By JON MOFFETT
Jacke Healey doesn’t consider himself a power hitter by any means.
The Youngstown State senior shortstop said he’s more of a “gap-to-gap” hitter. But for some reason, the gaps he’s finding this year just happen to be on the other side of the outfield fence.
Healey, a Tunkhannock, Pa., native is on the verge of rewriting a school record after only 15 games.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder has hit seven home runs so far this season. The YSU single-season record is 11.
“It’s just been a lot of hard work,” Healey said. “I’ve been working off the tee, a lot of soft toss and a lot of batting practice. But I’m just making good contact with it and looking for my pitch. Most importantly, I’m just trying to hit the ball hard, and if it goes out, it goes out.”
And the ball has been going out for Healey.
Healey who leads the Penguins (8-7) in home runs, RBIs (25), total bases (49) and runs scored (21), and is tied for first in hits (22) and batting average (.386), transferred to the school last year from Potomac (W.Va.) State College.
He started in each of the Penguins’ 50 games last year and has entrenched himself as the team’s infield leader. But when it comes to his offensive numbers, Healey said he’s not trying to make history.
“I knew about [the record] because a couple of guys told me about it,” he said. “But I’m not really trying to break a record. I’m just trying to help my team win. I’d rather win than break any records.”
The Penguins finished last season with a 16-35 record, and an unceremonious exit in the Horizon League tournament courtesy of a 7-6 loss to Butler. Healey said this year’s version has its focus on going deeper into the tournament.
The Penguins will begin conference play Friday with its first game against Butler since last season’s tournament. Healey said it’s important the Penguins focus on the games and not the teams for an important stretch of the season.
“I think they [conference games] are pretty important, but every game is important,” he said. “These upcoming games will probably set a statement for what Youngstown State can do.”
Healey said he has seen a big difference between this year’s team and the one from last season. And with the team currently holding the best non-league record among Horizon League teams, the Penguins have a chance to make some serious noise with conference play right around the corner.
“We expect to win. I think we have a good enough team,” he said. “Right now we have some bumps in the road, but we all believe in each other and we expect to be there at the end of the season. I don’t expect us to have a first-round exit like we did last year.”
Healey said he has been playing baseball since he was old enough to pick one up. His mother, Rhonda, taught him to play.
And while basketball is his favorite sport to play, Healey said his time on the diamond has been worth it.
“Some days it does become a chore, but at the end of the day, you play because you love it,” he said. “It’s fun and that’s what keeps you going. There’s always something new you learn every day.”
Healey, who has a career batting average of .293, said his personal goal is to hit over .300 this season. Other than that, it’s all about the team.
“Personally, I’d just like to score more runs,” he said. “I think that’s the most important statistic in baseball is scoring runs. I just try to keep everybody loose and the home runs will come and the RBIs will come if you’re just having fun, have a good attitude and work hard.”