Just when the New Richmond Millers’ pitching staff was stretched to its limit, Dante LaDuke supplied exactly what the team needed.

On Sunday, LaDuke pitched a complete game in leading the Millers to an 8-6 win at Bay City. The win keeps alive the Millers’ hopes of qualifying for the Wisconsin state playoffs. The Millers have two road games coming up quickly, playing at Ellsworth on Tuesday and at Menomonie on Wednesday.

LaDuke battled through one rough inning, giving up four runs in the fourth inning. He was at his best in the late innings, silencing Bay City over the final three innings. It was his first complete game for the Millers in two years.

“He was pretty stoked that he did nine innings,” said Millers manager Ryan Stephens.

Stephens said that by not needing any of the other pitchers Sunday, they’ll be sharper for the four games scheduled this week.

The game was played in highly intense heat and humidity. The Miller bats broke through by scoring five runs in the third inning. Jon Will started the inning and Caleb Manecke added to his team-leading homer total with a two-run towering shot. Two runs scored on an error, before Brock Luehman doubled home his brother, Jordan, for the final run.

The Millers added two runs in the fourth inning when Reece Lucas doubled home Will and Manecke. Lucas doubled again in the sixth inning, this time plating Noah Towberman.

In pro baseball, organizations are trying to figure out if using pitchers to pitch an inning or two at the start of the games is a fad or a wave of the future.

For the Millers, getting short starts wasn’t planned, but it has become a fact of life in recent games. Struggles by the starting pitchers led to losses Wednesday against River Falls and Friday in the annual New Richmond Fun Fest game against Hudson.

With neither starting pitcher making it through the third inning, it forced a great deal of shuffling to get pitchers to cover the remainder of the game. In Friday’s game, pitcher Coleman Roskam gave up three runs in the first inning and two more in the second. Stephens pulled Roskam, worried that his decreased velocity was caused by heat stroke.

Will pitched the next four innings, but the Millers couldn’t recover completely in the 9-5 loss to Hudson. 

After falling behind 6-0, the Millers made a comeback attempt. Jaryd Marks singled home two runs in the third inning to start the comeback. Blake Kretovics scored in the fourth inning by reaching on an error, stealing second and scoring on a wild pitch. The lead was trimmed to 6-4 when Marks singled home Jack Bau.

Hudson then ended the Millers’ comeback thoughts by scoring three runs in the sixth inning.

Marks and Towberman had three hits in an otherwise pedestrian offensive night against New Richmond High School grad Noah Berger, Hudson’s starting pitcher.

On Wednesday, the Millers lost at River Falls, 8-4. The Millers led early, getting one run in the first inning and three more in the second. River Falls knocked out Millers’ starter Ryan Kling in the third inning with four runs. The scored stayed 5-4 until the seventh inning after Millers reliever Reece Lucas worked three scoreless innings. River Falls tallied the final runs in the seventh inning on a bases-loaded double.

Stephens said the players need work in grasping the team concept.

“On paper, we should be awesome. When them together in a game, we have individuals,” he said.