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Millers need one win to make playoffs

New Richmond's Josh Leavens awaits a pitch during a recent Millers game.

Very little has come easy for the New Richmond Millers this season.

So it shouldn't be surprising that the Millers need to win one of their final two games of the season to earn a place in the Wisconsin Baseball Association playoffs.

The Millers play at Osceola at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday. The final regular season game for the Millers will be this Saturday, when they play at home against Hudson at 7:30 p.m.

That the season's playoff fate comes down to the final week isn't a surprise for the Millers.

"It's do or die," said team manager Ryan Stephens. "We're right there. We've been right there all season."

The Millers split their two St. Croix Valley League games last week. That leaves them with a 7-6 record and a team must have a record above the .500 mark to qualify for the state playoffs.

The brightest note out of last week's games was a revival of the Millers' offense. After struggling mightily in recent games, the Millers broke out in a big way last Wednesday, whipping St. Croix Falls 13-1.

The fireworks started in the third inning when the Millers tallied three times. Gabe Paulson singled to drive home the first run and Mitch Paquin followed with a two-run single.

That was a prelude to the fourth inning, when the Millers batted around on their way to a seven-run eruption. A two-run triple from Dan Leavens and a two-run double from Ryan Telschow were the biggest jolts of that rally.

The Millers put the game away by adding three runs in the sixth inning. Paulson, Paquin and Jon Will scored during that rally.

Coleman Roskam was called into surprise pitching duty for that game after Sean Conrad was called out of town for work. This was Roskam's first SCVL start and he proved worthy of the assignment. He threw a four-hitter in the seven-inning complete game, striking out three.

Stephens said the team played one of its finest defensive games behind Roskam, knowing the 2013 Baldwin-Woodville High School graduate might need some extra support. Roskam had the SCF hitters pounding the ball into the ground all night and the defense made all the plays behind him.

When the Millers played at Menomonie on Friday, it appeared to both teams that the Millers had gotten the final out of the game for the victory. But the umpire didn't see things the same way and the game ultimately went into extra innings. Menomonie eventually won 3-2.

New Richmond pitcher Hayden Zimmerman had pitched another gem, carrying a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning. With two outs, Zimmerman faced a 3-2 count. He then fired a pitch that the Millers thought was right in the heart of the strike zone, which set off an instant of celebration in the dugout. Only the umpire didn't view the pitch the same way, calling it a ball for a walk. Moments later, Menomonie got the tying run on a passed ball.

In the 10th inning, Menomonie got a one-ouy triple off New Richmond relief pitcher Josh Leavens. An intentional walk was issued to the Eagles' cleanup hitter. The strategy almost worked perfectly. The next Menomonie hitter hit a ground ball to second base, but the Millers barely missed completing the double play that would have sent the game to the 11th inning.

New Richmond continued its offensive resurgence in this game. Zimmerman doubled and scored on a Telschow single for the first run of the game in the second inning. The Millers broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning when Telschow singled home Paquin.

"The bats are coming back," Stephens said. "We're starting to put something together."

The Millers played a non-league game at Exeland on Sunday, losing 8-4. New Richmond scored four runs against UW-Stevens Point pitcher Jake Herbst in the first inning, but were shut out the rest of the way. Stevens, Paquin, Will and Roskam all took turns pitching in the game.

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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