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Eagles continue to roll

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By Brian Forbes

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: all men’s underwear is on sale, most flatscreen televisions are discounted 15 percent and baseballs are now available in the outdoor garden center. Thank you.

Blame Dave Whitaker for that last one. The Dakota Ridge catcher hit a ball so hard April 15 it rocketed over the fence in center field, caught fire as it re-entered the atmosphere and landed next to a stack of fertilizer in the parking lot across the street.

Or something like that.

“They couldn’t find the ball. I guess it’s pretty far out there,” Whitaker said. “They said they looked forever and they couldn’t find that ball.”

Whitaker’s bomb was one of five home runs mashed by the Eagles as they slugged their way to an 11-4 Class 5A Jefferson County League victory over the Bear Creek Bears.

The Eagles, who have won four straight since a lukewarm spring break, have one Jeffco game remaining against 2008 4A champion Ralston Valley. Dakota Ridge plays Wheat Ridge – currently ranked No. 1 in 4A – on April 27 and Chaparral on April 28

Andrew Melton got the start April 15 and went seven innings for the first time he could remember as the Eagles improved to 9-6, 7-1 in Jeffco.

“First time I’ve gone seven innings,” said Melton, who struck out five and had to change his grip on his curve after hurting his finger.

“I knew I needed to focus in and throw strikes,” he said.

With the wind blowing out, home runs were expected. Melton didn’t disappoint by using his bat. The senior led off the bottom of the first with a shot just to the left of dead center for his team-best sixth homer of the season.

Melton, who went 3-for-4 with two singles, was joined in the long-ball club by teammates Nate Lotze, Brian Vander Velde and Joey Jaramillo. Unfortunately for the Eagles, each home run was a solo shot, except for Vander Velde’s two-run blast in the third inning.

Lotze and Whitaker both finished with two hits apiece. Lotze drove in a team-high three runs.

“After they beat Chatfield, we were double-thinking them,” Whitaker said of the Bears.

Melton and the Eagles built an early cushion with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Following Melton’s homer, the Eagles got singles from Cameron Pritchett and Whitaker, an error in right field and an RBI double to right by third baseman J.D. Cloud to make it 3-0.

The Eagles doubled their advantage in the third inning when Lotze led off by hammering a curve ball to right field. Alex Ellison hit a two-out double and came home when on Vander Velde’s home run to center.

The Eagles would led 7-0 before the Bears got one run in the top of the fifth. The Bears cut Dakota Ridge’s lead to 8-4 after Melton gave up a three-run blast in the top of the sixth, but Whitaker got revenge when Whitaker’s crushing home run made it 11-4 in the bottom of the inning.

Bear Creek 000 013 0    4 7 3

Dakota Ridge 303 113 x    11 13 3

Dakota Ridge: Melton p 4-2-3-1, Pritchett cf 3-2-1-0, Lotze 1b 4-2-2-3, Whitaker c 4-1-2-1, Cloud 3b 3-0-1-1, cr-ph Jaramillo 1-2-1-1, Ellison ss 3-1-1-0, Vander Velde rf 3-1-1-2, Rodriguez lf 3-0-1-0, Greenstreet 2b 0-0-0-0, Espinoza dh 3-0-0-0. Totals 31-11-13-9.

E – Rodriguez, Vander Velde, Ellison. LOB – Dakota Ridge 3. DP – Dakota Ridge 2. 2B – Cloud, Ellison, Lotze. HR – Melton, solo in first; Lotze, solo in the third; Vander Velde, one on in third; Jaramillo, solo in fifth; Whitaker, solo in sixth.

Batteries – Melton and Whitaker. W – Melton.