Oak Hall wins “wild game” against St. Francis

Oak Hall's Darion Medley slides home under Saint Francis Catholic's Chris Durstine.
Oak Hall's Darion Medley slides home under Saint Francis Catholic's Chris Durstine.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The FHSAA Class 2A-District 4 championship game at Roger Maris Field was electric, literally.

Lightning delayed the start of the final inning on Thursday before the game was finally called.

With darkness setting in and no lights on the field, the host Eagles were awarded the win, a 12-8 victory against the Wolves in an epic battle between the two rivals.

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Oak Hall won the only meeting during the regular season, 15-0, on March 4, but the two teams combined for 20 runs on 25 hits.

“It was definitely a wild game,” said Oak Hall coach Kevin Maris. “You never know what to expect come tournament time. You always prepare for going out there and playing great ball and sometimes you don’t play such great ball at tournament time. We had our moments where we played really well, and we had a couple of moments that wasn’t as solid as we needed to be, but St. Francis gave us a good battle and I was happy with the win.”

The Wolves (14-9) struck early off Oak Hall senior pitcher Troy Freeman, scoring two runs with two outs in the top of the first inning.

Troy Freeman pitches in the first inning.
Photo by Glory Reitz Troy Freeman pitches in the first inning.

Sophomore catcher Chris Durstine had an infield hit, followed by a single to center field by freshman third baseman Colin Kuruppacherry.

Senior Joey Calhoun drove in both runners with a single to right field for a 2-0 lead.

The Eagles answered in their half of the first, beginning the inning with three straight bunts.

Senior Jackson Beach (2-for-3, 2 RS, RBI) beat a throw from third for a bunt single and senior Darion Medley (3 RS, RBI) bunted it back to the mound.

However, the ball was bobbled by starting pitcher Liam Green for an error, and Jackson’s twin brother Harrison Beach (2-for-3, triple, 2 RS, 2 RBI) followed with a bunt single to third to load the bases with no outs.

Junior Gavin Jones (2-for-4, RS, 3 RBI) singled to left field to tie the game at 2-2.

“Those guys came out ready to get after it and compete to win today, and they kind of did that on their own,” Maris said. “Gavin’s been swinging the bat all year for us really well and has had some success. He just keeps doing it. To have your four hitter stay as consistent as he’s been all year, he’s just as good as there is.”

Two batters later, senior Jack Steen doubled to left center field to plate two more runs for a 4-2 lead.

Steen finished the game 3-for-3 with four runs driven in.

“He can hit when he gets his mind set to go and compete and do what you need to do at the plate,” Maris said. “He did a great job of doing that today.”

Oak Hall added an RBI single by Jackson Beach and an RBI by Medley on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second inning, scoring junior Brody Beaupre and sophomore Aaron Akins who had singled to start the inning.

It seemed as if the Eagles were starting to pull away after Steen singled in a run in the third inning for a 7-2 lead.

But St. Francis battled back, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring four runs on four hits and an error.

Richard Jones had a pinch-hit RBI single, and Ty Powell singled in a run.

A throwing error by Medley on Powell’s hit allowed another run to score, and Durstine walked with the bases loaded to make it a 1-run game, 7-6, in the top of the fourth.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with how we played today,” said St. Francis Catholic coach Ryan Brown. “We came in here, we knew this was going to be a heavy weight fight, punch for punch, and we went punch for punch with a great team. They’re very well coached, and they’ve got some great players…we went toe to toe with them so I’m really proud of my guys.”

With the bases loaded and only one out, reliever Jackson Beach got Kuruppacherry to hit the ball back to the mound.

Saint Francis Catholic's Liam Green pitches in the first inning.
Photo by Glory Reitz Saint Francis Catholic’s Liam Green pitches in the first inning.

Beach, who started the game at second base, threw it home, and Beaupre fired it down to first for a 1-2-3 inning ending double play.

“Jackson came in relief, and him being a middle infielder, he got a hot shot back to him…squared up and threw it to the plate, and Brody Beaupre came out and touched home and came up and squared up to first,” Maris said. “Those are big plays and to get them executed in tournament play, I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.” 

After Oak Hall scored two in the bottom of the fourth, St. Francis answered with two in the top of the fifth to make it a 9-8 game.

Then, with the Eagles leading 11-8 in the top of the fifth, the Wolves loaded the bases with no outs.

However, Steen (1.1 IP, 0R, 3H, 0 BB, 3K), who came in relief in the fifth inning, was able to get Calhoun to line out to left and then he struck out the next two batters.

“That was very huge,” Maris said. “Ethan (Szlachetka) had a well-hit ball to left and his arm strength held the guy at third which was big. Our outfielders have good arms and they throw it pretty well, and Steen struck out the next two to kind of ice the inning.”

While Oak Hall secured a spot in next week’s regional tournament, St. Francis Catholic, which was a No. 8 seed in 2A-Region 1, will hope for an at-large bid.

“It’s going to be a long night and a long morning, and a long afternoon until that bracket comes out,” said Brown, whose team tied the school record for wins in his first season. “It’s everything that we’ve worked for this year, and I can only hope that it works out the way we want it to.”

The Class 2A state playoffs will begin on Wednesday.

Fleming Island at Buchholz, ppd. – Thursday night’s Class 6A-District 3 championship game between No. 2 seed Buchholz and No. 4 seed Fleming Island (Orange Park) was postponed due to rain and lightning.

The game will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Buchholz (19-8), which defeated Oakleaf (Orange Park), 7-3, in the district semifinals, has outscored the Golden Eagles (18-9), 26-4, in two games this season.

FHSAA Baseball – district championship scores

Thursday, May 2

Class 1A-District 6 at Hilliard

1 Lafayette (Mayo) 2, 2 Union County (Lake Butler) 1

Class 1A-District 7 at Newberry

1 Newberry 7, 2 Chiefland 6

Class 1A-District 8 at Williston

1 Williston 6, 2 Glades Day (Belle Glade) 4

Class 2A-District 4 at Oak Hall

1 Oak Hall 12, 2 St. Francis Catholic Academy 8

Class 3A-District 4 at Higher seed

1 Trinity Catholic (Ocala) 5, 2 Keystone Heights 3

Class 4A-District 4 at Santa Fe (Alachua)

1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 14, 2 Menendez (St. Augustine) 3 (5)

Class 5A-District 2 at Lincoln (Tallahassee)

1 Lincoln (Tallahassee) 2, 2 Columbia (Lake City) 0

Class 6A-District 3 at Buchholz

4 Fleming Island (Orange Park) at 2 Buchholz, ppd. – Friday, May 3, 7 p.m.

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