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Heintz passes on pitching lessons

There's a new class being taught at Saint Leo.

Actually, it's being taught at the Lions' University Field.

The class: Intro to college softball pitching.

The instructor: left-hander Katie Heintz.

As the senior returns to a team fresh off a 35-17 record and its third South regional appearance in six years, Heintz is looking not only to teach but also to practice what she preaches.

That is, if she were to preach at all.

"Katie is a definite seasoned leader and veteran," said coach Christi Wade, who recently earned her 300th career victory. "If the kids ask for help, she's going to give help, but she's not going to go over and tell them how to do things. She might lead them in the right direction, but she's not going to do it for them."

During the Lions' 2005 region appearance, Heintz was out of the lineup, recovering from a shoulder surgery she had right before the postseason. And after her 2005 season, in which she set the single-season record for strikeouts with 360 and the single-game record with 23, Heintz is looking for more.

She already has 80 strikeouts in 2006 and the desire to return to the postseason, after going 24-8 last season. The Lions are 7-6.

"I would love to win our conference, and I would love to return to regionals," said Heintz, who is second all-time with 889 career strikeouts, just 56 away from passing Desiree Croteau's school record. "I was hurt and didn't get to play much in the regionals. (To get back there), I need to keep myself healthy and I need to keep the girls motivated and excited to play."

Motivation hasn't been hard for Heintz, who said most of the lessons she has passed along were taught to her as a freshman by pitcher Lacey Hardesty, who is fourth in career wins with 36.

Now, as the lone senior, Heintz is teaching freshman pitcher Ashley Urbanik the lessons she has picked up in 3 1/2 years.

"I hope I'm helping her out," Heintz said. "I give her pointers every now and again and make sure she's not getting too nervous. Hopefully it's working for her because it's the same type of thing I got as a freshman."

"(I've) just (been) working hard. It's nothing special. I just set some goals and worked hard to achieve them."

Her pitching coach has noticed when class has been in session.

"She understands everything that has been taught to her," pitching coach Jana Fields said. "She is a leader, and with her pitching, it's more by example. Her work ethic is really her lesson plan."

So has Urbanik.

"Every time I need assistance or something, she's there," said Urbanik, who is 2-3 with 31 strikeouts. "She shows more how to do stuff than tells me, and I look up to her and respect her."

However, Wade knows what motivates her pitcher, even if Heintz is teaching without trying.

"Total inner drive," Wade said. "That's just Katie. When she gets on the mound, she expects perfection. Obviously being human, you can't be expected to make every single play or every single pitch, but that is her inner drive that she has.

"She allows (the younger players) to grow, just as she was as a freshman. She's not going to say, "Do things this way, this way and this way.' She won't be the micromanager leader."

Just a teacher instead.

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