Sabres’ Koch among the nation’s best backstops

If Logan Koch could identify a single mantra that’s defined his development as a baseball player, it’s one his father, Donn – a former catcher in the Chicago White Sox organization – repeated to him often as a youngster.

“Catchers catch the ball.”

Simple yet effective – so much so that Koch, a  South Mecklenburg High senior, has developed into one of the best catchers in the nation. Last season, he made ESPN’s North Carolina all-state team. And as a sophomore, he committed to the University of South Carolina.

“When I was 10 – and we still do this sometimes – (my dad) would sit there and throw me balls, and I’d just catch them,” Koch said. “For me, the attention to detail and all the little things, the little drills, the minor details of the game are what I focused on. And I think that’s what sets me apart from all the other guys.”

This season, the Sabres are expected to contend for the Southwestern 4A conference regular-season crown, a challenge coach Jon Tuscan said is a bit easier with Koch behind the plate.

“As a coach, having him to handle the pitchers, he’s going to do a great job of shutting down the running game against other clubs, he’s a great throw-and-catch guy and he’s experienced behind the plate,” said Tuscan. “We don’t have to go over the little things with him, and that’s a big load off my plate.”

While Koch has long been a talented catcher, his development as a hitter lagged a bit. He said he was intimidated by older players as a youngster but found his stride when he was 13 after hitting 14 home runs during a summer season.

“I guess I started believing in myself,” Koch said. “I came out and just said to myself, ‘This is your game, this is your time.’ Ever since then, I’ve been in front of everybody and always wanted to take the next step.

“Everything just clicked at one time. Ever since then, I was ready to go.”

In his first year of starting duty as a 153-pound sophomore, Koch, a switch hitter, batted .425 with five homes and 40 RBIs. Last season, he led the league with 11 doubles, but Tuscan was forced to move him to the top two spots in the lineup, which hurt many of his offensive stats. He still hit .360 but settled for one homer and 13 RBIs. There were other bright spots, such as his 21-to-eight walk-to-strikeout ratio, which gives Tuscan a pretty good indication that after sliding Koch back a spot or two in the lineup this season, he should again capitalize on having runners on base ahead of him and several good hitters behind him.

“He’s been through the grind and through the struggles and those types of things, and he’d make the adjustments now, especially as a hitter,” Tuscan said. “He’s swinging it great for us right now. I think that experience of having trouble in the past but now being where he wants to be with the spotlight on him, he’s able to handle it now.”

So now, as a 190-pounder, Koch is doing the types of things expected of a big-time recruit. And Koch hopes that’s what defines him, moreso than any award or scholarship offer he’s received.

“I always want it to be, ‘He worked hard for what he’s got,’” Koch said. “There’s not a better compliment around.”

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