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Losses to Hudson, SCF end Millers' hopes of reaching playoffs

Several factors worked against the New Richmond Millers in their hopes of returning to the WBCA state playoffs in 2010.

The Millers officially ran out of playoff possibilities with losses to Hudson and St. Croix Falls last week.

All of the late-season conjecture on the Millers' part would have all been for naught anyway.

The Millers were battling late in the season, hoping to finish with a 9-7 record in the St. Croix Valley League. When the dust had settled after last week, it was clear that seven teams from the SCVL would finish ahead of the Millers in the league standings. And from the results around the state, it was found that the league was only going to get seven slots in this year's state playoff field.

The top seven teams in the league could all finish with 10 or more wins. Millers manager Ryan Stephens said the top-level talent throughout the league this year was one of the factors that worked against the Millers.

This was not a bountiful offensive season for the Millers, another reason for the team's levelling off.

At the end of the season pitching depth became a factor. Cody Torkelson and Tim Brown weren't available much over the final month of the season due to work commitments. That led to a heavy work load for the remaining pitchers, plus using pitchers who hadn't worked from the mound much this season.

The crushing loss for the Millers came last Wednesday, in a makeup game of a previous rainout with Hudson. The Millers were hoping this would be the game that put them over the top in their chase for a playoff spot. Instead, Hudson lit up the Millers' pitching like a Christmas tree, winning 17-2 in seven innings.

Hayden Zimmerman has been the Millers' ace this summer. The heavy number of innings, especially after a long college season at St. John's, seemed to wear Zimmerman down recently. His pitches did not have the same pop against Hudson and he gave up six runs in the first three innings before being pulled.

Aaron Frei took over and Hudson scored in every inning against him.

The only Miller runs of the night came in the fourth inning. A walk, an error and a two-run single from Scott Emerson were the sum total of the team's offense for the night.

On Friday the Millers played at Hager City. They were hoping for an easy night, because the Skeeters have only won once in league play. Nothing has come easily for the Millers. They won, but they needed 10 innings to scratch out the 12-7 victory.

Logan Peterson got the start on the mound.

"He gave us the best eight innings he possibly could give," Stephens said.

Peterson was knocked out of the game when Hager City rallied to tie the score at 7-7 in the ninth inning. Corey Berger pitched a perfect tenth inning to get his first career win with the Millers.

The "old men" led the Miller offense at Hager City. Jon Will, the Millers' 39-year-old second baseman, had a game for the ages. Will reached base in all seven of his plate appearances, on three hits and four walks. He also drove home three runs, including two in the five-run tenth inning rally.

Stephens, who isn't far from his 34th birthday, produced three hits and drove home two runs.

It wasn't just the older players who flourished. Frei reached base in all six of his appearances of four walks and two singles. Zimmerman reached on three hits and two walks. The Millers finished the game with 15 hits and they heaped 12 walks on top of that.

Any playoff hopes the Millers had were erased when they lost at St. Croix Falls on Saturday, 8-5.

Berger started on the mound, but defensive mistakes gave SCF two runs in the first inning. The Millers matched that with two runs in the second off singles by Matt Peterson, Zimmerman and Joe Konop.

Before the Millers could score again, the Bandits had taken a 7-2 lead. The Millers had one burst left, getting three runs in the fifth inning. Peterson drove in one run and Grant Nelson singled home the final two runs.

The offense went to sleep after that. The Millers had one baserunner in the final four innings of the game.

The final SCVL game for the Millers is this Friday, when they play at Citizens Field at 7:30 p.m. against Hudson. The Millers will play a non-league game at Haugen at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The annual Millers alumni game date has been changed. The game will be played on Saturday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. at Citizens Field.