The Denver Post

Heimlich: “Fans can cheer me on. They can boo.”

- By Eric Olson

OMAHA, NEB.» Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich is the probable starter in the opening game of the College World Series on Saturday, and he said he is ready for any kind of reception he receives from the fans on the sport’s biggest stage.

Heimlich, 22, is in Omaha a year after it was disclosed he had pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a young relative when he was 15. He has denied wrongdoing in recent interviews with Sports Illustrate­d and The New York Times, saying he entered the guilty plea to spare his family the ordeal of a trial.

Heimlich received a standing ovation when he walked off the mound at his home ballpark for the last time last week.

But the left-handed ace will be 1,700 miles from Corvallis, Ore., when the Beavers face North Carolina at TD Ameritrade Park.

“I’m not worried about the fans. I play baseball on the field,” Heimlich said Friday. “People and the fans can cheer me on. They can boo. They can do what they want. I’m here to play baseball.”

Heimlich has played a major role in the Beavers making it to the CWS for the second year in a row.

He leads the nation in wins with a school-record 16-1 record and 151 strikeouts in 120L innings. He was named Pac-12 pitcher of the year for the second straight season.

Last year, after The Oregonian newspaper first reported Heimlich’s juvenile record, he opted to sit out the super regional and did not make the trip to Omaha.

“It wasn’t fun,” Heimlich said. “I watched some of it from home. One of the games I went on a hike, the other I was on a beach somewhere. I definitely was following (it).”

Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and activist who speaks to college sports teams around the country, said Heimlich should not have been allowed to rejoin the team this season.

“It’s long past time for universiti­es and athletic department­s to ban violent athletes,” she said. “There are consequenc­es for your behavior, and playing sports is a privilege.”

Tracy said the NCAA should adopt the rule passed this month by the Big Sky Conference that prevents individual­s with a history of convicted violence to receive athletic-related financial aid or participat­e in practice or competitio­n.

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