Heimlich pleaded guilty in 2012 to one felony count of sexually molesting a 6-year-old female relative in his home state of Washington. He was 15 when the assault occurred. Heimlich, now 21, had registered in Oregon as a sex offender but was cited in April for failing to update his registration. An Oregonian reporter discovered the citation while preparing a profile of Heimlich ahead of the postseason. The citation was later dismissed.
A day later, Heimlich released a statement and asked to be excused from the team. On Thursday, Heimlich, who went 11-1 this season with an 0.76 E.R.A., announced that he was skipping the College World Series as well.
“I’m sad to say I am not joining them because doing so would only create further distraction for my teammates, more turmoil for my family and given the high profile of the national championship, direct even more unwanted attention to an innocent young girl,” Heimlich said in the statement.
His decision and his past have left his teammates to navigate a difficult situation awkwardly. In the hallway outside the Beavers locker room on Friday, shortstop Cadyn Grenier joked to reporters that he would handle Casey’s interviews. But such levity was scarce Friday. Five minutes later, second baseman Nick Madrigal, the Pac-12 player of the year and one of the Beavers’ captains, appeared nervous as he tried to deflect questions about Heimlich.
Asked if Heimlich had addressed the team before it left for Omaha, Madrigal said, “It’s great to be here in Omaha.” Pressed about Heimlich’s absence, Madrigal said: “We’re a team. We’re focused on pitch by pitch. We don’t really worry about anything else.”
Pitcher Jake Thompson was no more expansive.
“It would be great to have him here, but it is what it is,” he said. “You’ve got to stay strong and stay with the team. We’re all close. We all love each other. It’s a great brotherhood, and we’ll be best friends forever.”
Heimlich’s plea as a teenager required him to register as a Level 1 sex offender. In Washington, that type of offender is considered the lowest possible risk, with minimal likelihood of committing another offense, according to the Oregonian. He finished two years of probation and court-ordered sex offender treatment in 2014.
The N.C.A.A. does not prohibit felons or sex offenders from playing intercollegiate sports, leaving decisions on player eligibility in such cases to individual universities and conferences. Oregon State currently allows it, although that could change after a review of the Heimlich matter, Ed Ray, the university’s president, said in a statement. Ray added that he would welcome Heimlich back for his senior season if he decided to return. Once projected to be a top-50 pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, he was not selected in any of the 40 rounds last week.
Oregon State arrived in Omaha as the favorite, with the best winning percentage (54-4, .931) of any qualifier since Texas in 1982 (57-4, .934). “They’re super good,” said Cal State Fullerton Coach Rick Vanderhook, whose team played the Beavers in the C.W.S. opener on Saturday.
The Beavers, who have not lost since April 29, showed just how good they are, coming back from four runs down in the fourth to beat the Titans, 6-5. Oregon State was scheduled to play Louisiana State next, on Monday night.
Pitching carries the Beavers, winners of 22 straight games who began the Series leading Division I with 14 shutouts and a 1.80 E.R.A. Even without Heimlich, the Beavers have a formidable staff. The junior right-hander Thompson (14-0, 1.84) led Division I in victories. When Thompson faltered Saturday, allowing five runs in three and two-thirds innings, the freshman left-hander Jake Mulholland entered to throw four and a third innings of hitless, scoreless relief for the victory. Casey said the sophomore right-hander Bryce Fehmel (5-2, 3.80) would start against Louisiana State. In his last time out, Fehmel pitched a 10-strikeout complete game to eliminate Vanderbilt, 9-2, in the superregional.
Casey said: “It’s an amazing world when you’re working with 18- and 21-year old kids every day, what they endure. There are a lot of tough things going on. We’re held to a really high standard, and they should be. The higher you rise, the more the expectation level goes up. I’m proud of our kids. I’m proud of the way have gone about their business and bonded together.”
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