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WISCONSIN SPORTS BRIEFS: Pirates use win over Brewers to regain first place

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MILWAUKEE - The Pittsburgh Pirates regained sole possession of first place in the National League Central, after beating the Brewers in Milwaukee 5-2 on Labor Day.

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It was the Pirates’ third straight win at Miller Park – something they haven’t achieved since 2004. The Brewers had plenty of chances to win this one, but they only went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Milwaukee had runners at second-or-third base in each of the first five innings – but all they showed for it with an RBI-single by Logan Schafer in the second. The Crew’s only other run was a gift in the seventh, on a bad relay throw from Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates were up 2-to-1 in the top of the seventh when Neil Walker hit a three-run homer off Alfredo Figaro, which turned out to be the game-winner. Brewers’ left-hander Tom Gorzelanny suffered tightness in his left shoulder after facing just one batter in the seventh. Tyler Thornburg took the loss, despite giving up just two runs on six hits in six innings. He’s 1-1. Charlie Morton got the win, giving up a pair of runs in seven frames. He’s 7-3. Mark Melancon pitched the ninth for his 10th save. The Pirates have a one-game lead in the Central Division, after second-place Saint Louis lost. The Brewers are now just 14-31 in day games this year, and they’ve dropped to just one game ahead of the last-place Chicago Cubs in the Central.

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The Brewers made three September call-ups after yesterday’s game. They recalled right-handed starter Johnny Hellweg and first baseman-and-outfielder Sean Halton from Triple-“A” Nashville. The Brewers also brought up right-hander Jimmy Nelson from Nashville for the first time. Manager Ron Roenicke said Hellweg will go back into the Brewers’ starting rotation at some point, but he didn’t say when. Hellweg had an ERA of almost 11 in three Major League starts, but he was the Pacific Coast League’s pitcher-of-the-year with a 12-5 Triple-“A” record. Halton is coming up for the third time this season. He could eventually replace Juan Francisco at first. Francisco has just five hits in his last 40 at-bats. The 24-year-old Nelson was a starter for Nashville, but Roenicke says he’ll work out of the bullpen for now.

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It’s been 21 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates finished at .500 – and they can guarantee at least an 81-win season tonight, with a victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Pirates have much bigger goals in mind, as they lead the National League Central Division by a game over Saint Louis at 80-57. But a .500-plus finish will certainly be satisfying for Clint Hurdle’s team, after they had losing records every year since 1992 when they won the National League East with 96 wins. Pittsburgh is also going for four straight wins at Miller Park for the first time since 2002. The Pirates are 11-6 against the Crew this season – the first time they’ve won the season series over Milwaukee since 2006. The Brewers are just four losses away from a .sub-500 season – a rarity since Mark Attanasio bought the team eight years ago. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers tonight, against Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole.

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Milwaukee native Adam Brett Walker is one of 13 players who made the Class-“A” Midwest League Post-season All-Star team. Walker, an outfielder for Cedar Rapids, won the league’s home run title with 27 in the regular season that ended yesterday. He batted .278 in 129 games with 31 doubles, 109 RBI’s, a .319 on-base percentage, and an on-base-plus-slugging-percentage of .844. The 21-year-old Walker was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the third round a year ago. He played his college ball at Jacksonville. Walker helped Cedar Rapids win the second-half regular season title. No Beloit Snappers and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers made the season-ending All-Star squad. Beloit won the first-half title, and will play at Clinton tomorrow night in the start of the Western Division playoff semi-finals. Beloit had three of the league’s top six home run hitters this year. First baseman Matt Olson had 23 round-trippers. Right-fielder John Wooten had 20, and third baseman Renato Nunez belted 19.

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 The Beloit Snappers will play Clinton in the first round of the Midwest League Playoffs. The Snappers will open their best-of-three Western Division semi-finals tomorrow night in Iowa. The Snappers made the playoffs by winning the season’s first half title. Clinton was the first-half Wild Card. In the other West series, second-place champion Cedar Rapids will open at Wild Card Quad Cities. In the East playoffs, first-half champ South Bend plays at Great Lakes. Second-half titlist Bowling Green will host Fort Wayne in their opener. Beloit finished its second half yesterday in third place in the West at 34-35, 13-and-a-half games behind champion Cedar Rapids. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers went 30-40 in their second half. They finished in seventh place among the eight teams in the West, 18 games behind Cedar Rapids.

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The Green Bay Packers continue to swing into regular season-mode for their opener on Sunday at San Francisco. The Packer players are off today and almost every Tuesday during the season. They’ll practice Wednesday through Friday before taking off for northern California. At least two Packers who haven’t played in a while are extremely grateful to get another chance – defensive end Johnny Jolly and tight end Andrew Quarless. Jolly said he feared until the last minute that he wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster. He’s expected to play on Sunday for the first time since the 2009 season. He was suspended for three years and served six months in prison for a series of drug arrests in his home area of Houston. The 30-year-old Jolly plans to make the most of his comeback opportunity. Quarless expects to play in his first game since December of 2011, when he tore a knee against the New York Giants. He earned one of four tight end jobs in an intense competition. He said he was excited to get back in the mix. Quarless said he was inspired by Adrian Peterson’s comeback with Minnesota, after he had the same knee injury Quarless had and returned the following season.

