A-K Valley athletes of the week: Springdale’s Alexis Hrivnak, Freeport’s Jarrett Heilman

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 | 1:16 PM

Jarrett Heilman

School: Freeport

Class: Junior

Sport: Baseball

Report card: Heilman is picking up where he left off last season. The 6-foot-2 righty delivered a gem for Class 3A No. 2 Freeport (3-1) by striking out 13 and giving up five hits in the Yellowjackets’ 5-0 win over nonsection rival Highlands last week. Heilman has a .333 batting average through seven plate appearances. He’s coming off a sophomore season where he posted a 5-0 record from the hill. Heilman started at center for the Freeport junior varsity basketball team this past season.

How focused were you when you pitched the shutout against rival Highlands last week?

Every time Freeport goes up against Highlands in any sport, it’s a good matchup. They hit me pretty well in the later innings last year.

What’s your best pitch?

I like my slider and fastball. I’ve gained some miles per hour with the fastball, so I like setting it up with the off-speed (pitch) to make it look faster than what it is.

Do you have any superstitions when you’re on the hill?

Before every game, dating back to a little kid, I listen to “Baby Shark Dance” before every game. It’s a toddler song. It’s really catchy.

What are your thoughts on Freeport dropping down from Class 4A to 3A this year?

I was looking at our opponents, and I don’t think it got any easier.

What do you think about the new section?

I think Burrell is going to be really good and a good competitor. We played them in the fall.

After a run of successful regular seasons, Freeport has been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round the last three years. Does that weigh heavy on this team?

Yeah. It’s always a main focus. Coach (Ed) Carr is going to prep us extra hard this year. I expect to make a run in the playoffs this year. I feel really confident about it.

How is this year’s team different?

We have a lot of younger kids. We have 12 juniors. Last year, we started seven seniors. It’s a whole different atmosphere.

What is something interesting about you nobody knows?

I can blow spit bubbles. That’s something I picked up whenever I was called up to a game. I was bored in right field. Sometimes, I do that on the mound, and I don’t even realize it.

Alexis Hrivnak

School: Springdale

Class: Freshman

Sport: Softball

Report card: Hrivnak’s performance from the circle has the Class A No. 5 Dynamos surging to start the season. With nonsection wins over East Allegheny and Bishop Canevin, Hrivnak has pitched Springdale (2-0) to its best start in nearly two decades. She’s tallied 26 strikeouts, seven hits and no walks in her two starts and is 5 for 8 at the plate, including five RBIs. Hrivnak plays softball year-round for the Ohio Outlaws Premiere under-14 team.

When did you start playing softball?

When I was 7 years old, for the Springdale rec league.

How did it feel to get your first varsity win last week?

It felt great. It was amazing, especially since it’s my first year playing varsity ball.

The Dynamos haven’t started the season with a 2-0 record in a long while. How excited is this team about the season?

Our team, you can just tell on the bench, we are wound up in there. We’re all excited about the game. It’s a lot of fun.

What’s the strength of this year’s team?

We have a lot of new people starting this season. As a whole, defense is where I think we’re doing really well. On offense, they’re really hitting the ball.

What do you know about the section?

I know they said Jeannette has a good pitcher.

What are your thoughts about Springdale’s WPIAL Class A No. 5 ranking?

That’s good for our team and I know that Springdale hasn’t been there in so many years. It’s real exciting for us.

What’s your best pitch?

They’re all pretty good.

What is something interesting about you nobody knows?

I do Body Pump; it’s like aerobics but with weights. It will whip you into shape real quick.

— William Whalen

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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