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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Stricker three under after second round of TPC

PONTE  VERDE BEACH, Fla. - Madison golfer Steve Stricker shot a two-under-par 70 today in his second round at The Players Championship at Sawgrass.  Stricker is at three-under-141 at the halfway point of the so-called "Fifth Major".

He was tied for 29th place early this afternoon at three-under-par -- nine strokes off the lead.  Martin Kaymer -- who won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits near Sheboygan in 2010 -- is the leader at the Players at 12-under-132. Meanwhile, Pewaukee native Mark Wilson is heading home after he shot a nine-over-153 for two rounds.  That was eight strokes below the projected cut line of minus-one.  Wilson shot a two-over-74 today after getting a 79 yesterday.  Madison's Jerry Kelly was at three-over for the tournament after eight holes of his second round.  He apparently won't make the weekend cut, either.  He was tied for 115th early this afternoon.

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Matt Kenseth of Cambridge will try again tomorrow night to move into the top spot of the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.  Kenseth remains in second place, three points behind Jeff Gordon, going into the Five-Hour-Energy 400 in Kansas City, Kansas.  Both drivers struggled last weekend, but kept their top two spots anyway.  Paul Menard of Eau Claire is entered in the Kansas Speedway event, along with Travis Kvapil of Janesville and Beloit-born Danica Patrick.  Also, the Camping World Truck Series resumes tonight with the SFP 250 at Kansas.  Johnny Sauter of Necedah is second in the standings, with a pair of top-five finishes in his two events.  Timothy Peters has the series lead.

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New York Yankees' starter Masahiro Tanaka is 32-0 in regular season play in both the U.S. and Japan.  He's 4-0 after joining the New York Yankees this past winter -- and he'll try to keep both those streaks going tonight in Milwaukee.  So far, the right-handed Tanaka struggles the first time he sees hitters.  Stats Incorporated says hitters bat .314 against Tanaka the first time through the lineup -- but after that, they only hit .173 against him.  His ERA is 2.35.  One new wrinkle Tanaka will face is the fact that he'll have to bat -- because the designated hitter is not in place in National League parks.  He's 3-for-37 with four sacrifice bunts during his seven-year Japanese career.  Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will start for Milwaukee.  He's 2-1 with a 2.47 ERA.  Gallardo will try to win his first game in six starts.  His only decision in that stretch was a 6-2 loss at Cincinnati last weekend, in which he gave up a season-high four runs in six innings. The Milwaukee Brewers are 2-4 against the New York Yankees in Interleague play since 1998. They'll try to chip away at that deficit tonight, when the two teams face each other at Miller Park for the first time in nine years.  The Brewer offense has been on a collective slump since Ryan Braun went down with a strained right oblique muscle.  Also, we'll find out tonight how two days off may have helped third baseman Aramis Ramirez.  He was given a rest during Wednesday's Milwaukee home loss to Arizona.  Manager Ron Roenicke wanted Ramirez to "clear his head" to try and get out of a 3-for-48 tailspin.  The Brewers have lost six of their last eight.  New York dropped five of six before winning the final two games of a series at Anaheim this week.  The Yanks are 18-15.  The Brewers are 22-13.

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In the Midwest League, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will try to win their second straight over Cedar Rapids when the two teams play tonight near Appleton.  The Rattlers won an 11-7 slug-fest last evening.  The Beloit Snappers are at Quad Cities again, on the heels of a 6-5 Beloit defeat.  Wisconsin enters the weekend in a tie for sixth among the eight teams in the Western Division.  The Rattlers and Quad Cities are both 15-18, eight-and-a-half games behind division-leading Kane County.  The Snappers are 13-20 in the season's first half, still in last by 10-and-a-half games.

