Puyallup High School baseball coach Marc Wiese stopped short of saying the Vikings would have won last year’s Class 4A state championship if Luke Heimlich had been permitted to play.
But that the left-handed pitcher’s talent was spent wrecking havoc on junior varsity batters, while the Vikings’ varsity lost in the first round of the state tournament, doesn’t sit too well with Wiese.
“We could have done more damage than we did,” he said.
Heimlich has the kind of talent to impact any roster. But as a transfer from Rogers High School, he was not allowed to play varsity athletics at Puyallup.
Wiese said he still hears the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” chatter about last season.
But this year – with Heimlich eligible and dominating – Puyallup approaches the postseason well stocked for a run at its first state title in the storied program’s history. The top-ranked Vikings (20-0, 16-0 4A SPSL) meet SPSL North winner Kentridge for the league title Thursday at Kent Memorial Park.
“We could have used him last year, honestly,” Wiese said. “It’s a shame we lost in the first round. … With Luke here, it’s going to make a big difference.”
Heimlich was home-schooled before entering high school. He played with several of his current teammates on a summer team and wanted to join forces with them at Puyallup. As a ninth-grader in 2012, he missed the transfer window, and spent his freshman season at Rogers.
Last season, he transferred to Puyallup but, by WIAA rule, had to sit out the varsity year. To compensate, he did not allow a run pitching on JV.
“Last year it was annoying playing on (JV) knowing I could be (on varsity),” Heimlich said. “I felt like I was being held back. No one came to look at me – I felt like no one noticed what I was doing there.”
But plenty have taken notice of the 6-foot, 175-pound junior this season.
Heimlich is 8-0 with a 0.41 earned-run average (he has allowed just four runs). In 51 innings pitched, the Oregon State University commit has 82 strikeouts.
“He’s a competitor on the mound. He’s tough out there and he can throw his pitches where he wants them,” Todd Beamer coach Jerry Peterson said.
“If you (fall behind), he’s just so difficult to beat. I’ll tell you this: You don’t want to fall behind him, that’s for sure.”
NCAA Division I coaches and professional scouts began taking notice last summer. While playing for the Puyallup Cardinals and Taylor Baseball, Heimlich saw an uptick on his fastball to 87 mph.
Suddenly, scholarship offers came in from Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Washington and Washington State.
“(Scouts and coaches) started to see what I was doing when they came to look at other guys,” Heimlich said. “It felt good that I was getting looks.”
After dominating varsity baseball this spring – he is on the short list of SPSL South player of the year candidates – Heimlich said he wants to refine his pitches and add velocity to reach 90 mph.
“I’ve already hit 89,” Heimlich said. “I know I can do it.”
As Wiese notes, motivation will never be an issue for Heimlich.
“He’s one of the most motivated pitchers we have here,” Wiese said. “He has that fire in his belly to take this thing as far as it will go.”Kevin Manning: 253-597-8680 kevin.manning @thenewstribune.com