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New Richmond Millers finish season on upswing

Josh Leavens delivers a pitch for the Millers during their win over Hager City in the team's homefield finale last Wednesday.

A challenging summer for the New Richmond Millers ended on an upturn, with the team winning two of its final three games.

The Millers finished their St. Croix Valley League season with a 4-11 record. Two of those wins came last week as they defeated Hager City and Spring Valley. The Millers almost had a perfect week, but they lost at Hudson on Sunday in 11 innings, 3-2.

Pitching has been unsettled for the Millers since early in the season, when staff ace Hayden Zimmerman went down with an elbow injury. The final week showed that the pitchers who had to step up into larger roles have progressed. Josh Leavens shut down Hager City in a 7-3 win on Wednesday and Coleman Roskam beat Spring Valley 8-5 on Friday.

Team manager Ryan Stephens said finding more pitching depth is one of the goals for next season. He's also looking to add more players for next year, hoping to carry a roster of 18 players.

This season, the Millers had to recruit a number of players. The performance of those rookies was easily one of the main high points of the season. Stephens said the team's Rookie of the Year Award would likely be a battle between Aaron Moore and Riley Kannel, but that John Craig, Kyle Miller, Hayden Nelson and Zac Parfitt would also deserve consideration for their contributions to the team. Stephens said the experience those players earned this season should help them to mature into quality SCVL players next year.

Wednesday's win over Hager City was dominated by Leavens. He allowed one run and struck out nine in seven innings of work. Stephens said that having Leavens serve as designated hitter, instead of playing in the field in games when he isn't pitching, has seemed to renew his pitching strength. Leavens also ripped a two-run double off the leftfield fence in the seventh inning.

Moore and Nelson led the team's offense in Wednesday's win, with each of them producing three hits.

The Millers were short of players for Friday's game, so they recruited Dan Berger and Aaron Frei to play at Spring Valley. Berger made an immediate impact, delivering a two-run double in the first inning. Stephens also smacked a two-run double in that inning as the Millers opened the game with a 5-0 advantage.

The Millers increased the lead to 8-1 in the fourth inning. Two of their runs were produced on a homer from Grant Nelson, the team's first bomb in nearly a month.

Sunday's game at Hudson was marred by a collision that put one of the Millers in the hospital.

Outfielder Curt Kleinschmidt and second baseman Jon Will crashed together violently as they both tried to catch a short flyball in the seventh inning. At the last moment, Kleinschmidt went into a slide, trying to avoid Will. Will's thigh struck Kleinschmidt's head, rendering him unconscious for two minutes. Kleinschmidt had several seizures while he was unconscious.

Kleinschmidt was transported by ambulance to Westfields Hospital, where he was given a clean bill of health.

With pitching in short supply, Stephens pitched all 11 innings of Sunday's game. Hudson scored the winning run in the 11th on a hit and an error.

Grant Nelson singled home Moore for New Richmond's opening run in the third inning. Will scored in the sixth inning, on a single from Mitch Paquin.

Due to space limitations, this story did not appear in the July 31 issue of The News. It will appear in next week's issue.

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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