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Morning State Sports Briefs: Brewers begins interleague series with Houston

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sports Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

HOUSTON - The Milwaukee Brewers have had solid pitching from their starters - and they hope to keep it going tonight, when they open a three-game Interleague series at Houston.

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The Milwaukee starters have combined for a 2.26 ERA in their last nine games - six of which were won by the Crew. Before that, the Brewers went 3-and-10 in which the starters had a 7.62 ERA. Left-fielder Logan Schafer says the entire team is feeding off the success of the pitchers. In his words, "It's been great lately." Houston has also had strong starters lately. Their ERA is 2.02 during their last five games. The Astros won four straight before losing to the Chicago White Sox last night. But Houston still has the Majors' worst ERA at 4.73 - and they're in last in the American League West Division. The Brewers are tied for last with the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, 12 games under .500. Right-hander Alfredo Figaro goes for the Crew this evening against right-hander Jordan Lyles.

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Moving to the American League did not improve the fortunes of the Houston Astros. Still, Milwaukee Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke says his team can take nothing for granted when they open a three-game Interleague series tonight against the Astros in South Texas. Houston ended a four-game winning streak with a 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox last night. Had the Astros won, they would have pulled off their first four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park since 2009. Jason Castro doubled twice for Houston in that game. The Brewers were off yesterday, after losing 2-of-3 at Cincinnati. But the Crew did manage to jump out of sole possession of last place in the NL Central. They're now tied with Chicago for fourth, after the Cubs lost at Saint Louis last night. The Brewers and Cubs share the National League's third-worst records at 28-40. Houston remains last in the AL West, with the league's worst record at 26-45. Right-hander Alfredo Figaro will start for the Crew tonight against Houston right-hander Jordan Lyles.

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Milwaukee Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke says it's hard to find run production from the first base spot at the moment. Corey Hart, Mat Gamel, and Taylor Green have not played a game this season due to injuries - and the Crew has tried out five other players at first, none of whom have played the position before. Juan Francisco is the latest. He was recently traded to Milwaukee from Atlanta, and he hit his first homer with the Brewers over the weekend at Cincinnati. Roenicke says he likes Francisco defensively - and he still holds out hope that he can be a solid hitter. Hart is not due back until after the All-Star break, after having knee surgery last winter. In the meantime, Roenicke says he's counting on shortstop Jean Segura and center-fielder Carlos Gomez to continue their power surge in the absence of a solid first baseman. The Brewers also have a solid minor league prospect in Hunter Morris. Roenicke said Morris was given his chance at Spring Training.

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The Brewers confirmed today that they signed their top draft pick from earlier this month. Missouri high school right-hander Devin Williams received a signing bonus of one-and-a-third million dollars, more than what Major League Baseball suggested for Williams' draft position. He was the 54th player taken in the second round. The Brewers also announced the signings of their other four top draft picks - a couple of which were reported earlier by other media. They are high school shortstop Tucker Neuhaus and UW-Milwaukee right-hander Josh Uhen. All three of those picks are headed to the Brewers' extended spring training facility in Arizona. The Brewers also signed University of Arkansas right-hander Barrett Astin and Kent State righty Taylor Williams. They'll head to the Brewers' rookie league team in Helena, Montana.

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It appears that Jean Segura has the Brewers' best chance of becoming a National League All-Star this year. After the third round of fan voting, Segura is third at shortstop with almost one-point-two million votes. But Segura is actually second, because top vote-getter Troy Tulowitzki of Colorado will miss the July 16th Mid-Summer Classic due to a recent injury. For now, Segura is about 105,000 votes behind the defacto leader, Brandon Crawford of San Francisco. Ryan Braun remains fourth in the fan voting for the Top-Three outfield spots. But he's on the disabled list with his current right-hand injury - and he faces punishment due to his reported involvement in the Bio-genesis PED scandal. Jonathan Lucroy is fourth in the voting among National League catchers. Carlos Gomez is 11th for the three NL outfield spots.

