By Kerry Eggers . . . Oregon State’s No 2-ranked baseball team opens its season Feb. 16 against New Mexico at Surprise, Arizona.
The Beavers are expected to send senior left-hander Luke Heimlich to the mound against the Lobos.
Eight months ago, that didn’t seem likely.
Heimlich, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and the national ERA leader with an 11-1 record, withdrew from the OSU team before its Super Regional against Vanderbilt last June. He was not with the Beavers during their College World Series appearance, either. In a written statement to the media, he said he didn’t want to be a distraction in the wake of reports in The Oregonian that, at age 16, he pleaded guilty to one count of felony child molestation.
The charge, brought forth by the ex-wife of Heimlich’s brother and mother of his niece, was that Luke inappropriately touched the girl in a private area of her body at his family’s home in Puyallup, Washington, at least twice when he was age 13 to 15 and she 4 to 6, from 2010-12. Heimlich pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to two years probation, with the possibility of it being sealed from his record at the end of a five-year period.
(That has happened. Heimlich’s court records were sealed on Aug. 28 in Pierce County Juvenile Court.)
Heimlich was near the end of his third season pitching for Oregon State when word of his juvenile adjudication was made public — nearly three years after his probationary term was over and little more than two months before the end of the five-year period.
If 16 or older, a juvenile offender in Washington must notify state officials of any address change through the five-year period in which he is registered as a sex offender. (The timeline is two years if the offender is 15 or younger. Heimlich had turned 16 by the time his case came to court in August 2012.) Heimlich gave notice of a couple of moves during his time in Corvallis. Shortly after his 21st birthday — Feb. 3, 2017 — he received a citation from Benton County for failure to re-register. Oregon officials had incorrectly determined him to be a resident of the state. Washington state rules do not require re-registration on a 21st birthday. Heimlich’s attorney, Stephen Ensor, took the case to court, and the citation was dismissed.
In the interim, however, The Oregonian learned of Heimlich’s case and printed a story on his legal situation, including a quote from the niece’s mother saying she was “appalled ” that Oregon State would have him on its team. (The newspaper did not name the mother to protect the identity of the child.)
The backlash was considerable. Heimlich was excoriated by many members of the media, locally and nationally, and by a portion of the public.
Heimlich received plenty of support, too, from people who felt he had paid his dues, or wondered about the veracity of the charges. Hundreds of friends and family members reached out to Oregon State President Ed Ray on Heimlich’s behalf as, in effect, character witnesses.