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Afternoon State News Briefs: Plant named interim president of U.S. Speedskating

WEST ALLIS - A suburban Milwaukee native was named today as the interim president of U.S. Speed-skating. Mike Plant, who's from West Allis, is currently the executive vice president of baseball's Atlanta Braves. He'll take over immediately as the head of U.S. Speed-skating and its 14-member board of directors.

Plant takes over at a time when the sport has been rocked by several problems and incidents. In a statement, Plant called this a "crucial time" for speed-skating, and he hopes to move the sport forward. In September, members of the U.S. short track team called on their coach - Jae Su Chun - to resign due to physical and emotional abuse of some of the athletes. He was suspended and later quit. Earlier this month, four-time Olympian Andy Gabel was accused by two female skaters of sexual abuse when they skated together in the 1990's. Gabel said he had an inappropriate relationship with the first woman, but he claimed he never had sex with her. Gabel eventually resigned from International and U.S. Speed-skating committees.


The Green Bay Packers will get one compensatory draft pick in April. League officials have awarded the extra picks, based on the numbers of free agents each team gained-and-lost the previous season. The Packers lost two free agents - Matt Flynn to Seattle and Scott Wells to Saint Louis. And they gained Jeff Saturday from Indianapolis, who retired after last season. The Packers' compensatory pick will be No. 167, the second-to-last in the fifth round. All told, 16 NFL teams are getting 32 compensatory selections.


Green Bay Packers' coach Mike McCarthy said he never felt at ease last season, because of all the injuries the team had. At the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix, McCarthy said he's considering some changes to the way the players get their injuries treated. He said the team might become more open to letting players handle their own treatments if they choose, with suggestions from their personal trainers. When the players are in Green Bay, they get their treatments in-house, from an experienced staff that does not consult with outside people very often. McCarthy says he does not fault the team's medical staff for all of the injuries in 2012 - in fact, he said they might be doing too good of a job. The coach said his players spend a lot of time in the training room, and he's convinced the Packers do not need better care. Twenty-nine Green Bay players missed at least one game last year due to injuries. And the starters combined to miss 93 contests.


The University of Wisconsin men's hockey team remains at No. 14 in the U.S. College Online poll going into the WCHA Final Five. The Badgers are 19-12-7 overall, with the No. 4 seed in the league quarter-finals on Thursday in Saint Paul against fifth-seeded Minnesota State-Mankato. Minnesota State is ranked eighth this week, at 24-12-3. Thursday's winner faces top-seeded Saint Cloud State in the semi-finals on Friday. Saint Cloud is ranked No. 7 by U.S. College Hockey Online. The University of Minnesota moved into the top spot, after being second a week ago.


National champion UW-Eau Claire is No. 1 in the final NCAA Division III men's hockey poll of the season from U.S. College Online. The Blugolds finished the year at 24-52 after winning the Division III tournament this past weekend for the first time ever. Saint Norbert, the previous No. 1, finishes fourth at 23-6-1. The Milwaukee School of Engineering and Stevens Point also received votes. In the final Division III women's poll, Elmira won the crown. UW-River Falls was seventh in the final poll at 21-7-2. Saint Norbert was eighth, and Superior also received votes.


UW-Stevens Point women's basketball guard Sam Barber is one of three finalists for the national coaches' player-of-the-year. The others are center Carissa Verkaik of Calvin College and forward Kate Nielsen of Simpson. The winner will be announced April eighth. Barber, Verkaik, and Nielsen were also named to a 10-member coaches' All-American team. Barber also received All-American first team honors from Cortney Kumerow of UW-Whitewater and Stephanie Kuzmanic of Carthage were both honorable mentions by the coaches' association.


Marshall Zahn of Ripon College is the Midwest Conference baseball pitcher-of-the-week. Zahn, a sophomore, pitched 12-and-a-third scoreless innings last week with eight strikeouts. Opponents batted just .114 against him. Zahn threw a five-hitter against Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Ryan Crandall of Monmouth is the top position player. In sophomore, Stephanie Rieuwpassa of Ripon College was named both the position player-of-the-week and the top pitcher. The senior struck out 50 batters in 29-and-a-third innings, while going 2-2 in four starts. And she batted .577 for the week with five doubles, 13 RBI's, and three runs scored. Rieuwpassa also stole a base.


Jake Long of UW-Milwaukee is the Horizon League baseball pitcher-of-the-week. Long, a senior, threw a four-hitter against Wright State. It was the first complete game by a Panther since May of 2011. Long struck out three in that contest - and he retired 13 straight at one point. Wright State outfielder Kieston Greene was named the league's hitter-of-the-week.


Garrick Day of Wisconsin Lutheran has been named the baseball pitcher-of-the-week in the Northern Athletics Conference. Day threw seven scoreless innings against Elms College. He did not give up a hit until the fifth, and he surrendered just two of his outing. Tim Hendricks of Benedictine was named the honored position player. In softball, Jinny Curtis and Bekah Shellberg, both of Wisconsin Lutheran, received the NAC's weekly awards. Curtis, a junior infielder, drove in 10 runs and hit .441, as the Warriors went 6-4 on a spring trip. The rookie Shellberg went 3-and-2 for the week and struck out 16 batters in 29 innings. The NAC also honored Jerome Rhodes of Milwaukee School of Engineering in outdoor track, and Patrick Lagman of Edgewood in men's tennis.


The Milwaukee Bucks have a three-game winning streak against Portland - and they'll try to make it four tonight at the Bradley Center. Guard Monta Ellis scored a season-high 39 in Milwaukee's last game, a six-point home victory over Orlando on Sunday. Ellis has been hot in his last 11 games, averaging 26 points and shooting 51-percent during that stretch. The Bucks have a comfortable seven-and-a-half game lead for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But coach Jim Boylan says the Bucks have not performed like a serious playoff contender - and they need to turn it up a notch. The Bucks are just one game above .500 at 33-32. The Trail Blazers come in a 31-35 under former Bucks' coach Terry Stotts. The Blazers are coming off a one-point loss at Philadelphia last night. It was Portland's 13th defeat in its last 15 home games. Damian Lillard has the hot hand for the Blazers, averaging 24 points over his last 10 outings. He had 27 in the loss at Philly.


Right-hander Wily Peralta will start for the Milwaukee Brewers this afternoon, when they play the Angels of Anaheim in an exhibition contest in Phoenix. He's only had two Cactus League starts, with a 1-0 record and a 6.23 ERA in four-and-a-third innings. Peralta had a late start at Spring Training due to a stiff shoulder. Even so, he's done enough to earn a spot in the Brewers' rotation - for the moment, anyway. Right-hander Mark Rogers is the odd man out, after having trouble with his velocity and his command. If he doesn't pitch his way back, Rogers could start the season either in the Milwaukee bullpen - or out of the organization altogether, since he's out of minor league options. Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada have the one-and-two slots in the rotation. Peralta, Chris Narveson, and Mike Fiers are in the other three slots at the moment. The Brewers are 8-12-1 in Cactus League play. Ryan Braun is expected to play today, after getting a couple days off following his stint at the World Baseball Classic.