WATSONVILLE — St. Francis High showed off its largest class of college athletes on Friday afternoon, as five graduating seniors signed a letter of intent to their respective future college in front of a couple hundred family members, friends, classmates and teachers at the school’s campus.
Sandor Rene Rodriguez signed with Linfield College for basketball, Braxton Rico signed with Notre Dame de Namur University for cross country and track and the Sharks’ trio of baseball players Ruben Ibarra, Conor Bagchee and Andrew Ciandro signed to San Jose State, Hawaii and Cal State Bakersfield, respectively.
All five athletes, a majority of them multi-sport competitors, gave a short speech after signing on the dotted line, thanking their families, the school and their coaches, among others, for helping them reach their goal of playing college sports.
Friday was all about following through on a commitment for Ibarra, Bagchee and Ciandro. All three had already verbally committed to their respective Division I programs months in advance but that did not take away any luster from the moment on Friday.
“This has been a dream for a lot of us,” Ibarra said. “This moment is special.”
Ibarra not only played varsity baseball all four years but also played football and basketball for three apiece. As the starting center this season, he helped the school’s basketball program notch its first-ever California Interscholastic Federation NorCal title and State Championship game appearance.
Rodriguez, a four-year varsity starter for the Sharks at point guard, was right along side Ibarra en route to the Golden 1 Center, the home of the Sacramento Kings where the Sharks played for the CIF Division V State Championship.
Rodriguez, who was named the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League’s Most Valuable Player after helping the Sharks to an undefeated league record and the league championship this season, said he made the decision to leave California and head north to play for the Linfield Wildcats in McMinnville a week ago.
The Pajaronian Player of the Year for boy’s basketball this season said the Division III school was the perfect fit because of its academics, campus and coaching staff.
The only thing he’s worried about is how his Jordans will hold up in the stormy Oregon weather.
“It rains a lot,” Rodriguez joked. “I’m gonna have to go limited on my shoes now but it should be fun. I’m really excited and I know Oregon is a beautiful state.”
Rico, a multiple time state qualifier in cross country who will compete at today’s Central Coast Section Track and Field Semifinals, also said he found the right fit in Division II Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont.
“I’m excited to move on,” Rico said. “Bittersweet that I’m leaving but I have those memories that I’ll cherish forever. I’ll come back and visit once and a while but I’m excited.”
Ciandro, a pitcher that also led the St. Francis football team on defense at middle linebacker over that last two seasons, was of the same mindset of Ibarra. Ciandro verbally committed to the Roadrunners in August of last year and had been waiting for the day to finally make it official.
“It’s like a dream come true, really,” Ciandro said. “You wait for it all your life and then you finally commit and you’re waiting to sign and waiting to sign. It takes forever but it feels great to finally do it.”
Ciandro, Ibarra and the rest of the members of the St. Francis baseball team will play in today’s CCS Division II quarterfinal round against Soquel High at 11 a.m. at Harbor High.
Bagchee will be on hand but because of a knee injury won’t suit up for the Sharks. Bagchee has played only one game this season because of injury but he made his lone at-bat count, hammering a home run on Senior Night against Scotts Valley High to help the St. Francis advance to the section playoffs.
“I’m never going to forget that,” said Bagchee, who also played four years of football for St. Francis.