St. Francis playoff bound for first time since 2015

Colin Kuruppacherry scores against Oak Hall in Thursday's Class 2A-District 4 championship game
St. Francis Catholic Academy freshman Colin Kuruppacherry scores against Oak Hall in Thursday's Class 2A-District 4 championship game. The Wolves earned an at-large playoff spot in Tuesday's Class 2A-Region 1 Quarterfinals.
Photo by Glory Reitz

It has been a big year for the St. Francis Catholic Academy baseball program and first-year head coach Ryan Brown.

Last year, St. Francis went 9-14 but this year they flipped it.

The Wolves (14-9) matched the program record for wins in a season, becoming the fourth St. Francis team to do it.

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They also played for a district title, a 12-8 loss at Oak Hall in last Thursday’s 2A-District 4 championship game

Despite the loss, the Wolves earned an at-large bid to this week’s FHSAA state playoffs, marking their first trip in nearly 10 years.

“Making the playoffs was one of our main goals,” Brown said. “We are very proud of the accomplishment. We knew beating a really good Oak Hall team in the district championship would be a tough task, so we put together a strong body of work over the course of the season to potentially get us an at large berth.”

Their last postseason appearance came on April 30, 2015, when Oak Hall coach Kevin Maris was the head coach.

“This year was everything I hoped it would be and more,” Brown said. “We entered the season knowing St. Francis hadn’t been to the playoffs in almost 10 years and we wanted to change the narrative. We had a lot of players step up, we had quite a few surprises. We thought our strength would be pitching and defense but as the season progressed, we turned out to really be a great hitting team and that’s what carried us.”

After a 3-3 start this season, the Wolves won 11 of their final 17 games to earn the No. 8 seed in Class 2A-Region 1.

“We treated every game like a big one,” Brown said. “It’s validation for all the hard work our team put in over the past year.”

On Wednesday, the Wolves will travel to top seed St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park), which is the No. 8 overall team in Florida regardless of classification according to the FHSAA’s final baseball rankings.

The Spartans (20-6), who have a team earned run average of 1.83, are ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 2A and were Class 2A state runners-up last year.

They have several D-I players, including University of Florida signee Kolt Myers (.319, 21 RBI, 17 RS, 1 3B, 1 HR, & 14 SB), who was named the FACA 2A-District 6 Player of the Year.

UNF signee Seth Alford (.305, 21 RBI, 8 DBL, 23 RS) leads the team with five home runs.

It will be a David vs. Goliath matchup against the Spartans, but Brown is optimistic.

“We know SJCD is a great team,” he said. “We are going to have to play close to a perfect game to beat them, but that’s why we play the game. Our team is excited for the opportunity, and we are going to give them everything we’ve got.”

St. Francis Catholic is batting .344 as a team.

Sophomore Chris Durstine (.433 with team-leading 29 hits), senior Joey Calhoun (.406), and junior Dylan Diaz (.391) lead the Wolves.

Meanwhile, Oak Hall (13-5) earned the No. 5 seed and will travel to No. 4 seed University Christian (Jacksonville).

The Wolves and Eagles are two of five Alachua County baseball teams who advanced to the state tournament, which begins on Tuesday with the FHSAA 5A-7A quarterfinals and the 1A regional semifinals.

The 2A-4A regional quarterfinals are on Wednesday.

Buchholz, which defeated Fleming Island (Orange Park), 6-0, on Friday to win the 6A-District 3 tournament, is the top seed in 6A-Region 1. The Bobcats (20-8) will host No. 8 seed New Smyrna Beach (13-11) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

District 3 opponents Fleming Island (18-10), the No. 5 seed, and Oakleaf (Orange Park) (17-9), the No. 6 seed, also earned at-large bids.

Santa Fe (Alachua), which won the 4A-District 4 title, earned the No. 8 seed and will host top seed Arnold (Panama City Beach) in a 4A-Region 1 Quarterfinal at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. 

The Raiders (14-12) were on the outside of the bubble with a No. 9 ranking but earned a spot with a 14-3 win against Menendez (St. Augustine) in Thursday’s district championship game.

Newberry, which lost in extra innings in last year’s Class 1A state semifinals, is the No. 1 seed in 1A-Region 4. 

The Panthers (21-5), who won the 1A-District 7 title, will host District 8 champion Williston (9-18) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

The game will be broadcast online (audio only) at Mainstreet Daily News beginning at 6:50 p.m. with Marty Pallman (Play-by-play) and Hank Rone (Color) calling the action.

Other area baseball teams who made the state playoffs include 5A Columbia (Lake City), 4A Suwannee (Live Oak), 3A Keystone Heights, 1A Union County (Lake Butler), and 1A schools Trenton and Chiefland, who will meet in the Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals.

The high school softball playoffs will begin on Wednesday.

2024 FHSAA Baseball state playoffs

All games at 7 p.m. unless noted
Game times are subject to change

Tuesday, May 7

Class 6A-Region 1 Quarterfinals
8 New Smyrna Beach at 1 Buchholz

Class 5A-Region 1
2 Columbia (Lake City) 
at 7 Beachside (St. Johns)

Class 1A-Region 3 Semifinals
3 Liberty County (Bristol) at 2 Union County (Lake Butler)

Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals
4 Williston 
at 1 Newberry
3 Trenton
 at 2 Chiefland

Wednesday, May 8 

Class 2A-Region 1 Quarterfinals
8 St. Francis Catholic Academy
 at 1 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park)
5 Oak Hall 
at 4 University Christian (Jacksonville)

Class 3A-Region 1 Quarterfinals
8 Keystone Heights
 at 1 Pensacola Catholic

Class 4A-Region 1
1 Arnold (Panama City Beach) at 8 Santa Fe (Alachua)
5 Suwannee (Live Oak)
 at 4 Wakulla (Crawfordville) 

Friday & Saturday – TBD

Regional Semifinals
Classes 5A-7A on Friday, May 10 
Classes 2A-4A on Saturday, May 11 

Regional Finals
Class 1A on Saturday, May 11

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