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New Richmond Millers can't pull out of skid

Veteran shortstop Mitch Paquin is one of the few Millers players who has played consistently well this season.

The state playoffs are a subject that won’t be discussed by the New Richmond Millers for the next few weeks.

The Millers needed to win both of their St. Croix Valley Baseball League games last week to maintain their hopes of reaching the playoffs again this season. Instead, the Millers dropped both of their league games last week, and they pretty much saw any hopes of reach the playoffs washed away.

The two losses drop the Millers to 2-6 in league play. The Millers would need an incredible winning streak to get into contention for the playoffs. It would likely take an 8-7 or better record to qualify for the playoffs.

The losses have taken every form of agony for the Millers. Last Wednesday against St. Croix Falls, the Millers led for most of the game. They tried to make a comeback in the ninth inning, only to have the tying run thrown out at home plate for the final out in a 4-3 loss to the Bandits.

That was nothing compared to the Millers’ loss at Elmwood on Sunday. The teams tried playing through a torrential rainstorm, but the Millers came away soaked, losing 12-4.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier either. This Wednesday, the Millers are scheduled to play at River Falls at 7:30 p.m. The Fighting Fish are 5-0 in league play. The Millers play a non-league game versus Brill at Rice Lake on Friday in another 7:30 p.m. start. The third game of the weekend is the Millers’ best chance for a win. They play at winless Spring Valley at 7 p.m.

The Millers went into last Wednesday’s game with a 2-4 record and high hopes. Those hopes rose when the Millers scored twice in the first inning. A walk from leadoff hitter Kyle Miller and hits by Jon Will, Josh Leavens and Riley Kannel generated the runs.

Leavens took the mound and gave one of his best starts of the season. Instead of featuring his fastball, Leavens was giving the Bandits a heavy dose of breaking pitches. He kept the Bandits off balance because his breaking pitches had a sharp break. He gave up single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.

Leavens began to tire in the eighth inning and the Bandits scored twice to take a 4-2 lead.

The Millers tried to come back in the ninth on singles by Miller and Mitch Paquin. Leavens followed with a double that scored Miller. Paquin also tried to score on the play, but he was tagged out before he could reach the plate.

“It took a perfect relay to get him,” said Millers manager Ryan Stephens. “The shortstop threw a perfect ball to the plate. It was pretty devastating.”

Sunday’s game also started well, but went downhill. The Millers scored twice in the second inning to go ahead 2-0 on bases-loaded singles from Kannel and Stephens.

Coleman Roskam started on the mound for the Millers and he opened the game with three scoreless innings. He began to have trouble with footing on the wet mound and Elmwood took advantage, scoring twice in the fourth inning and four times in the fifth inning.

After one rain delay and another one looming, the game was called after seven innings.

Even in non-league games, things aren’t going right for the Millers. They played the Oakey Owls, a team made mostly of players over 35 years old, on Saturday. The Millers led 7-2 before Osceola made a comeback to lead 8-7. Osceola then decided it would call the game after seven innings, giving the Owls the 8-7 win.

Stephens used this game to get his reserves some game time. Dave Coombs, who hasn’t played organized ball in 12 years, led the team with three hits. Aaron Moore, a new addition from the Somerset High School team, got his first hit with a second inning double. Will, Leavens, Curt Kleinschmidt and Hayden Zimmerman each had two hits as the Millers built up their lead.

Stephens took the mound for the Millers on Saturday. He gave up two runs in the first inning. The Owls didn’t hoot again until the fifth inning, scoring six runs off some shoddy New Richmond defensive play. The Millers committed nine errors in the loss.

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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