DON'T TELL US that Colin Pyne is such a special baseball player, his La Salle High coaches shower him with unabashed favoritism.

Before a first-round Catholic League playoff yesterday, this kid took at least 1 hour, maybe as much as 90 minutes, of individual batting practice! Wait until the other kids' parents find out! Oh, the uproar!

. . . Not.

Final exams are now taking place at La Salle, and Pyne's schedule called only for math. Once that nerve-wracking experience was over at noon, Pyne headed for a batting facility in nearby Ambler.

"I probably wanted to hit a little better there, but it got me into enough of a groove," he said of the session. "It also got me stretched out, and I came into the game relaxed. Clear mind. Ready to hit."

Bang! Pyne, a 5-11, 170-pound junior shortstop and the No. 3 hitter, ripped a double to left-center in the first inning, providing a 1-0 lead. Bang! In the second, he again smoked an RBI double, this time to left.

Most of his teammates also enjoyed their batter's box experiences, and La Salle humbled visiting Roman Catholic, 12-1, in five innings.

As for the math exam . . .

"It's not my strongest subject, but I think I did well enough to pass," he said. "Actually, I think I did pretty good."

Pause. "Pretty well. Can't get that wrong. I have an A-minus in English."

Pyne's first double fueled a three-run uprising. His second was part of a six-run outburst that was highlighted by Tyler Kozeniewski's three-run homer to right. Overall, Kozeniewski went 2-for-2 with a walk and four RBI. Pyne flied to center in his final at-bat.

Of his hits, Pyne said, "I got them on second pitches, a changeup and then a fastball."

In the fourth, when Roman stirred for the only time, Pyne showed the fielding skills that already have helped him earn two first-team coaches' All-Catholic nods.

With the bases loaded and one run home on R.J. Vaughan's infield single, Paolo Gambaro hit a liner as hard as possible to third baseman Mike Piscopo, who leaped to make the catch and almost stepped on third in time for a doubleplay. Next, Matt Simon fired a grounder up the middle. It deflected off senior righthander Nick Burns, and Pyne, charging hard yet smoothly, nipped Simon at first.

"At first, I didn't see the play," Pyne said. "The base ump blocked my vision. Once he moved, I got a better read of what was happening, and my instinct said to go for it. My speed and momentum helped me get the out. Though it was close and could have gone either way."

Pyne lives in Collegeville, and the morning trip to La Salle requires 45 minutes, minimum. His brothers, John (swimmer, soph) and Sam (lacrosse, freshman), attend the brand-new Pope Paul II in Royersford, which mostly houses students from the ol' Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius.

If that school had existed a few years earlier . . .

"It probably would have been a consideration," Pyne said, "but La Salle was always my first pick. The baseball is 10 times better. Look at the competition we play, and this beautiful field.

"We're serious here. My teammates and I really like to win. I feel as though I have a duty to perform well. We come into each game with a mind-set, and our goal today was to 10-run them. We wanted it, and that was what happened."

Burns went all five, allowing four hits (all in succession) and striking out two. His support also featured sacrifice flies from Corey Baiada, Jules Arici and Joe Forcellini, along with RBI singles from Piscopo and, well, himself.

Today, Pyne will tackle religion and English before the Explorers travel to Archbishop Ryan for a quarterfinal.

Amount of extra BP TBA. If any. *