Colonia Patriot's catcher Andrew Niech just recorded his best season on record since he began playing the game at age four when he was the youngest player on his tee-ball team.
Niech was named All-County and All-Division after unanimous votes by coaches from Middlesex County and was named All-Area by the Home News Tribune.
The award were bestowed on the hardworking junior with high honors for racking up impressive numbers that helped lead his team to the county and state tournaments.
“After winning the awards this season, I feel it’s a good place to start off next season,” said Niech.
“I like to set the bar higher and higher each season, so this is a point to build off of - not so much a point of arrival, because there is still a long way to go,” he added.
Without a doubt, Niech was the most feared hitter in the Patriots’ lineup this season. He led his team in every offensive category with a .395 batting average and an impressive .741 slugging percentage. His six homeruns, 35 RBI and 21 runs scored added to the young slugger’s dominance.
“I knew he was going to be a big time player for us and this year he was recognized by players and coaches from around the county,” said Colonia head coach Tom Hennessy. “There were times this season where he carried us on his back.”
Niech was a big reason why the Star-Ledger called the Patriots the “Cinderella team” at one point this year after Colonia upset Monroe in the Greater Middlesex County Tournament in May. Niech was 3-for-11 in the tournament with one homerun and six RBI.
There were moments this season when the young catcher seemed unstoppable. At one point he had a 13-game hitting streak and drove in 15 runs in eight games including six in the series with Iselin Kennedy and eight against South Plainfield. He had seven multi-hit games and 11 games where he drove in two or more, including matchups against Spotswood and South River where he drove in four each game.
“I had a big game against Spotswood to give us our first win of the season and I hit two homeruns and drove in eight in the series against South Plainfield,” Niech said. “There were times when I was seeing the ball well and was right on it.”
In early May the Star-Ledger labeled Niech the “Player to Watch” when he was playing his hottest ball in the midst of his hitting streak punishing opposing pitchers.
Niech said he puts a lot of pressure on himself and approaches the game with a positive attitude and intense work ethic. He is often seen hitting off a tee on days off and swinging the bat every chance he gets. Andrew Niech’s preparation extends beyond team practices and doesn’t go unnoticed by his coaches.
“He is one of the hardest working players on the team. I’ve seen him hitting in the cage after practice when everyone else has gone home,” said Hennessy.
The young catcher worked tirelessly this winter on improving his hitting and getting his legs more involved in his swing. Niech credits his winter regimen as his biggest improvement over last year.
“I hit a lot this winter and I think that was a huge factor in the way I approached hitting come the regular season,” said Niech. “I worked a lot recently on hitting with my legs more so a lot of my hitting practice is getting my legs more involved and extending my hands more."
After all the numbers were tallied and votes cast, Andrew Niech’s name emerged from the smoke as the clear favorite for the awards given to him as the county’s best catcher.
“Numbers are always a factor. Baseball is a game for people who like numbers,” said Niech. “But more than that, it’s what you can do that will make a coach remember you when you walk off the field at the end of a game.”