us, if Roepke’s arm is available, I think we have just as good a shot as anybody,” Jenkins said. “I think they’re two of the best pitchers in the state.”
The Lightning have scored just nine runs in three state games but that doesn’t concern Jenkins.
“I think we’re pretty confident in our offense,” he said. “We haven’t been able to put up many runs in the state tournament, facing good pitching. Personally, I think we’re due to have a breakout game.”
Games on radio, online
KLTF-AM Radio 960 in Little Falls will broadcast Nisswa’s games, which also will be streamed online at fallsradio.com.
1, Drew Boland, CF
2, Luke Schumer, LF
3, Aaron Jenkins, 3B
4, Jason Roepke, RF
5, Adam Hardy, 1B
6, Morgan Shepherd, C
7, Mark Germain, 2B
8, Tyler Wittwer, DH
9, Brett Jenkins, SS
P: Brett Kramer (draftee from Fort Ripley)