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The Packers have filled up their eight-member practice squad by adding a trio of undrafted rookies. They are running back Michael Hill, who was cut by San Diego at the end of training camp – guard Bobby Collins, cut by Houston – and offensive tackle Aaron Adams, cut by Cleveland. Five other practice squad members were designated earlier, including former Badgers’ quarterback Scott Tolzien. He was with San Francisco the past two seasons – and although he didn’t play in a game, he’s expected to help the Packers get ready to play his old 49’ers on Sunday.

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The Green Bay Packers signed 11-year NFL veteran Seneca Wallace yesterday as the Number-two quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. Back-up B.J. Coleman was released – and the Packers signed former Wisconsin Badgers’ quarterback Scott Tolzien to their practice squad. Both Wallace and Tolzien were in San Francisco’s training camp last week – and Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy said both can provide insight as the Pack gets ready to play the 49’ers in their regular season opener on Sunday. Tolzien was a back-up at San Francisco the last two years, but he never got into a regular season game. Wallace was only in the Niners’ camp for a week, after training with New Orleans earlier in the summer. Wallace last played in the NFL in the 2011 season with Cleveland. He has 48-hundred-eight career passing yards and 18 interceptions in 62 NFL games, 21 of which were starts for the Browns and Seattle. Wallace comes in after the Packers cut veteran quarterback Vince Young on Saturday. Wallace told Niners’ coach Jim Harbaugh last week he was quote, “not going to continue playing football.” Yesterday, Wallace denied saying he would retire as he took part in Green Bay’s practice and began learning the Packers’ playbook. Starting Packers’ corner Casey Hayward missed the practice while continuing to nurse a bad hamstring.

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Former University of Wisconsin defensive back Jim Leonhard  is returning to Buffalo, where his pro career began eight years ago. The 30-year-old Leonhard has signed with the Bills, after the New Orleans Saints cut him last Saturday. Leonhard – who’s from Tony in northwest Wisconsin – has experience under Bills’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He started 13 games under Pettine for Baltimore in 2008, then followed the coach to the New York Jets where he started 40 games from 2009-through-’11. Last year, Leonhard had a smaller role with Denver. He played in all 16 regular season games, but only had one start. Meanwhile, former Packers’ quarterback Graham Harrell was cut yesterday, after just four days with the New York Jets. Harrell spent three years as a backup in Green Bay before the Packers cut him nine days ago.

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Madison golfer Steve Stricker became an automatic qualifier for the U.S. President’s Cup team, after he placed second in the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston yesterday. Twelve top American-born players will take on the International squad during the first weekend of October at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Stricker – who’s on a limited schedule this year – said he played in the Deutsche Bank tournament to win a spot on the President’s Cup squad. He became the seventh of 10 automatic U.S. qualifiers, after being 11th going in. Stricker was not planning to compete for the Fed-Ex Cup crown. But now that he’s in the Top-10 in the Fed-Ex standings, he says he just might go for that crown as well. Stricker jumped from 28th place to eighth in the playoff point standings, after he finished two strokes behind Deutsche Bank winner Henrik Stenson yesterday. Stricker shot a four-under-par 67 in his final round to finish at 20-under-par-264. Stenson went 22-under, and he moved into first place in the Fed-Ex point standings. Stricker says he’ll compete in the next playoff tournament, the BMW Championship near Chicago in two weeks. If he’s still in the running for the Fed-Ex title after that, Stricker says he’ll probably play in the final playoff event, The Tour Championship near Atlanta starting on September 20th. Meanwhile, Jerry Kelly of Madison was eliminated from the Fed-Ex Playoffs yesterday. He tied for 53rd at Boston, at six-under-278. That put him 85th in the point standings. The Top-70 survived.

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University of Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt of Pewaukee may sit out the Badgers’ next game on Saturday in Madison against Tennessee Tech. Watt strained his left hamstring in last Saturday’s 45-0 win over UMass. Coach Gary Andersen said yesterday the important thing is to get Watt healthy, so he doesn’t re-injure the hamstring. Watt was hurt while covering a kick-off. Redshirt sophomore Derek Straus, a walk-on from Waunakee, took over for Watt at fullback. Andersen said freshman Austin Ramesh of Eagle River will also play in that spot this week.

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Mequon Homestead has moved into first place among large schools in the AP state high school football poll. Hartland Arrowhead, last week’s No. 1, dropped to fourth after losing last weekend. Kimberly remains second, and Sun Prairie third. West De Pere remains at No. 1 among the medium-sized schools. Waukesha Catholic Memorial is still second, and Waupaca third. Seymour moved up two spots into fourth. Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs is the new AP leader among the small schools. Edgar dropped to second this week, followed by Lancaster and Amherst. All those teams are 2-0.

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SCOREBOARD

In Regional Major League Baseball…

Pittsburgh 5, Milwaukee 2

Miami 4, Chicago Cubs 3

Minnesota 10, Houston 6

Detroit 3, Boston 0

New York Yankees 9, Chicago White Sox 1

In the Midwest League regular season finales…

Burlington 3, Wisconsin 1

Quad Cities 3, Beloit 2

Cedar Rapids 15, Clinton 6

Kane County 5, Peoria 4

Bowling Green 10, Lake County 2

Lansing 9, West Michigan 4

South Bend 11, Dayton 1

Fort Wayne 11, Great Lakes 10

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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