In collaboration with Jolie Katzen
In his first year as the head softball coach at Saint Francis Catholic Academy, Kris McDaniel has the Wolves on the rise.
Check out this video for a season recap.
McDaniel has guided his team to a 7-7 regular season and the first seed in their district. This might sound average to you, but the Wolves have struggled in the past five seasons winning a total of two games. The 2019-2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19. The Wolves won one of seven games in the shortened year.
Not only are the Wolves winning games, but they’re doing so with an inexperienced roster. The team of 15 players has two seniors and one junior. On top of that, a lot of the girls have never played softball before.
“We’re a new team,” McDaniel said. “A lot of these girls don’t play softball so we’re like teaching them the game.”
Of those who don’t play the game is freshman Daelia Jourdain, who the team calls DJ. In her first year, DJ was given a big responsibility. She’s the catcher. While still learning the position, she said she’s grateful for the opportunity.
“It means a lot,” she said. “Him (McDaniel) supporting me throughout learning many different things is really pretty special.”
DJ said she is looking forward to playing catcher next year.
Alicia Bokowy will not be returning next year. After four years in the program, the senior first baseman will be taking on the next chapter of her life. She said she plans to take the game’s competitive spirit with her in the future.
McDaniel said he loves to compete. The Gainesville High School graduate played baseball growing up and has kept that drive for the game.
“He’ll like jump up and down at like third base,” Bokowy said.
Coaching was an easy call for McDaniel.
More than a game
McDaniel said it is difficult to miss his daughter Olivia’s games, but thinks she can manage. He plans to get to more of her games next year as he will have more flexibility in making the Wolves’ schedule.
With his new team, he’s not only teaching them the game of softball. He hopes that the girls learn how to handle adversity.
This was evident in Tuesday’s loss to Bronson. The Wolves found themselves down 11 runs in the first inning. McDaniel said he was a little concerned because the team had gotten “smoked” 19-4 by Hawthorne the day before.
However, the girls didn’t quit battling their way back into the game. By the end of the third inning, the Wolves trailed 13-12.
Bronson would go on to score six more runs in the fourth, extending their lead to 19-12.
The girls responded again coming back with six of their own runs in the fifth.
The final score was 20-18 Bronson. Even though the Wolves lost, McDaniel said he is pleased with the team’s growth.
Time will tell if this success continues. The Wolves will play Father Lopez Catholic High School (Daytona Beach, Florida) on Tuesday in the FHSAA 2A District 4 Semifinals.