New Richmond Millers counting on a bright future as 2017 season ends
This has been a season of learning for the New Richmond Millers.
Among the things they learned is they didn’t want to finish the season with the worst record in the St. Croix Valley Baseball League. They made sure that didn’t happen. In a battle of the two bottom teams in the SCVBL, the Millers came out on top, defeating Hager City 7-4 at New Richmond’s Citizens Field on Saturday, July 29.
The Millers finished their season on Sunday, July 30, losing on their home field to Prescott, 9-2. Prescott finished the season with the best record in the SCVBL, going 14-2.
Knowing that the Millers were going to be extremely young this season, manager Ryan Stephens instructed the players to “not look at the standings,” knowing wins might be scarce in the rebuilding season. With more than half of the roster being 21 years old or younger, the Millers were likely the younger team in all 22 of the games they played this season. Stephens called his team “winners” forthe quality of the effort they gave this season.
“They fought tooth and nail,” he said.
Stephens gives unofficial team awards at the end of each season. He said the Most Valuable Player honor would have to be shared by Nate Olin and Caleb Manecke.
“Hands down, they were our two most valuable players,” Stephens said.
The Most Improved accolade would go to infielder Tommy Grygienc, who impressed Stephens with his play and his progress in being a vocal member of the team.
The “try hard” award would go to Austin Juhl.
“He just loves to play,” Stephens said.
Stephens said the Millers are setting up for a bright future in many ways. He said the team has four to five solid outfielders and a similar group of infielders. Catching appears to be well stocked with Manecke and Noah Towberman.
Pitching is the area where the team needs to make additions. Grant Riemenschneider showed promise in his first season with the team and Coleman Roskam is a capable pitcher, but the Millers are hoping they can add several more strong pitching options for next season.
One of those options may have presented himself last Wednesday, when the Millers hosted the St. Paul Mudhens, a Class A team. The Millers lost 8-7 in 11 innings, showing good fight against a top tier opponent. The starting pitcher for New Richmond was Josh Buschette, a former teammate of Olin’s at Century College. Buschette pitched six solid innings in his first extensive pitching time this year.
Logan Peterson did his first pitching of the season and looked very strong in relief, working several scoreless innings before giving up an unearned run in the 11th inning.
Olin was the hitting standout of the game, finishing with four hits and four runs driven in. Jordan Luehman delivered two hits as he recovers from his broken wrist.
That led into the weekend and Saturday’s battle with Hager City. Hager City scored once in the first against Roskam, but the Millers answered back with four runs in the bottom of the first. Grygienc led off with a single and Manecke doubled. Olin continued his hot hitting with a two-run single. Curt Kleinschmidt and Luehman added singles later in the inning.
The offense didn’t strike again until Hager City tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh. Juhl led off with a single and Grygienc walked. Manecke ripped a double that scored both runners. Aaron Moore then singled home Manecke.
Riemenschneider pitched two scoreless innings to save the win for Roskam.
Olin was thrust into the starting pitching role against Prescott Sunday when the scheduled pitcher didn’t show up for the game. Olin struggled with his control from the outset and Riemenschneider had to come in to finish off the first. Prescott scored five runs in the inning. From there on, this was a well-played game. Riemenschneider pitched through the fifth, with Stephens allowing one run over the final four innings.
The offense didn’t get rolling until the ninth, when Brock Luehman delivered a two-run double to score Stephens and Caleb Belter. Luehman finished the game with three hits.
The quality performances of the final week is another reason why Stephens believes the Millers’ fortunes will improve in the future.
“We have some ballplayers who are really good,” Stephens said.