Tonawanda News — Tonawanda’s Ben Stich didn’t take over at shortstop for just any player this season, the junior basketball standout was replacing the News’ 2012 baseball Player of the Year Dave Battel and his .413 average.
Not to be outdone, Stich has posted a .435 batting average on the season — just three points behind senior Jared Zellner — both of which are two of the best single-season performances in Warriors’ history.
Stich has taken over as one of the Warriors’ top leaders and has helped lead Tonawanda to its second straight ECIC IV regular season championship. It’s only the third time in program history the Warriors won back to back titles and the first time in over 30 years.
The Warriors host East Aurora today at 5 p.m. at Veteran’s Park in the semifinals of the B1 sectional playoffs, and John Frank believes his team has the perfect player leading the way, especially when it matters most.
”He’s a hustle guy and very verbal and vocal with the team as far as leadership goes,” Frank said. “He has great attributes at the plate and in the field. He has great baseball knowledge for the game.”
Frank has watched Stich grow up, serving as either his baseball coach or teacher for the past 11 years. He said it’s been fun to watch Stich develop into a terrific ballplayer and an even better person.
On top of his contributions at the dish and at short, Stich has emerged as the No. 2 pitcher for the Warriors this season. He has a 4-1 record in 30.1 innings pitched, which is the second-most on the team. He has a 2.08 ERA and 38 strike outs; in the field he’s only committed two errors all season.
Stich is a stat guy, always has been. He has a little competition going with Zellner to see who will have the top batting average at the end of the season.
That’s just who Stich is — a fiery competitor who will do anything to help his team win, Frank said. The Stich legacy began at Tonawanda when Ben’s brother Steve Stich played for the Warriors.
”My brother obviously got to go to states, and to do something, maybe not as special but very close, in winning back to back league titles in 30 years, is really nice,” Stich said. “We joke about who’s better at what sport, but he really is helpful. We play one on one all the time in the driveway. Me, my dad and him, we go to the field and try to see who hits the most home runs.”
Frank said that Tonawanda baseball’s family environment comes from the fact that many families have multiple players that come up through the ranks.
”If I get one boy from the family there is usually one or two more that will come through,” Frank said. “We have a lot of baseball families. That’s what we embody here as a team; we’re not just a team we’re a baseball family. We spend a lot of time together over three-plus months and we take that family atmosphere out on the field with us.”
Stich is his own biggest critic and is never satisfied unless he is contributing and finding a way to help his team win games.
He’s made his presence felt in a leadership role and his demeanor and poise on the field rubs off on his teammates, Frank said.
”I try to get on base every time I can,” he said. “After that, whether it be stealing a base or after a single trying to get from first to third, I try to use that. In the field I try and make every play that comes to me.”
With another season left to go, Stich is still developing and Frank excepts him to continue improving along the way. But for now, Stich is focused on the task at hand: helping the Warriors return to states.
”He’s like a sponge, he picks up everything and adds it to his tool box,” Frank said. “The hard work and dedication he put in certainly paid off.”
Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @TonaNewsSports.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @TonaNewsSports.