Millers will host tournament this weekend
The New Richmond Millers are trying to make some headway in trying to climb up the St. Croix Valley League standings.
The Millers took a step forward when they defeated St. Croix Falls by a 9-5 count last Wednesday. But that step forward was neutralized when the Millers lost at Hudson on Sunday in a 7-2 setback.
St. Croix Falls is a new addition to the SCVL and the Millers were able to pick up their second SCVL win against the new guys.
Millers manager Mike Stephens elected to have this be the game where Logan Peterson received his first start for the Millers. It proved to be a good move, with Peterson pitching six innings to earn the win.
The Millers started the game well, scoring twice in the first inning. The Millers loaded the bases on an error, a single by Caleb Van Roekel and a walk to Blake Berger. A pair of groundball outs got the two runs home.
The score remained 2-0 until the Millers added two runs in the fifth inning. Van Roekel and Berger singled, and they both scored when Curt Kleinschmidt reached on a throwing error.
St. Croix Falls got three runs in the sixth inning as Peterson began to tire. To get six strong innings out of Peterson was a plus as they try to build up his arm durability.
The Millers put the game away with five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. St. Croix Falls had some sloppy defense in that inning, helping the Millers load the bases. Van Roekel and Kleinschmidt each drilled two-run doubles, with the fifth run coming in on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Stephens.
Van Roekel pitched the final three innings to earn the save.
Sunday's game started out as an outstanding pitching duel between New Richmond's T.J. Wink and Hudson's Paul Johnson. Wink pitches for UW-Superior and Johnson is on the St. Olaf College pitching staff.
Hudson struck first, getting one run in the third inning. The Millers immediately answered, taking the lead with two runs in the fourth inning. Jon Will started the rally with a single and he scored on Berger's double to the gap. Berger would later score on Stephens' single.
Hudson's River Rats took control of the game with five runs in the sixth inning. One of the glaring needs for the Millers was exposed in this inning. Twice Hudson hit grounders that should have been turned for double plays. The Millers couldn't complete the double play either time, allowing Hudson to turn a small threat into five runs.
Hudson was led by former Amery standout Sean Parnell. Parnell then played for UW-Oshkosh before being drafted in the 16th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball draft by the Seattle Mariners. He played three seasons of minor league baseball before retiring.
Parnell went 4-4 in the game, including an RBI double in the sixth inning off Millers reliever Cody Torkelson.
"Nobody else could have hit that pitch," said Ryan Stephens, the Millers catcher. "He took it from just off the ground and hit into the left-center gap for a double."
The Millers have been trying to find answers for defensive issues around the infield. One of those answers appears to be Matt Peterson, who was given a chance to play first base. He played two strong defensive games there last week.
Stephens said the team management is considering inserting Mitch Paquin at shortstop. This would allow Scott Emerson to play centerfield, his natural position. This would move Berger to a corner outfield spot.
The Millers are scheduled to play at Osceola this Wednesday in a 7:30 p.m. start against the Braves.
This Friday through Sunday the Millers will be hosting their annual tournament. There will be one significant difference this year: the Millers won't be playing in their tournament.
This year's tournament field includes last year's champions, the Exeland Braves, the Hudson River Rats, Stillwater Loggers, Ellsworth Hubbers, Minneapolis Cobras, St. Paul Mudhens, Hager City Skeeters and Northwest Suburbs Redhawks. The tournament starts at 7 p.m. on Friday when Stillwater faces Ellsworth.
The Millers return to the field next Wednesday when they face Hager City at 7:30 p.m. at Citizens Field. Hager City is a new team that is hoping to be added to the SCVL for the 2009 season.