Wednesday State Sports Briefs: First female official ever in the NFL takes field in Packers-Chargers game
GREEN BAY - Packers' defensive back Charles Woodson says it's "probably about time" that the NFL put a female official on the field. With the regular officials locked out in a contract dispute, Shannon Eastin will make history tomorrow night when she takes the field for the Packers-Chargers exhibition game in San Diego.
Woodson told Sirius NFL Radio that he's sure women have probably tried getting into officiating at some point. He said he assumed that quote, "there's somebody qualified out there, that we won't have to jump all over for making bad calls." And Woodson said, "Hats off to her, and whoever decided to make it happen." The 42-year-old Eastin has.
The defensive line was one of the main concerns for the Green Bay Packers going into training camp - but several players have made the presence known. And the coaches expect to learn more after tomorrow night's Packer exhibition opener at San Diego. Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, and second-round rookie Jerel Worthy are at the top of depth chart, with Mike Neal to serve a four-game suspension once the regular season begins. Beyond that, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac likes some of what he sees so far from his second-line players. He says former Miami Dolphin Phillip Merling has shown great improvement during the second week of camp - and his big challenge was learning defensive coordinator Dom Capers' schemes. Trgovac said Jarius Wynn makes up for his weaknesses by giving his best effort - and he made a number of good plays last season as a result. Also, Lawrence Guy is returning after being bothered with a concussion during his rookie season a year ago. Trgovac says Guy has good ability, but he needs to play more consistently and quote, "turn it loose."
Jordy Nelson is having a solid training camp for the Green Bay Packers. Receivers coach Edgar Bennett says Nelson is an "elite receiver" - and he's still improving. After scoring two touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, Nelson caught 15 last year in a break-out season for Green Bay. He had 1,263 receiving yards, close to what he had in his first three years combined. And Pro Football Weekly rated Nelson as the NFL's 19th best receiver going into training camp, with grades similar to Stevie Johnson of Buffalo, Jeremy Maclin of Philadelphia, and Dez Bryant of Dallas. Bennett says Nelson is a difference-maker with what he calls the "three S-words - size, strength, and speed." Offensive coordinator Tom Clements calls the 27-year-old Nelson a great player who's been outstanding at camp. Bennett says Nelson and James Jones have had the fewest dropped passes at practice - and now, it's time to for Nelson to test himself in the games.
The Milwaukee Brewers will try to sweep the National League's second-best team this afternoon, when they close out their three-game home series against Cincinnati. Left-hander Randy Wolf faces Reds' right-hander Mat Latos with the first pitch at 1:10. Cincinnati leads the Central Division with the NL's second-best record at 66-44. Milwaukee is nine games below .500 and 15-and-a-half behind the Reds. But the Brewers have a five-game winning streak at Miller Park - and they've scored 40 runs with 12 homers in those five outings. Manager Ron Roenicke says the Brewers have become more confident at home - they're more patient at the plate - and ball carries better as a result. After a sub-par first half, Rickie Weeks has batted .395 in his last 13 games with three homers and four doubles. And he's 5-10 lifetime against the Reds' starter today. Mat Latos is 10-3 with a 3.94 ERA, and he's 5-1 in his last eight starts. Wolf, on the other hand, has been struggling all year. He's 3-8 with an ERA of just over 5.50. And the Brewers are just 6-15 when he starts. Wolf has lost his last two starts - and he hasn't lost three straight since July of 2008 when he pitched for San Diego.
Except for Randy Wolf having his personal catcher, the Milwaukee Brewers are playing their normal starters this afternoon as they go for a sweep of division-leading Cincinnati. Wolf and Jonathan Lucroy kept having mix-ups in their signals soon after Lucroy arrived in the big leagues a couple years ago. So Brewer managers took the opportunity to give Lucroy every fifth day off, and let his back-up have some guaranteed playing time. George Kottaras filled that role until he was traded to Oakland. And now Martin Maldonado serves as Wolf's personal backstop. Also, infield prospect Jean Segura is starting his third straight game at shortstop. He was traded to Milwaukee in the deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels of Anaheim. The Brewers are going for their sixth consecutive home win this afternoon, and their second straight series sweep at Miller Park. The Reds have dropped three straight. Right-hander Mat Latos is starting for Cincy.
A former All-Star for Beloit's minor league baseball team has become one of the hottest hitters in the American League. Minnesota Twins' outfielder Ben Revere extended his current hitting streak to a career-high 21 games, after getting an RBI-single last night in Minnesota's victory at Cleveland. Revere's streak is the longest by a Twins' player since Torii Hunter hit in 23 consecutive games in 2007. The 24-year-old Revere played his Class-"A" ball with the Beloit Snappers in 2008. He was the Midwest League's player-and-prospect of the year that season, when he batted .379 with 10 triples and 44 stolen bases. And he was the Twins' Minor League player-of-the-year in '08. Right now, Revere leads Minnesota with a .331 batting average - but he does not have enough at-bats to qualify for the American League batting crown. If he did, Revere would be second between Mike Trout of Anaheim, who's at .348. Revere needs seven more plate appearances to officially join the AL batting race.
