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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUNDUP: Crosby ready to rebound after a subpar 2012

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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Green Bay Packers' kicker Mason Crosby says he feels great, focused, and confident after surviving challenges from Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez at Training Camp.  Crosby says he'd love nothing more than to kick a game-winning field goal on Sunday, when the Packers open their regular season at San Francisco.  Crosby had competition at camp for the first time since he won the Green Bay kicking job over Dave Rayner in 2007.  After booting just 64-percent of his field goal attempts last year, Crosby says he feels much more solid going into this season.  Special teams' coach Shawn Slocum said Crosby was consistent during the final three-quarters' of Training Camp -- and he's kicking the ball really well right now.  There's still a question, though, of whether Crosby will continue to make kickoffs.  Slocum said a decision will be made today on whether Crosby or punter Tim Masthay will handle the kickoffs.  The kickers' coach says both players can produce touchbacks on a consistent basis. 

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Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen said he was complimented by the officials last week for the way the Badger receivers blocked for their running backs.  Andersen said the game officials came up to him during the Badgers' 45-nothing rout of U-Mass to express positive comments about the receivers' physical play.  The officials said the wide-outs were blocking properly, and not looking to make cheap shots.  Andersen said that kind of praise is always great to hear.  The Badgers are gearing up to host F-C-S school Tennessee Tech tomorrow.  Both teams are 1-and-0.  Andersen said freshman Austin Ramesh and sophomore Derek Straus would play at the fullback spot in place of Derek Watt -- who will miss the game with a bad hamstring. 

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Milwaukee Brewers' backup catcher Martin Maldonado says his second Major League season is proving to be a lot tougher than his first.  Maldonado has been with the Brewers since last May, after Number-One catcher Jonathan Lucroy was out for a month with a broken hand.  Maldonado was a solid replacement, as he batted .266 last year with eight homers and 30 R-B-I's in 233 at bats.  This year, Maldonado is playing a lot less.  With Lucroy healthy, Maldonado is relegated to being Wily Peralta's personal catcher -- an assignment that has him playing only once every five games.  He's batting .174 in 167 at bats with three homers and 20 R-B-I's.  And his slugging percentage has dropped to .281.  Lucroy has gotten the maximum playing time for a catcher, since he's been hot at the plate.  Lucroy continues to lead Milwaukee with 76 R-B-I's.  Maldonado, who turned 27 last month, said it's harder to produce when he doesn't play.  Manager Ron Roenicke says he's using Maldonado as much as he can -- but it's tough because of the solid year that Lucroy's having.  

The Brewers were off yesterday, and will open a weekend series this afternoon against the Cubs in Chicago.  The Brewers are one game ahead of last-place Chicago in the National League Central.  Right-hander Kyle Lohse will start for the Crew today against Cubs' left-hander Chris Rusin.

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Ryan Braun's first restaurant in Milwaukee will close at the end of the year.  The SURG restaurant group has already taken Braun's name off the Graffito Restaurant, which the group owns in downtown Milwaukee.  The name of the Brewers' slugger was added in a licensing agreement.  That agreement was cut off after Braun admitted lying for almost two years about not taking performance-enhancing drugs.  He accepted a season-ending suspension in late July.  SURG co-owner Michael Polaski said his group appreciated its relationship with Braun, and the company wishes him success in the future.  SURG also says it plans to take Braun's Number-8 off the "Eight-12" restaurant the group owns in Brookfield, which involves a business relationship between Braun and Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  SURG said it would keep its relationship with Rodgers and change the name of both the Brookfield restaurant, and a second dining house in Rodgers' name that's being built in Glendale.

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The Beloit Snappers swept their first-round Midwest League playoff series last night, with a 6-to-2 home win over Clinton.  Snappers' right-hander Dylan Covey, the Brewers' top draft choice in 2010, gave up two runs -- one earned -- on just three hits over six innings.  Covey retired the first 11 men he faced.  John Wooten drove in a pair of runs for Beloit, which swept its best-of-three series over Clinton two-games-to-none.  Quad Cities swept the other Western Division semi-finals, with a 4-to-2 win last night over Cedar Rapids.  Beloit will open its best-of-three West finals tomorrow night at Quad Cities.  South Bend and Fort Wayne clinched their East semi-final series.  They'll start facing each other tomorrow night in the East finals.

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The Milwaukee Bucks officially introduced their new starting small forward Caron Butler yesterday, by holding a news conference at his old high school in Racine.  The 33-year-old Butler played for a year at Racine Park High School before moving on to Maine Central Institute, the University of Connecticut, and 11 N-B-A seasons with other teams.  Butler came to the Bucks in a trade with Phoenix almost a month ago.  Bucks' general manager John Hammond said he expects Butler to play a lot of minutes, and win a lot of games for the team.  Hammond said he also expected the veteran Butler to be a mentor to the team's younger players.  He said playing in Milwaukee is a "dream come true" which he thought would never happen. 

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The Marquette men's basketball team will play its first game in the new Big East Conference on New Year's Eve at Creighton.  The league announced its schedule yesterday.  It has all 10 teams debuting in a televised five-game marathon December 31st.  Marquette's contest will begin at nine p-m on New Year's Eve in Omaha.  That game and a lot of others in the Big East will be shown on the new Fox Sports-One cable channel.  Marquette will play its conference home opener on January fourth against De Paul.  The Golden Eagles will play eight home contests on Saturdays at the B-M-O Harris Bradley Center.  That includes Marquette's matchup with Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State on November 16th.

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