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The Green Bay Packers have three picks in tonight's portion of the NFL Draft.  The Pack has the 53rd, 85th, and 98th overall selections -- for now, anyway.  Don't be surprised to see GM Ted Thompson trade downward to get additional picks.  That's after he held firm in last night's first round, and took Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st overall selection.   One possible priority this evening is a center, after Evan Dietrich-Smith bolted for Tampa Bay.  A number of centers could fit the bill -- including Weston Richburg of Colorado State, who started all four years in college and played in 50 straight games.  The Packers could also pick a tight end, with Jermichael Finley still up in the air after his devastating neck injury from last October.  And Thompson could stock up on more defense.  A Wisconsin Badger could be the first to be picked by somebody in tonight's second-and-third rounds -- possibly linebacker Chris Borland.  No Badgers went in the first round.

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The Milwaukee Admirals will continue to be top farm club of the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators for at least three more years.  The Predators announced an extension today of their affiliate agreement with Milwaukee.  It now runs through the middle of 2017.  Milwaukee has been Nashville's top affiliate ever since the Predators began playing in the NHL in 1998.  Since then, over 140 players have appeared at least once for both teams, covering 16 seasons.

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A former state champion coach is returning to the sidelines at a different school.  Corey Wolf, who led Glendale Nicolet to the Division 1girls' high school basketball crown in 2011, has been named to a similar post at Mequon Homestead.  She resigned from Nicolet in mid-2012, after nine years on the bench.  Homestead athletic director Ryan Mangan said Wolf possesses a unique combination of knowledge, people skills, and passion for basketball -- and Homestead is thrilled to have her.  

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The University of Wisconsin softball team will try to win back-to-back Big Ten tournament crowns this weekend.  The Badgers have the No. 4 seed this time, as they face fifth-seeded Northwestern tonight in their tourney opener on the Wildcats' home field in Evanston.  Northwestern is 33-15.  Wisconsin is 33-17 overall.  Coach Yvette Healy's Badgers are in a better position than they were a week ago, after they split a series with Nebraska and won two-of-three at Michigan.  A strong showing in the league tournament could give Wisconsin an NCAA berth, even if they don't win the conference crown.  Healy says her team is happy with where they're at.

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The University of Wisconsin swimming teams will get a new and bigger home in about five years.  UW-Madison has announced a $26-million competitive swimming pool, which high school teams will also use for the WIAA state meet.  It's part of a renovation of the Southeast Recreational Facility, linked by a skywalk to the Kohl Center and LeBahn Arena.  The pool will be 50-meters in length -- twice as long as the 25-yard pool used at the UW Natatorium for the last 53 years.  It will also have a new platform diving tower and diving well, plus seats for 1,500 spectators.  Gift funds are providing the new pool -- along with up to $13-million in student fees approved in a referendum in March.  Construction is due to begin in 2017, with the pool to open two years after that.

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Bigger is not always better.  That's what the University of Wisconsin volleyball team figured, when it decided to keep a rematch with Penn State at the UW Field House this fall, instead of holding it at the much larger Kohl Center.  The match is set for September 24th.  It comes after the UW lost to the Nittany Lions in the NCAA Division I championship match last year.  The Badgers normally play their home matches at the Fieldhouse, which has about seven-thousand seats compared to around 18,000 at the Kohl Center. By playing Penn State at the Fieldhouse, the Badgers are counting on a louder crowd and a better home-court advantage.  Wisconsin averaged 3,500 fans for each home match a year ago, and it drew almost six-thousand for the contest with Penn State.  The upper deck of the old Fieldhouse is now closed off due to fire code violations.  

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UW-Green Bay will play at Notre Dame tomorrow in the first round of the NCAA Division I men's tennis tournament.  The Phoenix made the nationals for the second time in three years, after they won the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles. Green Bay is 18-7.  Thirteenth-ranked Notre Dame is 19-9, after losing in the semifinals of the ACC tournament to defending national champion Virginia.  The Fighting Irish are hosting a four-team regional that also includes Northwestern and Ole Miss.  Green Bay is the only Wisconsin school in the Field-of-64.

