By Eric Kraushar

news@mnbaseball.org

Aaron Jenkins hit a three-run homer to give Nisswa the lead for good in a 14-2 win over Carver in the opening round of the 2023 state tournament. Teammate Nate DeChaine followed suit with a three-run blast later in the game.

On Sunday, in the second round against Cannon Falls, Jenkins’ two-run homer gave Nisswa a 2-1 lead early on. Two batters later, a runner on base, DeChaine did it again. His home run estimated six feet farther.

Would it surprise you to find out Jenkins and DeChaine are cousins?

“There’s probably some cousin rivalry there. He probably doesn’t want to let me have something nice without him. I’m a lot older than he is, so you have to let him be like you,” Jenkins laughed. 

Jenkins drove in four runs, while DeChaine was 4-for-5 with three extra-base hits, a triple shy of the cycle, in Nisswa’s 8-3 win over Cannon Falls in Litchfield.

The Lightning pounded out 14 hits one week after scoring 14 runs.

“It’s state tournament time, we’ve been here before, and I think you want it a little more. We feel like we can hit the ball pretty well, score some runs. It’s a great atmosphere. We love playing on these fields. We just want to keep it going,” Jenkins said.

Nisswa, the defending state Class C champions, have looked the part thus far at the state tournament. They have now won seven straight state tournament games.

Somehow, though, the Lightning continue to fly under the radar. 

“Last year, no one knew anything about us,” Jenkins said. “The fact that we’re flying under the radar still, we like that. We like playing the underdog role. We feel like we have good pitching, some good draftees, some good hitting, some good defense, so we feel like we have a shot.”

Cannon Falls, Region 5 champion, grabbed the first lead on a Luke Winchell bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the second inning.

Nisswa put four runs on the board in the third inning on home runs from Jenkins and DeChaine. Jenkins’ home run came on an 0-2 pitch.

“He (Cannon Falls pitcher Nick Drinken) was really good,” Jenkins said. “When you face a good pitcher, early on, you never know what you’re going to get. I got a lot of fastballs in my first at-bat, and I battled in my second at-bat and was able to get a slider up. I had a two-strike approach, but was able to barrel it up.”

Nisswa added a pair of runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Sam Peterson cleared the wall with a two-run homer, while Gates Cook started an eighth-inning rally with a pinch-hit single, later scoring on Jenkins’ two-run single.

Cannon Falls managed two runs in the eighth inning on a Beau Zimmerman run-scoring single and a bases loaded walk.

Pierz draftee Chad Weiss set down the final four Bears to close the door on the win for Nisswa. Fellow Pierz draftee Noah Cekalla relieved DeChaine in the third inning, throwing five shutout innings for the win.

Brady Schmitz, Peter Haggerty and Zimmerman each had multi-hit games for Cannon Falls.

Nisswa will play New Ulm in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 4:30 p.m. in Litchfield.

Which cousin will star on Labor Day weekend for Nisswa?

Entering their third game, Jenkins is currently 4-for-9 with two home runs, eight RBIs and two runs scored, while DeChaine is 5-for-9 with two home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored.

ST. MARTIN 6, LORETTO 5

St. Martin exploded for six runs, and it needed every one of them.

Loretto’s Corey Koskie cut a three-run deficit to 6-5 with a two-out double in the ninth inning, but New Munich draftee Ty Reller earned the save, getting a fly ball out to right field to preserve the win Sunday in Litchfield.

St. Martin had scored two total runs in its last four state tournament games dating back to 2020. Their last state win coming in 2021 despite being no-hit by Fergus Falls.

Loretto fell despite outhitting the Martins 18-9.

In a back-and-forth game, St. Martin took the lead for good with a four-run seventh inning. Brady Goebel drove in two runs with a double before Scott Lieser helped his own cause with a two-bagger as well. A fourth run crossed home plate on an error; one of four in the game for Loretto.

The Larks twice had leads at 2-1 and 3-2. Tyler Maher and Corey Koskie each had RBIs in the third inning before Joshua Koskie plated the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning.

The Nos. 4 through 8 hitters for Loretto — Tyler Maher (3-for-5, double), Joshua Koskie (4-for-5), Bradley Koskie (3-for-4), and Brandan Brolin (2-for-4) — collected 12 hits.

Scott Lieser worked the first 8 2/3 innings for St. Martin, inducing a pair of double plays late in the game. He struck out six batters and did not walk a batter. Lieser also led the Martins offense with three hits.

St. Martin took an early lead on a Tanner Arceneau first-inning run-scoring single. The Martins later tied the game on a suicide squeeze from pinch hit Ben Scroeder.

St. Martin faces Avon on Friday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Dassel. The Martins lost to Avon 2-1 in 10 innings in the 2022 state tournament.

SARTELL 8, NEW YORK MILLS 0

The way John Schumer was pitching for Sartell and the defense was playing behind him, it felt like a run or two would be enough in Sunday’s finale in Litchfield.

Sartell, unable to push across a run in the third inning, despite the bases loaded — a runner thrown out at home plate on an infield grounder — the Muskies did come through in the fifth inning.

Ethan Carlson connected on an 0-2 pitch to plate the eventual winning run as Sartell defeated New York Mills 8-0. Carlson stole second base and later scored on a wild pitch for game’s second run.

Austin Henrichs’s two-run double broke open the game in the eighth inning for Sartell. The Muskies scored six times in the frame, getting run-scoring swings from Andrew Deters, Jacob Merrill and Carlson.

Schumer, meanwhile, cruised on the mound for the Muskies. He allowed just one hit through seven innings. For the game, he pitched to just two batters over the minimum, striking out six batters with three hits and one walk allowed.

Sartell plays Maple Lake at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2 in Delano.

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