Millers end season with a gem
With their hopes of returning to the state playoffs at stake, the New Richmond Millers put together a gem of an effort in overwhelming the Hudson River Rats on Saturday night, 10-0.
The win gives the Millers a final record of 8-7 in the St. Croix Valley League. They won't find out for sure until late Tuesday night whether they've qualified for the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs.
Millers manager Ryan Stephens said he was confident that the Millers will advance to the state playoffs for the second straight year. He said the Millers are ranked 27th out of 32 possible teams, which should be enough to get them a spot in the playoffs.
The playoffs begin the weekend of Aug. 9-11 at four locales across the state (Osceola, Chippewa Falls, Coon Valley and Interwald). The state tournament will be played the following weekend in Osceola.
Saturday's win over Hudson was the reward for the Millers, convincingly defeating a team that finished ahead of them in the SCVL standings. New Richmond pitcher Hayden Zimmerman was dominating, as he's been in a number of games this season. Zimmerman was dealing with a bit of a tender shoulder, but it may have made him a better pitcher. He didn't waste any pitches, consistently pounding the lower half of the strike zone with his pitches. Zimmerman struck out 11 batters and walked one while throwing a six-hitter.
The Millers took a 3-0 lead in the third inning. The rally was the result of small ball and smart play, with one exception. The rally started when Nick Scritchfield singled on an infield jam job and Gabe Paulson reached on a throwing error after a nice bunt. The lone exception to the small ball approach was a towering single by Dan Leavens off the leftfield fence that scored Scritchfield.
Jon Will then bunted for a single that loaded the bases. Ryan Telschow continued his hitting revival, muscling a single to centerfield that scored Paulson. Grant Nelson followed with a bases-loaded walk to produce the third run of the inning.
In the later innings the Millers gradually pulled away from the Rats. Zimmerman led off the sixth inning with a double and scored on Paulson's sacrifice fly. Zimmerman's single was the only hit in a three-run rally in the seventh inning, when New Richmond batters coaxed three walks from Hudson's pitching.
Sensing victory, the Millers pounded the ball in the eighth inning, scoring three runs to win on the 10-run rule. Will, Telschow, Zimmerman and Scritchfield all singled to wrap up the victory.
Zimmerman had one of the best hitting games of his life, producing four hits in the game and scoring three runs.
Because the entire team played so well against Hudson, Stephens gave the team the week off. They'll start practicing early next week if they are selected for the playoffs.
Winning Saturday's game became a necessity because the Millers lost at Osceola last Wednesday, 7-2.
Osceola got the jump on the Millers, scoring twice in the first and second innings. The Millers had a number of scoring chances against Osceola pitcher Richie Klein, a former Miller. It wasn't until the sixth inning that the Millers could score. The Millers loaded the bases on walks and got one run on Nelson's sacrifice fly, but they stranded the bases loaded.