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Morning State Sports Briefs: State prep baseball tourney begins today

APPLETON - Sun Prairie is the only defending champion to return, as the 66th state high school spring baseball tournament begins today at Fox Cities Stadium near Appleton.

Sun Prairie kicks off the Division-One quarter-finals at eight this morning against Waunakee. Neenah will then play Stoughton. The other quarter-finals in the state's top division will be played this afternoon. Bay Port takes on Hartford, and Stevens Point plays Kenosha Bradford. Today's winners will square off tonight in the Division 1 semifinals. Semis in the other three divisions will be played tomorrow. Portage, the Division 2 titlist from a year ago, did not return. And neither did champions Prescott in Division 3, and Coleman in D-4.


The Green Bay Packers will return to their voluntary organized team activities today, after last week's mini-camp that was mandatory for the players. Among other things, the Packer defense has spent a lot of time countering the "read option" and pistol offense which burned them in last year's playoffs. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers says his unit will be ready, when San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Washington's Robert Griffin III employ the read option in Green Bay's first two regular season games in September. Capers says a number of Green Bay's opponents will use at least a little of the read option - which burned the Packers in last January's divisional round loss at San Francisco. Capers said the 49'ers ran much more of the read option than he expected. The entire Green Bay defensive staff went to Texas A-and-M during the off-season to learn ways to mute the read option. Capers also spent time with Badgers' defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who coached against Kaepernick in college.


As you might expect, Wisconsin baseball fans have a lot more faith in Ryan Braun than fans of other teams throughout the country. The un-scientific "Sports Nation" poll from ESPN shows that only nine-percent of fans around the country believe the Brewers' slugger when he blamed handling errors for his positive drug test in 2011 - and again this spring when he denied buying performance-enhancing drugs from Miami clinic director Tony Bosch. 57-percent of the "Sports Nation" said they did not believe Braun either then or now. But of the one-thousand Wisconsinites in the survey, 42-percent said they believed Braun both times - and only 27-percent said they did not believe him either time. Braun and at least 20 other big league players face possible suspensions of 50-to-100 games, after having their names on financial ledgers of Bosch's former Bio-genesis clinic. Braun said he used Bosch only as a consultant in his successful appeal of his original 50-game drug suspension. Baseball has stepped up its investigation, after Bosch reportedly agreed to tell investigators what he knows.


Tyrone Taylor of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers is the Midwest League's position player-of-the-week. Taylor, Milwaukee's second-round draft pick a year ago, was batting .500 in his first eight games this month - and he had three hits against Beloit both on Wednesday and Friday of last week. Taylor went 12-for-23 for the Timber Rattlers last week with three RBI's, three doubles, a homer, a triple, four walks, six runs scored, and a stolen base. Kramer Champlin of Lansing is the Midwest League's pitcher-of-the-week.


In the Northwoods League, the Wisconsin Woodchucks dropped to second place in the South Division, after losing to Green Bay 6-5 in 10 innings last night. The Woodchucks are now 7-4, a half-game behind first-place Battle Creek which is 8-4. Wisconsin hosts a double-header tonight in Wausau against Green Bay. Wisconsin Rapids hosts Battle Creek again, after a 7-5 Rapids defeat on Monday. Madison will try to make it two-in-a-row at Lakeshore, where the visiting Mallards won 5-4 in 11 innings last night. Eau Claire plays at La Crosse again, on the heels of a 10-7 La Crosse victory. Also, North Division co-leader Willmar plays at Mankato tonight. Waterloo, the other co-leader, is at Rochester. Thunder Bay hosts Saint Cloud in Canada. And Duluth is at home against Alexandria.


Vince Lombardi was born 100 years ago today. The former coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers won three NFL titles in the 1960's, at the stadium located along the street that now carries his name. The Super Bowl trophy was also named after Lombardi, just days after he died from colon cancer in 1970. He led the Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls in 1967-and-'68. Lombardi spent his final season in Washington, where he was the coach, GM, and part owner of the Redskins. In his only season there, he led the 'Skins to their first winning campaign in 14 years.



In the Midwest League...

Beloit 5, Burlington 1

Wisconsin 8, Clinton 2

Cedar Rapids 6, Kane County 2

Peoria 5, Quad Cities 1

Great Lakes 5, South Bend 3

West Michigan 1, Lansing 0

Fort Wayne 14, Dayton 4

Bowling Green at Lake County, canceled by rain


In the Northwoods League...

Green Bay 6, Wisconsin 5 in 10 innings

La Crosse 10, Eau Claire 7

Madison 5, Lakeshore 4 in 11 innings

Battle Creek 7, Wisconsin Rapids 5

Mankato 5, Duluth 0 in Game-One

Mankato 3, Duluth 2 in Game-Two

Rochester 4, Saint Cloud 3

Willmar 13, Alexandria 5

Waterloo 5, Thunder Bay 2