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The Beloit Snappers won the first half title in the Midwest League's Western Division, with a walk-off victory over Clinton in the half's final game. Chris Bostick hit an RBI-single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, as Beloit won an 8-7 slugfest. Beloit went 43-27 in the first half, the best since the Snappers won their last division crown in 2007. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers' lower Class-"A" affiliate, finished in seventh place among the eight teams in the West at 29-36, 11-and-a-half games behind Beloit. Six Snappers and two Timber Rattlers are in Dayton, Ohio for the Midwest League All-Star Game tomorrow night. There's a block party and an autograph session for fans there tonight. The clubs are off until Thursday, when the second half begins.

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Wisconsin's two teams in the Class-"A" Midwest League will have nine players dressed for the league's All-Star Game tonight in Dayton, Ohio. The Beloit Snappers will have six representatives including two starters - catcher Bruce Maxwell and third baseman Renato Nunez. Also named were Beloit infielder Matt Olson and pitchers Raul Alcantara, Ryan Dull, and Michael Ynoa. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have three pitchers as All-Stars - Ryan Gibbard and Damien Magnifico will be joined by late addition Austin Blaski. After winning the league title a year ago, Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson and his entire coaching staff will lead the Western Division All-Stars. Bowling Green has the most selections, with nine for the Eastern squad. Also, Beloit's Nunez will compete in a Home Run Derby just before tonight's contest. Nunez leads the league with 13 homers this season. In a new twist, he and another West All-Star will be teamed up with a Dayton area Little League player. The East will also have the same set-up. Both team and individual winners will be named.

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Chris Bostick of the Beloit Snappers is the Midwest League's position player-of-the-week. Bostick, a second baseman, homered in back-to-back games last Monday and Tuesday. He also six hits and seven RBI's on Saturday and Sunday to help Beloit win the first-half title in the Western Division. Bostick hit a two-run, walk-off single in the final game of the half which helped give Beloit its first title since 2007. He was a 44th-round pick out of Rochester New York in 2011. Bostick leads the Snappers in stolen bases, and is second in homers and RBI's - but that was not enough to make the All-Star team. Six Beloit players, three Wisconsin pitchers, and the entire Wisconsin coaching staff will be part of the Western Division team for tonight's Midwest League Mid-Summer Classic in Dayton, Ohio.

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The University of Wisconsin women's hockey team has nine past, present, and future players auditioning for Team USA. The nine are among 41 taking part in the U.S. National Team Selection Camp. It began yesterday and runs through Sunday in Lake Placid, New York. Three of the nine Badgers played last season - Alex Rigsby, Brianna Decker, and Courtney Burke. The former Badgers at the camp are Hilary Knight, Erika Lawler, Meghan Duggan, Brooke Ammerman, and Jessie Vetter. Also invited was Annie Pankowski, an incoming freshman at the UW this fall who just finished her prep career with the North American Hockey Academy. Vetter and Rigsby are among four goal-tenders invited to the camp, which will help select players for a number of competitions leading up to next year's Olympics. The Olympic squad will be unveiled in late December.

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The University of Wisconsin women's tennis team named Tina Samara as its new head coach today. She was the coach at West Virginia for the last three seasons. She's a two-time All-American player at Georgia - and she has 25 years of experience in collegiate, pro, and national programs as a player-and-a-coach. Samara replaces Brian Fleischman, who stepped down in May after six years.

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Despite his limited schedule this year, Steve Stricker of Madison remains at No. 11 in the World Golf Rankings. He rose two places from a week ago, after his eighth-place finish at the U.S. Open near Philadelphia. Pewaukee native Mark Wilson, who did not qualify for the Open, fell one spot down the World Rankings to 114th. Jerry Kelly of Madison, who tied for 41st at the Merion Golf Club, rose nine spots on the list to 195th. Justin Rose, who won the Open, went up two spots to Number-Three in the rankings, behind first-place Tiger Woods and second-place Rory McIlroy. In the Fed-Ex Cup season point standings, Stricker went up three places to Number-16. Wilson dropped two spots to 90th, and Kelly rose four places to 81st. Rose catapulted 24 places up the standings for winning the U.S. Open. He's now at No. 6. Tiger Woods still leads the Fed-Ex standings.

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