Amatuer Baseball: Nisswa hoping for no championship hangover this summer

The Nisswa Lightning come into the amatuer baseball 2023 season as reigning Class C Champions.

Amateur baseball teams from Buckman and Nisswa celebrate.
The Buckman Billygoats and Nisswa Lightning celebrate after playing against each other for the Class C State Tournament title Monday, Sept. 5, 2022.
Contributed by Sandy Tautges

NISSWA — The Nisswa Lightning won’t be sneaking up on anyone this summer.

Last year’s Class C Minnesota Town Ball State Baseball Champion returns most of its roster and hopes to repeat.

Nisswa finished 23-3 last year on its way to the state title. The Lightning plays in the North/East Division of the Victory League. In the Class C state title game, Nisswa played its Victory League division foe Buckman.

The Lightning beat Buckman 12-3 to claim their first state title.

“It was a surreal feeling,” Nisswa manager Aaron Jenkins said. “We’ve had a lot of really good teams over the years and that last season started where we were hovering a little above .500 and then I’m not really sure what happened, but everything clicked and we won our last 17 games and went on an unbelievable roll. It was fun.”


Jenkins added he hopes the team doesn’t have a letdown from winning the title.

“We put it all together last year and we have been so close and so we have to try to maintain that level going forward,” he said.

Nisswa will stay in Class C to defend its title. The Class C winner no longer has to move up to Class B.

“That used to be the rule quite a few years ago,” Jenkins said. “There is a point system they use like past success and the type of players you have and we are not a Class B team.”

The Lightning have played amateur baseball since 2009. In their history, the Lightning have reached the Class C State Tournament seven times. They reached the Class C State Tournament three years in a row from 2014-2016, which included a third-place finish in 2015.

“We had a couple of years there where we were not quite as good,” Jenkins said. “Last year, we flew under the radar a little bit and no one expected us to make any noise. That might be the toughest part about repeating is that we are not going to fly under the radar anymore. We are going to have that target on our back.”

Prior to 2009, Nisswa as a town reached the state tournament three other times outside of the Lightning in 1938, 1963 and 1978.

The team Nisswa beat in the state title, Buckman, is no stranger to the Class C State Tournament.


Last year marked the Billygoats fifth state tournament appearance in six years. Buckman was third in 2019, second in 2001 and was the Class C Champions in 1999.

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“It’s crazy to say that we played a team in our own division for the state championship,” Jenkins said. “Buckman was the five-seed going into our league playoffs and made the state championship game. I guess that says it all. Our league is one of the best if not the best in the state top to bottom and that’s why our teams have always had success — not just Nisswa, but Sobieski, Buckman has had plenty of runs, Avon, Pierz Lakers — the Victory League has always been a good league.”

The Sobieski Skis were the Class C Champions in 2021 and play in the South/West Division of the Victory League. The Skis were Class C champions in 2014 as well as earned second-place finishes in 2016 and 2018. Now Sobieski plays in Class B.

“It’s fun to play good teams week in and week out,” Jenkins said. “You never know what can happen when you get into the league playoffs. We are so deep that you can see lower seeded teams upset higher seeds and make the region tournament and end up in the state tournament. It’s just fun to play good teams every week.”

Four Lightning players were named to the State All-Tournament Team last year in Nate DeChaine, Brett Kramer, Jeremiah Piepkorn and Kody Ruedisili.

Ruedisili led the team with a .500 batting average, including 11 home runs, 33 RBIs and 15 doubles.

DeChaine anchored the pitching staff. He went 11-0 with a 3.02 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 80.1 innings pitched. DeChaine also hit .405 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs last year.

Piepkorn hit for a .433 average last year with two home runs and 17 RBIs while Kramer, who was a draftee for the Lightning from Fort Ripley, held a 0.71 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched in the Class C Tournament.


“We are losing very few guys,” Jenkins said. “We should have our entire starting lineup back. We’ve had a good core group of guys that are now getting up there in age. We have been able to mix in some younger guys and family members that are in the area as well as just some people we’ve met along the way.”

Although Jenkins is listed as the manager on the Lightning website, he said his dad Paul Jenkins does all the in-game managing for the team, including in their championship run last year.

“We will give some input, but my dad pretty much runs all the on-field stuff,” Jenkins said. “It was great. He’s been playing amateur ball his entire life and this was his first state championship that he's been involved with. I was really happy for him and he’s been a high school coach for quite a few years and it meant a lot to have him on the field.”

Brainerd Bees fold

There will be no Class B amateur baseball in Brainerd this summer.

The Brainerd Bees folded in February due to a lack of player commitment. Last year, the Bees finished 7-14.

“We just didn’t have enough players,” Bees manager Tim Martin said. “It’s been building over time. It was a hard decision because I’ve been doing it since 1992. With it being done now, I’m good. I’ve played long enough personally and guys have had time to find another team since we folded in February.”

Martin added don’t expect the Bees to make a return in 2024.

“I’m done,” he said. “If the Bees want to start up again, I’ll help them in the background, but won’t play or manage.”


The Bees played over 30 years which included five state tournament appearances. The Bees finished third in the Class C State Tournament in 1991 and followed it with a State Tournament appearance in 1992.

The Bees also reached the State Tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2006.

Martin said there were a lot of memories from the 30 years of Bees baseball.

“The relationships with the other teams will always stand out,” Martin said. “And playing with my two boys. I would say playing with two boys would be the first memory and then the relationship with the other teams.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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