In the Midwest League, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are back home tonight to host Cedar Rapids, after losing 3-of-4 to their cross-state rivals from Beloit. The Snappers crushed Wisconsin 10-4 at home last night. Beloit is hitting the road to play Quad Cities this evening. Also tonight, Clinton hosts Kane County. Peoria plays at Burlington. Dayton is at Lansing. Bowling Green entertains South Bend. Fort Wayne is at home against West Michigan. And Lake County hosts Great Lakes. Clinton now has a four-game lead over Burlington and Kane County in the Western Division. Bowling Green still leads the East by a game over Fort Wayne.
In the Northwoods League, the Wisconsin Woodchucks will play Game-Two of their three-game series at La Crosse tonight. The Woodchucks clinched the South Division second half title on Monday, and then got crushed by the Loggers last night 17-2. The Madison Mallards will play the Lakeshore Chinooks in Mequon again tonight, on the heels of a 7-4 Madison victory. Eau Claire hosts Green Bay once more, after Eau Claire 5-2. Wisconsin plays at Battle Creek, where Rapids lost 9-5 on Tuesday. Also, Willmar plays at Mankato this evening. Duluth is at Thunder Bay. Rochester plays at Alexandria. And Saint Cloud hosts Waterloo. With five games left, Willmar has a one-and-a-half game lead over second-place Saint Cloud in the North Division. Alexandria is in third place at two games back, and Duluth is two-and-a-half off the pace.
Milwaukee Bucks' forward Carlos Delfino is the only Olympian with Wisconsin ties who's competing today at the London Games. He'll try to help his native Argentina advance to the men's basketball semi-finals by getting by Brazil. That game was scheduled to start at two this afternoon, Wisconsin time. The U.S. is playing the day's last quarterfinal against Australia. That's scheduled to begin at 4:15. One quarterfinal was in the books as of late morning. Russia topped Lithuania 83-74, and will play either France of Spain in Friday's semi-finals.
Former Milwaukee Bucks' coach Terry Stotts was named yesterday as the new coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. He won the job over Kaleb Canales, who was the Blazers' interim coach after Nate McMillan was fired in March. The 54-year-old Stotts spent the last four seasons as an assistant in Dallas, where he helped the Mavericks win their first NBA title in 2011. He has a combined head coaching record of 115-168 at Milwaukee and Atlanta. Stotts coached a little less than two seasons with the Bucks, with one playoff appearance in 2006. His Milwaukee teams went 63-and-83. Stotts also spent four years as an assistant under former Bucks' coach George Karl. That included the 2001 season in which Milwaukee was just one victory short of making the NBA Finals. In Portland, Stotts takes over a Trail Blazers' team that went 28-38 this past season. The Blazers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema says running back Montee Ball will have ruined his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy if it's found that he took part in a big fight last month. There are reports that at least some Badger players were involved in the campus brawl, which occurred on July 28th just a few days before Ball was attacked by five men on Madison's University Avenue near Gorham St. Madison Police continue to investigate both incidents. Ball has emphatically denied being involved in the original fight - and the coach says he's comfortable with Ball's assurance of that. Bielema says no student on campus draws the attention that the senior ball does. And the coach says Ball now realizes quote, "how much potential hate can be driven toward him in a short amount of time by so many people." Bielema said he told his players to limit their distractions. As he put it, "a team that has few distractions has a chance to have great success." Bielema also said he would not hesitate to order strict punishment if it's found to be justified.
Former University of Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor will play his first pro basketball season in Italy. Taylor has agreed to a contract with Virtus Roma of the Italian League. NBA teams did not draft Taylor in June, but the Atlanta Hawks gave him during the Summer League in Las Vegas. Taylor averaged almost six points and three assists in five games for the Hawks - and he made one start.
A guard from Pasadena, Calf. has become the third player to commit to the Wisconsin men's basketball team starting next year. Jordan Hill caught coach Bo Ryan's eye with a strong performance at the King James Summer Showcase in Chicago last month. Hill is originally from Pasadena. He's a 6-3 combo guard who averaged 14-and-a-half points and seven-and-a-half rebounds a game last year for Pasadena La Salle High School in southern California. Hill is playing this season for Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
Four Wisconsin schools received a mention in the national soccer coaches' association's pre-season polls. All four are women's teams. Marquette ranks 16th in the NCAA's Division I, after going 18-4 a year ago. UW-Milwaukee also receives votes. UW-Parkside of Kenosha received votes in the Division II women's poll. And in Division-Three, UW-Whitewater was ranked 23rd after going 14-5-3 last fall.
In the Midwest League...
Beloit 10, Wisconsin 4
Peoria 5, Clinton 3
Quad Cities 6, Burlington 3
Kane County 5, Cedar Rapids 0
Fort Wayne 7, Bowling Green 3
West Michigan 2, Lansing 1 in 10 innings
Lake County 7, South Bend 5
Great Lakes 6, Dayton 5 in 10 innings
In the Northwoods League...
La Crosse 17, Wisconsin 2
Madison 7, Lakeshore 4
Battle Creek 9, Wisconsin Rapids 5
Eau Claire 5, Green Bay 2
Saint Cloud 3, Waterloo 2
Duluth 3, Mankato 2
Willmar 5, Alexandria 3