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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Brewers shutout Braves for Opening Day win

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MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Brewers won their season opener yesterday, 2-0 over the Atlanta Braves at Miller Park.  

Aramis Ramirez belted a two-run double in the fourth inning for the game's only scoring.  Yovani Gallardo gave up four hits in six innings with a pair of walks.  He struck out four, moving him into second-place behind Ben Sheets on the Brewers' all-time career strikeout list with one-thousand-84.  Francisco Rodriguez fanned a pair in the ninth to get the save.  Manager Ron Roenicke made K-Rod the closer, replacing Jim Henderson without saying a word about it in advance.  Some of the players said they were surprised.  Ramirez, Scooter Gennett, and Jonathan Lucroy all went 2-for-3 for the Crew.  Ryan Braun received a long standing ovation when he made his first plate appearance since his 65-game drug suspension from last season.  Braun was also the victim of the season's first replay challenge.  It happened in the sixth inning when he grounded to third, and was ruled safe at first.  Braves' manager Fredi Gonzalez challenged the call.  The Major League replay headquarters ruled that the throw beat Braun's foot to the bag -- and he was out.  Julio Teheran took the loss, giving up two runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts over six innings.  Andrelton Simmons had two of Atlanta's five hits on the day.  The Brewers won their 25th Opening Day game in their 45-year history, and will host the Braves again tonight.  Right-hander Kyle Lohse faces Braves' left-hander Alex Wood.

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The Brewers have ended negotiations on a long-term contract with shortstop Jean Segura.  General manager Doug Melvin said both sides were too far apart with their proposals.  It's not a critical move at this point, anyway, because Segura cannot be a free agent until after the 2018 season.  And if the Brewers were to buy out just one year of his free agency, the deal would have to run for five years.  Melvin said he'll keep the idea open, but nothing will happen right now.  Segura will make $534,000 this season.  He played in yesterday's season opener for the first time since March 18th, after a minor shoulder injury.  Segura walked and scored in three at-bats.

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As player salaries continue to skyrocket, the Brewers expect to have the highest total payroll in the team's 45-year history.  Milwaukee's guaranteed salary commitments total $95.4 million dollars.  That's short of the 2012 Opening Day payroll of $101.2 million. However, the team easily expects to exceed $100-million this year, once pro-rated signing bonuses are considered along with salaries for minor league call-ups, deferred future payments, and easy performance clauses.  The Brewers' guaranteed payroll is about eleven million dollars more than last year.  That's due mainly to the signing of free-agent starter Matt Garza.  He's getting $10-and-a-half million dollars as part of his four-year, $50-million package.

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Former Milwaukee infielder Alex Gonzalez made a great first impression with his new team in Detroit.  He tied yesterday's season opener with a run-scoring triple in the seventh inning.  Gonzalez then won it with an RBI-single in the ninth as the Tigers edged Kansas City at home, 4-3.  The 37-year-old Gonzalez struggled for two seasons with the Brewers before he signed a minor league contract with Baltimore this past winter.  He was traded last month because the Tigers needed a shortstop after Jose Iglesias had season-ending leg injuries.

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Nyjer Morgan -- who had the game-winning hit that clinched a Brewers' playoff series in 2011 -- was a hero with Cleveland yesterday.  Morgan drove home the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, as the Indians won at Oakland 2-nothing.  Also, former Milwaukee prospect Nelson Cruz hit a game-winning homer in his debut for Baltimore as the Orioles topped Boston at home, 2-1.

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The Milwaukee Bucks lost their 60th game of the season last night, 116-111 at Detroit.  The Bucks were on their way to their 15th victory, until they collapsed in the fourth quarter again.  Milwaukee was up by six points with 6:20 left, when Detroit went on a 13-0 run to take control.  The Bucks shot 56-percent in the first half -- but that went down in the second half, and Milwaukee was out-shot for the game 47-to-44 percent.  Point guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks with 25 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.  Ramon Sessions had his first double-double of the season with 20 points and eleven assists.  Bucks' guard O-J Mayo did not play because of a sprained ankle.  Greg Monroe led Detroit with 28 points and 14 rebounds.  Former Buck Brandon Jennings had 20 points and 13 assists, as the Pistons ended a three-game losing streak.  The Bucks have dropped ten of their last eleven and went 3-and-14 in March.  They also ended their season series with Detroit at 1-and-3.  Milwaukee's next game is tomorrow night at Miami.

