St. Francis Prep Earns Varsity Baseball City Championship

The St. Francis Prep varsity baseball team captured the 2023 CHSAA ‘AA’ city championship. (Photo: Justin Charneco)

In sports, it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.

Perfect example: The 2023 St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, varsity baseball team. After a 10-9 regular season, the Terriers caught fire at just the right time — winning the Brooklyn-Queens championship followed by a sweep in the CHSAA ‘AA’ city title series.

The city title is the fourth for St. Francis Prep head coach Brother Robert Kent, OSF. Over his 41-year career as varsity coach, his teams previously won championships in 1986, 1995, and 2007. From the start of the season, Brother Robert knew he had a special group, with 10 seniors, nine sophomores, and two freshmen.

“We realized they had potential, but we had to get it out of them,” he said. “There was talent there, and we just had to make them strive for excellence.”

The Terriers were led all year by their pitching staff, mainly the “Three Amigos.” No, not Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short. Instead, these “Three Amigos” were senior pitchers and team captains Peter Nenadich, Andrew Schoelles, and Danny Horowitz, who combined for a season cumulative ERA under 2.00.

“During the regular season, there were a lot of ups and downs,” said Schoelles, who committed to pitch next year at St. Thomas Aquinas College, Orangeburg, N.Y. “Our pitching definitely carried us through most of it. I think we all believed in ourselves, and we knew that in our league, there was no team better than we were.”

“You couldn’t have asked for a better trio of starters to go out there and win a game,” said Nenadich, who will pitch next year at Queens College, Flushing.

Additionally, the team’s defense was a major strength. Freshman catcher Thomas Velaoras was a steady presence behind the plate and threw out would-be base stealers on the regular. Sophomore shortstop Tyler Koenig was described by his coach as a “wizard” defensively. That’s the type of praise reserved for the great Ozzie Smith, so that’s one valuable glove.

The Terriers began finding their offensive stroke right as the team entered the playoffs. Specifically, senior first baseman Brian Daly — a Terriers varsity football team captain as a defensive lineman and punter — came up with several clutch hits at the right moments.

After an 11-4 victory over rival Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, in the Brooklyn-Queens championship, St. Francis Prep advanced through the city playoffs to set up a three-game series with St. Peter’s Boys H.S., Staten Island. Nenadich, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (OLBS), Bayside, took the mound in Game 1 and turned in a stellar effort — only allowing one run over six innings.

Schoelles, who also attends OLBS, relieved in the seventh to close the door on a 2-1 victory. He then came back to start Game 2, and after giving up a first-inning run, he proceeded to throw six scoreless innings.

Leading 2-1 in the sixth, the Terriers’ bats once again came alive in a big spot to provide some needed insurance. With the 6-1 win, St. Francis Prep once again had a champion team. The victory was career win No. 699 for Brother Robert.

“Baseball … besides building character, it reveals character,” Brother Robert said.

“They got their confidence going all the way.” Prep’s assistant coach Robert McDermott played a key role in the team’s success. He threw a one-hitter at Shea Stadium to clinch St. Francis’ 1986 city title win, so it was fitting that he was in the dugout for this year’s championship.

The Terriers then moved on to the CHSAA state championships. A wild semifinal matchup with St. Francis H.S. of the Diocese of Buffalo saw St. Francis Prep lose in walk- off fashion in the 11th inning. Still, the thrill of winning a city championship in their final year won’t soon wear off for these senior captains.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Schoelles said. “This has always been the goal, so to get it in the last year is pretty special.”

“It is an amazing feeling,” Nenadich said. “Words don’t even describe it. I credit every- body who I’ve played with the last two years at St. Francis Prep for putting me in this position. They taught me how to become a lead- er and what is expected of everybody to be a championship team.

“That’s what the three of us brought to the table this year. Obviously, it got the job done.”

Contact Jim Mancari via email at