New additions provide needed spark for New Richmond Millers
Some new blood invigorated the New Richmond Millers this weekend.
The Millers faced the River Falls Fight'n Fish on Friday at Citizens Field. The Fish hammered and demoralized when the two teams played five days early, 20-0.
That was the final straw for the Millers. They went out and found several younger players who made an immediate impact when the teams played on Friday. The Millers kept battling and in 10 innings, they knocked off the fish, 5-4. This was the Fish's first loss in St. Croix Valley League play this season.
More importantly, the win breathed new life into the Millers' chances of reaching the state playoffs this season. The Millers are now 5-4 in SCVL play.
The Millers play two more SCVL games this weekend. The Millers will host the Osceola Braves at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the annual New Richmond Fun Fest clash between these two teams. This is always one of the most well attended Millers games of the season and the rivalry should draw another large crowd this Friday.
On Sunday the Millers will hit the road, playing at St. Croix Falls in a 1 p.m. start.
The most critical new addition to the Millers for the weekend was pitcher Hayden Zimmerman. Zimmerman wanted to take some time off from baseball after his college season at St. John's University. He decided he was ready to make his return Friday and he will likely pitch once a week for the Millers for the rest of the season.
From the start of Friday's game, Zimmerman had excellent pop on his pitches. Zimmerman pitched the entire 10 innings on Friday, including waiting out a 90-minute rain delay in the sixth inning.
Each time River Falls scored, the Millers battled back. River Falls scored once in the first inning, but the Millers quickly tied the score. It remained 1-1 until River Falls scored twice in the seventh inning after the rain delay.
The Millers matched that when Matt Peterson laced a two-run double to the right-center gap, scoring Zimmerman and Grant Nelson to tie the game. Peterson doubled on a 3-0 pitch off River Falls starter Dan Morgan, a former Millers pitcher.
In the eighth inning the Millers took a 4-3 lead, but River Falls tied the score in the ninth inning.
The Fish nearly took the lead in the top of the tenth inning. They tried to score a runner from third, but Peterson's throw from centerfield was on target, with Nelson putting on the tag at home plate.
In the bottom of the tenth the Millers loaded the bases. Sean Conrad, one of the team's new additions, then drew a bases-loaded walk to force home the winning run.
Conrad was one of two additions from Somerset that helped the Millers on Friday. The other was Cody Joiner, who filled in for injured second baseman Jon Will all weekend.
Millers manager Ryan Stephens had tried to recruit 2011 New Richmond High School players, but Nelson is the only one who has joined the team thus far. So he turned his sights to Somerset and found two keepers.
Jordan Maxon and Ryan Telschow led the Millers with two hits apiece on Friday. Both teams finished the game with nine hits.
Stephens said there was a visible difference in the team's play on Friday, compared to the previous week. The win snapped a four-game losing streak in SCVL play.
"It looked like a team that wanted to play," Stephens said. "When you have confidence in your pitcher, you look like you want to play."
On Saturday the Millers were back at Citizens Field, playing a non-league game against the Metro Knights. The Millers again played a much sharper game than the previous week. Unfortunately, they couldn't capitalize on their frequent baserunners, suffering a 3-2 loss.
Josh Bottolfson made his first pitching start of the season for the Millers and gave a respectable showing, giving up three runs while working into the fifth inning. Conrad then entered the game and didn't allow a run the rest of the way.
"The kid's got some stuff," Stephens said of his new pitcher. Conrad also had an RBI single to drive in one of the Millers' runs on Saturday.
Stephens has the team's pitching rotation planned for the weekend. Zimmerman is scheduled to start in Friday's game against Osceola. Conrad will draw his first start on Sunday at St. Croix Falls.