Afternoon State Sports Briefs: Menasha's Hinske decides to return to Atlanta, won't play for BrewersWisconsin Sports
-- It appears that Menasha native Eric Hinske will not play for his home-state baseball team. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the 33-year-old Hinske has decided to return to the Atlanta Braves for a second season, instead of taking an offer from the Brewers.
MILWAUKEE - It appears that Menasha native Eric Hinske will not play for his home-state baseball team. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the 33-year-old Hinske has decided to return to the Atlanta Braves for a second season, instead of taking an offer from the Brewers.
He was expected to get a one-year contract plus an option year from Atlanta. Hinske joined the Braves a year ago after winning a World Series title with the New York Yankees in 2009. He was also on Boston’s World Series’ champion team in 2007. Brewers’ general manager Doug Melvin said he was interested in using Hinske as a solid left-handed hitter off the bench, plus his versatility in both the infield and outfield. He batted .256 for Atlanta last year with 11 homers and 51 RBI’s in 131 games. Hinske is a nine-year big league veteran with a career average of .254.
Horizon League play begins tonight for the UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay men’s basketball teams. Both squads will be at home for their conference openers. Green Bay will face undefeated Cleveland State, while Milwaukee takes on Youngstown State. It’s the first conference game for Green Bay’s new coach, Brian Wardle. His team is off to a 3-3 start – and he urged his players to bulk up during the off-season, so they can face strong opponents like the one they’ll play tonight. Cleveland State is 8-0, and they lead the Horizon League in scoring defense, steals, and forced turnovers. The Vikings have goaded their opponents into 18 turnovers per game – and they average almost nine steals per contest. Cleveland has held its six opponents to under 40-percent shooting. Meanwhile, UW-Milwaukee will try to even its 3-4 overall record against a Youngstown State team that’s 4-1. UWM coach Rob Jeter says his Panthers have built up some solid team chemistry, with a passion for the game a sense of urgency. After being injured all of last season, Tone Boyle has become the Panthers’ scoring leader with almost 15 points per game.
Only two Wisconsin small college basketball games are on the docket for tonight. The Maranatha Baptist men’s team is in Chicago to play the Moody Bible Institute. And the Maranatha women are at home in Watertown to face Madison Edgewood in a Northern Athletics Conference game.
Former University of Wisconsin star Devin Harris of the New Jersey Nets is out for at least two games with a strained knee. The suburban Milwaukee native got hurt Tuesday night in the third quarter against the New York Knicks. An MRI yesterday confirmed the injury. Harris missed quite a game last night, when the Nets lost in triple-overtime to Oklahoma City 123-120. Harris’ replacement, Jordan Farmar, had a career-high 28 points and nine assists in that contest. Harris will also sit out tomorrow night’s game against Charlotte. He has started 18 games for New Jersey this season with nearly 18 points and seven assists per outing.
Nate Stymiest and Christy Cazzola, both of UW-Oshkosh, have been named the WIAC men’s-and-women’s cross country runners of the year. They were selected by the league’s coaches. Stymiest, a junior, finished in the top-seven in each of his last six races. He placed seventh at the national Division-Three meet, and was in the top-five at both the conference and Midwest Regional events. Cazzola, a sophomore, finished in the top-four in all of her races this past season. She took fourth at the nationals. Also, Rick Witt of Stevens Point was named the men’s cross country coach-of-the-year. His Pointers won the conference crown, and placed sixth as a team at the nationals. Dan Schwamberger of Eau Claire was named the top women’s coach for the fourth year in a row. His Blugolds won the league and the regional meets – and they placed fourth at the national D-Three finals.
Three starters for the Green Bay Packers all returned to practice today, after sitting out yesterday with various aches-and-pains. Safety Nick Collins, receiver Greg Jennings, and tackle Chad Clifton were in full pads – and they took part in all the activities during the portion that was open to the media. The Packers are getting ready for Sunday’s home contest against San Francisco. Running back Dimitri Nance also practiced in full pads today. He was apparently cleared to return, after getting a concussion in last Sunday’s loss at Atlanta. Linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive ends Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins, and corner Charles Woodson all took part in an early jog-through – and then they either stepped aside or took rehab for ongoing injuries.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop might be the next Packer to get a long-term contract. But that could take awhile, due to the team’s possible cash flow concerns – plus the possibility that the NFL won’t play next season if they don’t approve a new players’ union agreement. The Packers gave extensions this year to receiver Donald Driver and corners Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. And they approved big-money deals this past spring for safety Nick Collins, defensive end Ryan Pickett, and tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. The Packers are interested in getting Bishop’s deal wrapped up. But he’s still playing under his rookie contract. And because this is the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement, those with rookie deals can only get 30-percent raises for the current season. His agent says that’s a problem, since Bishop made 460-thousand dollars a year ago. But teams can get around that by granting large signing bonuses. Bishop’s agent says he’s reasonably optimistic a deal can be struck by next March, when the current bargaining agreement expires.
The Packers sell out all their home games – and they still only rank sixth in attendance among the 16 teams in the NFC. Sports Business Daily says the Packers have averaged 70,861 paid spectators at each of their five home contests this season. That’s one-tenth-of-a-percent more than a year ago. The actual number of tickets sold varies at Lambeau, according to how many people occupy the luxury suites at each game. The new Dallas Cowboys’ stadium has the league’s top average attendance at 87,000. They have the NFL’s biggest stadium by far. Washington is second in attendance. The New York Giants, Carolina, and San Francisco round out the top five. The Packers host San Francisco on Sunday.
The Milwaukee Bucks have cut ties with one of their second-round draft picks from this year. Darington Hobson was released today. He had hip surgery almost two months ago, and was injured before he could show his stuff at the NBA’s Summer League in July. He never played after that. Hobson was the 37th overall pick in the June draft. The Bucks now have an open roster spot, with 14 available players.
The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team will try to end a five-game losing streak tonight when they host fifth-ranked Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Senior Tara Steinbauer says the Badgers have nowhere to go but up. But they’ll have their work cut out for them against a Duke squad that’s 7-0. The Blue Devils are led by pre-season All-American guard Jasmine Thomas. She’s one of three starters on a team that made the Elite Eight at the NCAA Tournament last March. Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone says it’s a great opportunity to play one of the nation’s top teams – and it can help her Badgers grow and get better. Wisconsin is 2-5 after winning its first two games. They’ve been outscored by an average of 13 points during their five-game losing streak. The Badgers have only made 24-percent of its three-pointers, and have committed 17 turnovers per contest. Stone says the Badgers have a lot to shore up, but the players’ hearts are in the right place. She says they just need a shot of confidence.
Ron Ernst of Ripon College has been named the Wisconsin Private College Football Coach-of-the-Year. The honor comes from the state coaches’ association. Ernst led Ripon to a 7-3 record this past season. It was the fifth year in a row the Red Hawks won at least seven games. And Ripon’s offense set new school records with 406 points, 3,605 rushing yards, and 4,480 total yards. The Ripon defense gave up 119 rushing yards per game, the eighth-lowest average in school history. Ernst has only had one losing season in his 21 years at Ripon. This is the third time Ernst has won the private school coaching award. The others came in 2001-and-’08.