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Leopards prove no match for Falcons

Dunedin crushes Hernando 17-4 in the first round of the Dunedin Easter Tournament.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001


DUNEDIN -- Just beyond centerfield on Field 2 of the Englebert Complex is a 40-foot fence covered with a dark green tarpaulin.

Its purpose is to provide a dark background for hitters in contrast to the white baseball being pitched at them.

It served an additional purpose Saturday: as a gauge of the awesome power of Dunedin, specifically junior first baseman Brian Dopirak.

Dopirak launched a Titanic home run over the fence -- which is 400 feet from home plate -- one of many powerful displays by the Falcons in their 17-4, five-inning rout of Hernando.

The Leopards (11-10) had the misfortune of meeting the Falcons (19-1), ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and No. 5 in the nation by Baseball America, in the opening game of the Dunedin Easter Tournament.

Hernando faces St. Petersburg Catholic at 8 p.m. Monday in the consolation bracket.

"We wanted to earn some respect, and we didn't do much of that," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "I was hoping to catch (Dunedin) a little off-guard, but they were ready to go."

Ten walks and shaky fielding helped contribute to Hernando's demise. The Leopards were credited with two errors, and all three pitchers, Jason Dunn (three walks in 1-plus inning), Jeremy Balogh (five in 21/3 innings) and Nick Westbrook (two in two-thirds of an inning), struggled with their control.

"This is a very hard, very firm mound, and our pitchers had a hard time adjusting to it," Sims said. "It affects all the teams here. But no excuses. They were the better team today."

Leading 3-1, Dunedin erupted in the second. The first seven batters scored, three on a bases-loaded triple by Cody O'Connell and two on a home run by Ryan Harvey.

Dopirak, who established a school record for RBI with his 41st in the second inning, crushed his mammoth home run in the fourth, Dunedin's third homer of the game.

Hernando could take solace in scoring the first earned runs of the season allowed by Dunedin's Bryan Banks (6-0). Stephen Blanton, Greg Shaw (2-for-3, RBI) and J.T. Fobell had doubles for the Leopards.

"When a dominant team has a little gnat holding onto its butt, the nerves come into play," Sims said. "So our goal was to get to the fifth inning and be (close), but ... we couldn't do it."

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