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New Richmond Millers now lead St. Croix Valley League at 3-0

A walk-off homer for the first time in more than a decade was part of a wild, improbable sweep of St. Croix Valley League games by the New Richmond Millers this weekend.

On Saturday night the Millers were down to the final strike of the ninth inning when Dan Leavens launched a walk-off two-run homer to give the Millers a 2-0 win over the Bay City Bombers at Citizens Field. The Millers' magic act continued on Sunday when they rallied from a 4-1 deficit to stun the Prescott Pirates, 5-4.

These wins raise the Millers' SCVL record to 3-0. They will play again this Wednesday at the Menomonie Eagles at 7:30 p.m. The Millers then have a week between games, playing at the St. Paul Mudhens at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30.

Outstanding pitching kept the Millers in a position to win Saturday's game. Sean Conrad worked the first five innings of the shutout. After a 45-minute rain delay, Josh Leavens entered the game. He pitched the final four innings, earning the win. Conrad and Leavens combined to throw a four-hitter. They struck out 15 Bombers, with Conrad logging eight Ks and Leavens getting seven.

The Millers had several great chances to score on Saturday, including stranding the bases loaded in the second, fourth and fifth innings. They left 13 runners on base in the game.

That set up the decisive ninth inning. With one out, Jordan Maxon singled. He moved to second base on a passed ball.

With two outs, Leavens worked his at-bat to a 3-2 count. The Bay City pitcher tried to sneak a curveball past Leavens. Leavens was in front of the low breaking ball, but managed to lift the pitch high over the second fence in leftfield to give the Millers the win.

Millers manager Ryan Stephens said he thought this was the first walk-off homer for the team since Dan Meyer hit one more than a decade ago against Osceola in the annual Fun Fest game.

The Millers were pretty quiet starting the game Sunday, with just two baserunners in the first four innings against Prescott. The Millers finally got on the board in the fifth inning when Matt Peterson reached on a fielder's choice, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a Prescott error.

Stephens started on the mound for the Millers, working the first seven frames. Prescott scored in the sixth and seventh to build up a 4-1 lead.

The Millers are quickly building a reputation as a late-inning team and they added to that on Sunday. The Millers scored three times in the seventh to tie the game. Grant Nelson started the rally with a single and Josh Leavens walked. Prescott's pitcher, who had been doing so well, suddenly struggled. Peterson singled and a run scored when Mitch Paquin reached on an error. Another scored on a wild pitch. The Millers got the tying run home on a double steal.

Prescott brought in their ace, Nick Johnson, for the eighth inning, but he couldn't hold the Millers down. Jon Will led off with a single and he moved to second on Nelson's two-out single. Josh Leavens followed with a floater down the leftfield line for a single that brought home Will for the go-ahead run.

Josh Leavens came on to pitch the final two innings, getting his second win of the weekend. The Millers finished off the win by getting Johnson to ground into a double play in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Stephens said both teams were shocked by the quick turn of events in the late innings when it looked like Prescott was in control of the game.

"We all left the field dumbfounded. We had no idea how we won the game," he said.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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