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Kentucky has five freshmen in its starting lineup, but Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan says the Wildcats play like a "well-established" and talented team.  The Badgers will face Kentucky on Saturday night at the NCAA men's Final Four in Arlington Texas.  The Wildcats also have two freshmen among their three top reserves.  Ryan said they started out being more mature than most newcomers and quote, "They're primed right now."  Forward Julius Randle is a strong force near the basket, averaging 15 points and eleven rebounds a game.  Guards James Young and Aaron Harrison average 14 points each, and they're both shooting around 35-percent from three-point range.  Florida coach Billy Donovan calls Kentucky a great rebounding team.  The Wildcats had 17 offensive boards when they eliminated Michigan on Sunday.  Freshman guard Aaron Harrison -- who hit the game-winning three-pointer against the Wolverines -- said his team fixed some things over the past month, when Kentucky went 7-2.  The eighth-seeded Wildcats are 28-11.  No. 2 Wisconsin enters the Final Four at 30-7.

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Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin has reportedly withdrawn from consideration as the next coach at Marquette.  Media reports said Martin met yesterday with Tennessee officials, after speaking with Marquette over the weekend about the possibility of replacing Buzz Williams.  After struggling earlier in the season, Martin's Tennessee squad came back strong and made the NCAA Sweet-16 before losing to Michigan last Thursday night.  Martin is 63-41 in three seasons with the Volunteers.  Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski appears to have the inside track for the Marquette job after Martin withdrew. Former UCLA coach Ben Howland is also said to be in the running.  Williams left for Virginia Tech on March 21st, after Marquette failed to make the NCAA tournament field for the first time in nine years.

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The UW-Milwaukee baseball team won its first Horizon League game of the spring, 10-8 at Illinois-Chicago in eleven innings.  Ryan Solberg hit a two-run homer in the top of the eleventh to break an eight-all tie.  Solberg also sent the game to extra innings with a sacrifice fly in the ninth.  The senior went 2-for-4 on the day with two runs scored and three driven in.  UWM is now 1-2 in the conference, and 5-12 overall.

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The University of Wisconsin softball team is off to a 2-4 start in the Big Ten Conference, after losing at home to Iowa 2-1.  The Hawkeyes won two-of-three in Madison during the weekend.  Iowa clinched yesterday's victory in the second inning, scoring twice off Badgers' starter Cassandra Darrah.  She gave up a lead-off homer in that frame -- and she walked two batters and hit a pair.  Wisconsin is now 16-14 overall this spring.

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The UW-Green Bay softball squad split their first two Horizon League contests.  The Phoenix lost the opener of a twin bill at Wright State 5-3.  The Raiders scored three runs in the sixth inning for their come-from-behind victory.  Green Bay won the nightcap 9-4, as the Phoenix scored three times in the fourth to go in front for good.  Marissa Michalkiewicz hit the eventual game-winning single.  Green Bay is now 11-5 overall.

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UW-Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes is an honorable mention on the AP's All-American college basketball teams.  Sykes, a junior, was the only player among the state's four Division I programs to be honored yesterday.  None of the Final Four-bound Wisconsin Badgers were given the media's All-American status.  Sykes averaged 20 points, five assists, and four-and-a-half rebounds for a Green Bay team that won its first regular season conference title since 1996.  Sykes had double-doubles in all but one of his 30 games.  He scored 608 points during the season, the fourth-highest in Green Bay history.  Also, UWGB center Alec Brown has been named a finalist for the Lefty Driesell defensive player of the year.  The senior blocked a school-record 94 shots this past season.  Brown had 309 blocks for his career, tying a Horizon League record.

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Jerry Kelly of Madison climbed 15 spots in the new World Golf Rankings, after he tied for sixth at the PGA's Valero Texas Open.  Kelly is now 127th in the world, after starting the year in the 212th spot.  Kelly, who's 47, is having his best season in a while.  He already has three Top-10 finishes on the Tour this season, same as the previous two years combined.  Steve Stricker of Madison, who's on a limited schedule, remains 15th in the new World Rankings.  Pewaukee native Mark Wilson dropped eight places from a week ago.  He's now 256th.  Tiger Woods is still the World Number-One, followed by Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson.

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