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Future looks bright for New Richmond Millers

Coleman Roskam delivers a pitch during last Thursday's game against River Falls.1 / 2
Millers shortstop Logan Peterson tags out a River Falls runner trying to steal second base in last Thursday’s game. 2 / 2

You see it in Major League Baseball. Teams make a commitment to youth to turn their fortunes around for the next season.

That’s the move the New Richmond Millers decided to make midway through this season. The Millers played their final games of the season last week and they were competitive against three of the best teams in the area.

The Millers finished the season with a 3-15 record in the St. Croix Valley Baseball League. But after the team made a wholesale commitment to younger players in June, the team’s play steadily improved.

That was reflected most in run production. In the team’s May games, the Millers scored two runs per game. That improved to three runs per game in June and four runs per game in July.

The commitment to younger players included several who’ve gotten limited opportunities last season. Millers manager Ryan Stephens said the leaders of the new wave of talent include Caleb Manecke, Logan Peterson, Nate Olin and Caleb Belter.

“I call them all rookies. I’m excited for next year,” Stephens said.

The games played last week show how far the team has come since committing to the younger players. On Thursday the Millers hosted River Falls, the champion of the Northern Division of the SCVBL. This was a battle the whole way, with River Falls scoring in the ninth to win 7-6.

Manecke and Peterson both scored two runs in the game and they each contributed an extra-base hit. Aaron Moore knocked in three of New Richmond’s runs.

Coleman Roskam pitched the complete game for the Millers. River Falls got the winning run in the ninth inning on a soft single just over a drawn-in Millers infield with the bases loaded.

On Friday the Millers hosted the Eau Claire Bears, a team that has only lost three games this summer. The Millers gave three pitchers a chance to audition for next season, including NRHS senior Dante LaDuke, who was playing his first game for the Millers.

Olin started on the mound, working into the fourth inning. When he got into trouble in the fourth, Belter came on, retiring three straight batters to snuff out the threat. Midway through the game the Millers trailed 6-4.

Eau Claire gave LaDuke a rough induction into adult ball, scoring five runs in the sixth inning. After that, LaDuke settled in, allowing one run over the final three innings. He recorded six strikeouts in his four innings of work.

The offense was led in Friday’s game by Scott Emerson, who got on base four times, including a two-run single in the second inning that tied the game at 3-3. Friday’s home finale was played in front of one of the largest crowds of the season at Citizens Field.

The last outing of the Millers’ same came Sunday at Prescott, where the Pirates are one of the top teams in the SCVBL. This was another battle to the finish, with Prescott winning 7-6.

Stephens started on the mound Sunday and showed some rust early, giving up four runs in the first. The Millers battled back, tying at 6-6 with three runs in the sixth inning. Olin, Belter and Moore provided key hits in that rally.

Prescott scored the deciding run in the seventh inning.

Stephens announced the team awards for the 2016 edition of the Millers.

Most Valuable: Jon Will

Most Improved: Nate Olin

Rookie of the Year: Caleb Manecke

Workhorse Award: Coleman Roskam

Unsung Hero Award: Hayden Nelson

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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