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La Roche sophomore Healey sets standard

Cathy Tougher | Courtesy of La Roche
La Roche second baseman Shane Healey is one of six finalists for Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Player of the Year.

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Tourney time

The Allegheny Mountain College Conference baseball championship is a four-team, double-elimination tournament that runs Thursday through Saturday at Penn State Behrend. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The opening games:

• 2-La Roche (27-12) vs. 3-Mt. Aloysius (25-14), 9 a.m.

• 1-Penn State Behrend (26-10) vs. 5-Pitt-Greensburg (18-21), noon

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

Much of La Roche's baseball success relies upon sophomore second baseman Shane Healey, the team's leadoff hitter and MVP.

So why would his teammates want to injure him?

Simple, really. Healey doubles as a resident assistant in the dorms.

“If I get them in trouble, I'm going to get hurt, basically,” Healey said with a laugh.

Luckily for the sides, there haven't been any incidents yet.

On the field, things have been smooth as well.

Healey, a Penn Hills graduate, leads the Redhawks in batting average (.366), runs (39) and hits (56), and he is tied for second with 23 RBI.

“He's done everything for us offensively,” said La Roche coach Chase Rowe, whose team plays in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament beginning Thursday. “He's a very good hitter. He can hit high-level pitching. He's got a short swing. He's got an idea of what he's doing at the plate. He can bunt a little bit.”

Then there's Healey's speed. He has a school-record and conference-best 23 stolen bases this spring, and he's only been caught once. That's part of what makes him such an ideal top-of-the-order hitter.

“It's a great thing believing going into the first inning that your leadoff guy is going to get on,” said junior shortstop Sean Lubin, a South Fayette graduate who bats second. “With him, he's a base-stealer, so he'll get into scoring position, which is nice because if you score that first run, you can get momentum.”

Healey typically batted third or fourth at Penn Hills. He got a taste of the leadoff spot as a freshman at La Roche and was hooked.

“I like setting the pace for the game,” he said. “I'm trying to see a lot of pitches, see what the pitcher has got. I'm making sure the guys behind me know what he's throwing, seeing what approach they need to take.”

One of the major leaguers Healey admires most is Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The two share a position, and they're also about the same size. Healey is 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, and Pedroia is 5-8, 165.

Healey's size is likely a main reason why Division I and II schools didn't recruit him. It also might be a main reason he developed into the player he is.

“I kind of do play with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “ ‘Hey, you don't think I can do this. Well hey, I can.'

“It goes back to what my dad taught me,” he said of his father, Joe, who coaches the Penn Hills softball team. “He always said that in baseball, size doesn't matter, which is true. You don't have to be tall to hit a ball or field a ball or throw a ball. That always motivated me, too.”

It's been a good season off the field for Healey, too. At a Pirates game earlier this spring, he got Andrew McCutchen to sign “MLB 13: The Show,” the video game featuring him on the cover.

Healey might have something else to display next week. That's when the conference announces its player of the year, and Healey is one of six finalists.

“When he gets on base two or three times, we're going to win the game, no doubt about it because he's going to steal a bag or two,” Rowe said. “He gets big hits in big situations. He gets big hits against good teams and good pitching. He's our guy offensively, there's no doubt about that.”

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