The leading hitter on the Bishop Eustace baseball team isn’t the four-year starter and Maryland recruit.
It isn’t the squad’s other four-year starter and Penn State recruit.
The Crusaders’ top hitter is their catcher, the sturdy senior starting for the first time, the kid who waited his turn for three seasons before finally getting the chance to step into the spotlight.
“The faithful backup catcher,” Bishop Eustace coach Sam Tropiano said in deep appreciation of Nick Koehn, a 12th grader from Haddon Heights who entered his final season with the Crusaders with fewer than 20 career at-bats.
Koehn is a classic “program guy” who played his role as a junior-varsity athlete, bullpen catcher and varsity substitute through his first three seasons at the private school in Pennsauken.
It’s not unusual to see players such as Koehn get their chance to earn some playing time in their senior season. By then, they usually are mature and seasoned, and coaches like to reward their patience and loyalty.
What is unusual is to see a senior first-year starter tear the cover off the baseball, which is pretty much what Koehn had done through the Crusaders’ first 13 games.
He is batting .556 (20-for-36) with team highs in hits, doubles (nine) and RBIs (23).
He went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs in the season opener against Eastern and just kept hitting. He was 3-for-3 with three doubles against Seneca. He tied the score with a sixth-inning RBI triple against Audubon. He broke the game open with a grand slam against Paul VI.
“It’s a great story,” said senior outfielder Johnny Piacentino, a Penn State recruit. “He waited his turn and he’s getting a chance to play and now he never makes an out.”
Said Maryland recruit Matt Orlando, a pitcher and infielder: “It’s awesome to see.”
Koehn learned the intricacies of high school catching behind standouts such as Nate Steele and Ryan Colbert, who played behind the dish for the Crusaders over the previous three seasons.
A standout student who ranks among the top 20 in Bishop Eustace’s senior class, Koehn said he never became frustrated by a lack of varsity playing time.
“It’s all family,” Koehn said. “I played my role for the first three years and now I’m playing a different role.
“I waited my turn and I finally got to get out there and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Tropiano, South Jersey’s all-time leader in career coaching victories who has spent the last 30 seasons in charge of the Crusaders’ program, raves about Koehn’s selfless dedication to the team.
“He caught a million bullpens,” Tropiano said. “Now he’s finally getting his chance and he’s embracing it.”
Orlando said Koehn set an example for others in the program.
“It wasn’t like he sat around when he wasn’t playing [varsity],” Orlando said. “He was behind a great catcher in Ryan Colbert. But he worked every day. He waited his turn and he made sure he was ready.”
Koehn said he became a catcher as an 11- or 12-year-old playing youth baseball in Haddon Heights. He enjoys the responsibility that comes the position.
“I love being in control of the game, living in every pitch,” Koehn said.
Koehn said he hasn’t made a college decision. He hopes to continue his baseball career with an NCAA Division III program.
He was a loyal soldier on the bench and behind the scenes. But he has come to love playing a pivotal role for a powerful team with its sights set on Olympic Conference National Division, Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic and Non-Public A state titles.