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Falcons get sneak preview of 2002


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 16, 2001

Some might be wondering how powerhouse Dunedin will replace the sterling left side of its infield next season in addition to its top four pitchers.

Graduation claimed infielders Taylor McCormack (Brewers draftee) and Kenny Holmberg (Toronto draftee) along with pitchers Bryan Banks (Rays draftee), John Irving, Matt Cheek and Kyle Schmidt, who is a Georgia Tech signee that was drafted by the Orioles despite missing almost the entire season with a broken arm.

Well, just a couple of weeks after the end of the school year, it appears the Falcons already have the new parts in place to pick up in 2002 where they left off in 2001, when Dunedin went 25-3. First, however, the new guys could help lead Dunedin far in American Legion play.

The Dunedin Post 275 Legion B team is off to a 9-2 start. Third baseman Joey Angelberger, a rising junior, is tied for the team lead with a .538 batting average and leads in hits and RBI.

Rising junior Matt Gregory is hitting .385 and, like Angelberger, has a foothold on an infield position (either shortstop or, if Brad Chamberlain plays there, second base) for next season.

"They might not have the names or notoriety yet, but they work hard and want to be as good or better as the guys before them," coach Tom Hilbert said.

Also into the breach have stepped Jamie Garris, Jeremy Bellotti, Ryan Harvey and Ryan Brill. Garris and Bellotti, rising seniors, pitched sparingly for the high school team in 2001. Harvey, a rising junior outfielder, didn't pitch at all, and Brill, a rising sophomore, played for Dunedin's AAU team, the de facto junior varsity.

The four have started the summer a combined 8-0, allowing just 31 hits in 40 innings and an opponents' batting average of .206. In its first 10 games, Post 275 surrendered just 26 runs. "(Harvey) pitched well for us last summer and will definitely pitch (for Dunedin High in 2002)," Hilbert said. "(Brill), he's a big kid. He's going to impress some people."

While the new blood has been impressive, many stalwarts also are carrying over superb high school seasons into the summer.

Bellotti, an outfielder, and Brian Dopirak, a first baseman, were first-team All-Pinellas picks this season. Bellotti is hitting .382 and Dopirak .385 for Post 275. Outfielders Cody O'Connell and Harvey, all-county honorable mentions, are hitting .421 and .323, respectively.

Oh, and catcher Gene Novak, who Hilbert occasionally used as a designated hitter during the spring, is batting .538 this summer.

Next month, Post 275 will look to avenge the stunning defeats it sustained in last summer's Southwest Area Tournament.

In the double-elimination event, Dunedin blew a 5-0 lead in an opening-game loss to Venice Post 159 then won four in a row by an average score of 13-3 to earn a rematch with Post 159. In that game, Post 275 frittered away a 12-5 final-inning lead, losing 13-12.

"This team's got a lot of ability and is playing very well," Hilbert said. "It's a great group."

OUT OF THE GATE: In Legion A, St. Petersburg Post 14 is unbeaten entering today's doubleheader against Venice Post 159. Post 14 swept a pair of doubleheaders and then beat Madeira Beach Post 273 7-2 on Tuesday to improve to 5-0.

Ryan Heacox (five innings) and John Stang (four) combined on a one-hitter against Post 273. After Heacox yielded a two-run home run to Bobby Wilson in the first inning, he and Stang shut the door. Rich Tribou's sixth-inning, two-run home run put Post 14 ahead for good.

Lane Zimmer, Mike Giroud and Jason Leonard have paced the Post 14 offense this summer while Stang, Heacox, Scott Moeller and Sean Wiggins have been the top pitchers.

D-I GRAND SLAM: Shorecrest third baseman Matt Newton has signed with Xavier, a Division I school in Cincinnati.

Newton, who batted .361 this season and led the Chargers in hits and extra-base hits, is the fourth Charger to sign with a Division I school this year, joining Heacox (Stetson), Giroud (East Tennessee State) and Mike Williams (College of Charleston).

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