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WISCONSIN SPORTS BRIEFS: UW grids ranked No. 23 preseason coaches poll

MADISON - Gary Andersen will start his football coaching tenure at the University of Wisconsin with a nationally-ranked team. The USA Today pre-season coaches’ poll ranked the Badgers at No. 23, after they played in their third consecutive Rose Bowl in January.

Defending national champion Alabama is No. 1 in the new poll. Ohio State is second, after going 12-0 last fall under new coach Urban Meyer. The Badgers will play at Ohio State on September 28th.


For the second year in a row, Marquette University men’s basketball forward Jamil Wilson will take part in a six-game series in Lithuania. It’s sponsored by the Christian sports group Athletes-in-Action. The roster includes Division I college players. Wilson is the only one selected among Wisconsin’s four Division I schools. Wilson and his teammates will train in Macon Georgia before leaving for Lithuania a week from tomorrow. Valparaiso assistant Roger Powell is coaching the squad.


Green Bay Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy extended his Training Camp practice today, as the entire team took part in a drill to avoid fumbles. McCarthy said he was especially irked by a botched handoff from backup quarterback B.J. Coleman to running back James Starks. Starks appeared to hesitate when Coleman flipped the ball to him. He said it was careless and sloppy – and he cited four drops that quote, “overshadows all the positive work that went on out there.” The offense worked on shotgun snaps, a couple of which hit the ground. In McCarthy’s words, “You have to take care of the football. It’s the most important part of our game.” The Packers ended four days of morning scrimmages in full pads. They’ll practice at night tomorrow, in advance of Green Bay’s Family Night Scrimmage on Saturday to a full house at Lambeau Field. 


 Green Bay Packers’ safety Sean Richardson is not sure whether he’ll play again, after he injured a neck vertebra against the New York Giants last November. He had fusion surgery in January. Last week, Richardson failed his pre-Training Camp physical and was put on the Packers’ physically-unable-to-perform list. Now, he says he’s not sure if his neck can heal to the point in which he can resume his career. The second-year pro says some players recover from the injury and some don’t – but for now, he’s being really cautious. Richardson said his injury apparently came when his facemask collided with another on the opening kickoff against the Giants. With the injury he has, Richardson said it’s unusual that he did not feel any sensation at the time. 


The Milwaukee Brewers are off today, and they’ll face central Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann tomorrow night when they open a home series against Washington. The former UW-Stevens Point right-hander from Auburndale will go for a career-high 13th season victory against six losses. Zimmermann has dropped his last three decisions. His ERA rose during that stretch from 2.57 to 3.19. Zimmermann was named to the National League All-Star Game – but he sat out the July 16th Mid-Summer Classic with a neck injury. He went six-and-two-thirds innings in his last start, giving up five runs in an 11-0 Nationals’ loss to the New York Mets. Zimmermann struck out eight in that contest.


Don’t be surprised if Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy gets more time at first base, as a way to keep his bat in the lineup. Lucroy is the Brewers’ RBI leader with 57 this year, despite missing at least one of every four-or-five games when Martin Maldonado serves as Wily Peralta’s personal catcher. After Ryan Braun was suspended last week, Lucroy went to Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke and said quote, “Look, I’ve got to stay in the lineup … I’ve got to … What do I need to do?” Yesterday, Roenicke showed Lucroy some basic moves at first. He ended four games there earlier this year. Last night, Lucroy became the seventh Brewer to start a game at first base this season. Roenicke says he’s willing to go along with it, as long as it works out. If not, he’ll re-think it. Lucroy has played in 94 games this season, batting .286 with 15 homers – the second-most on the team. He said his experience as a catcher should serve him well at first – and he’ll emphasize keeping the ball in front of him. Lucroy said he would work more extensively on the position at Spring Training next year. 


In the Midwest League, the Beloit Snappers will go for their second straight victory at Clinton tonight. The Snappers are coming off a 5-2 victory over the Lumber-kings last night. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are at Kane County again, after a 6-3 Rattlers’ loss. Elsewhere, Cedar Rapids plays at Burlington. Peoria has a double-header at Quad Cities. East leader Bowling Green hosts Dayton. West Michigan is at Great Lakes. Fort Wayne plays at Lake County. And Lansing has a double-header tonight at South Bend.


Teams in the Northwoods League will continue their interdivisional series tonight. The South Division-leading Lakeshore Chinooks will host Rochester again, after an 8-4 Chinooks’ victory in Mequon last night. Waterloo, the North leaders, plays at Battle Creek again, on the heels of a 10-4 Waterloo win. Wisconsin Rapids crushed Alexandria 14-2, and that series continues tonight in central Wisconsin. Other winners from the Badger State were Eau Claire and La Crosse. Eau Claire hosts Thunder Bay tonight. La Crosse entertains Saint Cloud. The Wisconsin Woodchucks host Duluth in Wausau. Madison is at home against Willmar. And Green Bay hosts Mankato. 


Steve Stricker of Madison is back on the course today at the World Golf Championships’ Bridgestone Invitational in Akron. It’s Stricker’s first tournament since mid-July, when he played at the John Deere Classic. He skipped the British Open as he drastically limited his schedule this year. Stricker also plans to take a pass on the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs next month, even though he would easily qualify as he’s 21st in the season point standings. Pewaukee native Mark Wilson and Fox Point native Skip Kendall are both playing in this week’s PGA event, the Reno-Tahoe Open. On the senior Champions’ Tour, Rhinelander native Dan Forsman is part of the field for the 3M Championship. The 54-hole tournament begins tomorrow in Blaine, Minnesota.