Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 31, 2013

St. Anthony's Hecht, Miller honored at state baseball banquet

Braden Layer
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — It's been more than seven months since St. Anthony captured the 2012 Illinois Class 1A Baseball State Championship, yet the awards have not stopped rolling in for the Bulldogs. 

On Saturday, senior Ben Hecht and head coach Kenny Miller were honored in Chicago as the Class 1A Player and Coach of the year.

"It was a special day," Hecht said. "Both for me and coach (Miller).  It meant a lot to me as a player and a representative of St. Anthony."

Hecht became just the second honoree to win the award after their junior campaign. For Hecht, it was a dream season that saw the Bulldogs finish 31-8-1 following a 6-1 win over Tuscola in the state title.

"It brought back some memories," Hecht said, "but no trophy will amount to the state trophy right here (at. St. Anthony). It made me look back at the year and all the success we had."

Last spring, Hecht experienced success all across the board.  The do-it-all performer was a standout on the mound, at shortstop and also behind the plate.

"I've coached for 17 years," Miller said, "and Ben's one heck of a player.  He played every important position you can play, was one of our captains and a true leader."

On the mound, Hecht finished with a perfect 10-0 record and 0.75 ERA, including an 11-strikeout performance in St. Anthony's 6-2 semifinal win over Alton Marquette.

"He won the semifinal game the day he turned 17," Miller said. "So he's still a young player as well. The fact that he could do all that when he's so young, he's still getting bigger and stronger."

Equally as impressive behind the plate, the junior batted .460 last season and was nearly an impossible out for any opposing pitcher.  In spite of his talents hitting the ball, Hecht believes his future lies at pitcher.

"I enjoy hitting the most," Hecht said, "but for college, it's looking like I'm going to be a pitcher.  I really do enjoy pitching, so we'll see what happens."

His coach, who took over the reins before the 2009-2010 school year, was also rewarded for the historic season.  Miller received the Class 1A Coach of the Year award, but was quick to deflect any and all attention to his players.

"I took the award on behalf of the kids," Miller said. "I give them all the credit.  It's not me, it's them.  Players win games, but as coaches we can lose them."

Miller's team didn't lose much last spring, and his 2012-2013 squad is busy preparing for another run a state title.  Though their ultimate goal remains the same, Miller is aware that his Bulldog's squad will get the opposing team's best effort each night.

"I don't know if you can top last year," Miller said. "But certainly our goal will be to try and repeat."

St. Anthony will have a tougher road to the finals this season, as the Bulldogs have moved up to Class 2A.  Their quest for another state title begins March 12 when they take on Champaign-Centennial.