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Top-seeded UW-Green Bay is returning to action today at the Horizon League softball tournament in Dayton, Ohio.  The Phoenix were scheduled to take on No. 3 Valparaiso, with the first pitch at 11 a.m.  Green Bay advanced in the winner's bracket on Wednesday night with a 5-2 win over fourth-seeded Youngstown State.  Valpo advanced with a 4-0 victory over second-seeded Wright State.  The double-elimination tournament runs through tomorrow.

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Monmouth College of Illinois is going for its ninth straight Midwest Conference men's and women's outdoor track titles this weekend.  The league meet began today at Grinnell, Iowa, and it runs through tomorrow.  Saint Norbert is the top Wisconsin school, placing second in the men's standings a year ago while the Green Knight women placed third. 

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Amanda Jaskolski of Lawrence University in Appleton is the North Division softball player of the year in the Midwest Conference.  Morgan Rusch of Saint Norbert is the year's honored pitcher.  Amy Gradecki of Carroll and JoAnn Krueger of Saint Norbert are the co-coaches of the year.  Jaskolski, a junior shortstop, batted .409 in the regular season with a one-point-two-oh-two on-base plus slugging percentage.  Rusch threw 145 innings, the second most in the league, with a 3.04 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .262. Coach Krueger was honored for leading Saint Norbert to its eighth straight North Division crown.  Gradecki led Carroll to a 13-win regular season.  In the south Division, Kayla Borgra of Lake Forest and Sommer Foster of Monmouth are the co-players of the year.

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Defending champion UW-Stevens Point is playing for its eighth WIAC baseball title in ten years, as the league tournament begins today at Whitewater.  The Pointers are 28-9 overall, ranked 12th in the nation by D3baseball.com.  Whitewater, the regular season champion, is 32-6 overall with a Number-two national ranking.  The top-seeded Warhawks were to kick off the tourney this morning against fourth-seeded Stout.  No. 2 La Crosse plays the third-seeded Pointers after that.  The losers of the first two games will then play each other to decide who gets eliminated first.  The winners of the opening contests will then finish the night in a winners' bracket affair. The tournament is scheduled to run through tomorrow. The Midwest Conference baseball tourney is also underway this morning.  North Division champion Ripon is hosting Cornell, while Saint Norbert is playing against South champ Grinnell in Fond du Lac.  The four-team double elimination tourney ends tomorrow in Ripon.

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Wisconsin's only team in the NCAA Division III softball tourney opens its national tournament run this afternoon.  UW-Whitewater takes on Benedictine in a four-team double-elimination regional at Chicago.  Whitewater is 31-9, and Benedictine of the NACC is 32-11.  Thomas More of Kentucky joins the host Chicago as the other teams in the regional.

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Pitcher Andrew Heideman of Concordia-Wisconsin has been named the baseball freshman-of-the-year in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.  Heideman went 5-and-1 in his rookie season with the Falcons of Mequon, with a 1.59 ERA.  He had three complete games, including a shutout.  Heideman fanned 36 batters and walked 11 in 51 innings.  He also made the all-conference second team and all-freshman squad.  Carlos Olavarria of Concordia-Chicago was picked by the league's coaches as the position player of the year -- and his teammate Dan Kluss is the pitcher of the year.  Three players from Wisconsin schools made the all-NACC- first team -- pitcher Garrick Day of Wisconsin Lutheran, second baseman Tony Grannis of Marian, and shortstop Andrew Lauritzen of Edgewood.

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The first football coach at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee is returning to the sidelines after one year away.  Dennis Miller will replace Ben Murphy, who changed roles in the program due to family obligations.  Miller is giving up his role as Lutheran's vice-president of student affairs, a post he has held since 2005.  He says he wants to devote all of focus to the Warriors' football team -- and he believes it has a bright future.  Miller led Wisconsin Lutheran in the first 13 years of its program.  Before that, he spent 12 years as the head coach at Division II Northern State.  His overall coaching record is 125-136.  

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