Freeport’s Jarrett Heilman named Valley News Dispatch Baseball Player of the Year

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Saturday, June 22, 2019 | 9:45 PM


2019 Valley News Dispatch Baseball All-Stars

Player of the Year

Jarrett Heilman, Junior, Pitcher, Freeport

Jarrett Heilman said he and his Freeport baseball teammates are getting noticed more in the community since they lifted the program to its first PIAA playoff appearance since 1998.

“I’ll go into Tony’s Pizza in Sarver, and I’ll be wearing my baseball hat and people will come up to me and congratulate us on a great season. It feels great to have that community support,” said Heilman, who supported his team with lights-out performances this spring.

The junior posted a 9-2 record and an 0.67 ERA over 73 innings for a Yellowjackets squad that finished 15-7, captured the Section 1-3A title, earned the No. 1 seed for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs and placed third.

Freeport saw its season end in heartbreaking fashion with a 3-2 loss to District 10 champion Franklin in the first round of the PIAA tournament.

Heilman struck out 107 and walked only seven. He dazzled spectators in the WPIAL first round against Waynesburg when he took a perfect game into the sixth and finished with a one-hitter.

One week later, he shut down Keystone Oaks, 1-0, in the consolation game to help send Freeport to states.

“I am happy that I was able to go out there and pitch well to give my team a chance to win,” he said. “Everything worked out in the end.”

Heilman also batted .290 with 11 RBIs.

For his efforts, Heilman has been selected the Valley News Dispatch Baseball Player of the Year.

Despite the tough end in the PIAA playoffs, how do you feel about the season?

We had a great season. I said to someone even before one of the WPIAL games that we weren’t even ranked in the top 10 in the WPIAL in the preseason, and we ended up the No. 1 seed for the (3A) playoffs. Really, win or lose, we had a good run.

What was the most exciting part of the year?

It would have to be the section-championship win over Deer Lakes at home. Any sport Deer Lakes and Freeport play, it’s pretty competitive. (Greg) Geis was pitching, and he’s crazy good. We knew it was going to be a close game decided by a couple runs. It was extra special to win it in a walk-off.

You delivered the winning hit to complete the come-from-behind win against the Lancers. Were you worried for your well-being at the bottom of the celebration pile?

In the moment, I wasn’t thinking about it too much. But coming out of it, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m lucky to be alive.’ There were some people who were just running a full sprint and jumping on me. But it was worth it.

With so many on the team coming back — eight of the 10 in the starting lineup were juniors — you will be the hunted. Is that a position everyone relishes?

I can’t say where we will be ranked next year, but with the section title, our run in the WPIAL and, ultimately, the first round of state playoffs, we know we’re going to have a target on our backs. Really, it’s going to be exciting, no matter what.

How did the 1-0 win against Waynesburg help you when you faced that same situation against Keystone Oaks in the third-place game a week later?

We’re known for our close games, and we felt confident when we had the lead, even if it was just one run, as long as we kept up our confidence in ourselves and each other.

Who was the toughest batter you faced?

I would say Zach Miller from Burrell. He was their leadoff hitter. He has a short, compact swing and makes a lot of contact. And he’s fast. Even if it’s a ground ball in the infield, it’s not a sure out. He hit a couple doubles off me at Burrell, too. He had my number that day.

What are you looking forward to most at next month’s Big 26 Baseball Classic?

I’m excited to work with the buddy program. I will be paired up with a kid with special needs or a disability of some sort. At Freeport, we have a close-knit community between the students and the special needs programs. I am looking forward to continuing that on a different stage.

The Baby Shark children’s song, it seems like it’s become a good-luck charm for you. How much was it a part of your pre-game routine?

Yes. I will live and die by that. I listened to it before every game but only for school games. I think it’s great. It’s hilarious.

What was your favorite children’s show or cartoon growing up?

I would say it was the old cartoons of Tom & Jerry or the Flintstones. Tom would get blown up, and you would see him walking around totally fine a couple of minutes later.

If they played walk-up music for high school games, which song would you choose?

I would probably have “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. Something nice and easy to bop your head and maybe sing along to.

If you could keep only three TV channels, which ones would they be?

MLB Network, because, you know, baseball; ESPN because of the all-around sports coverage; and KDKA because I watched it every day before school.

Do you have a summer job?

Not at the moment, but my mom wants me to get into the food business. She said everyone should work in the food industry at least once. I’ve actually wanted to be a waiter because talking to people would be fun, and I like food. Who doesn’t like food?”

At what type of establishment would you like to work?

I would like a place like Rock-A-Fellas, a sports bar and grille or somewhere like Starbucks, actually. I’m also a big coffee guy.

Are you playing summer ball with a travel team?

I’m kind of taking the summer off because I’ve already thrown a lot of innings this year. I will be working out, and I also might make a couple of spot starts for teams.

FIRST-TEAM ALL-STARS

ZACH ALLEN

FREEPORT, JR., THIRD BASE

Allen’s glove and bat were big factors in the Yellowjackets’ run to the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 1998. He batted a team-best .471 (32-68) with a .550 on-base percentage and a .618 slugging percentage. He collected eight doubles, 13 RBIs and 15 runs.

JACK BARTEK

KNOCH, SR., PITCHER

The Knights earned their eighth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth in 2019, and the ace of the pitching staff led the team with a 6-2 record. He fashioned a 2.07 ERA over 44 innings, struck out 42 and walked 11.

GREG GEIS

DEER LAKES, SR., PITCHER/INFIELDER

The West Liberty commit’s pitching and hitting helped the Lancers tie for second in Section 1-3A. The lefty finished the season 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 49 2/3 innings. He struck out 58. Offensively, he collected 22 hits over 54 at-bats for a team-best .407 average, drove in 15 runs and posted seven doubles, three triples and two home runs.

NOAH GILLETTE

HIGHLANDS, SR., PITCHER/INFIELDER

The Pitt-Johnstown commit earned the pitching victory in the Golden Rams’ upset of No. 3 Thomas Jefferson as he gave up three runs in six-plus innings. He finished the season 6-2 with a 1.70 ERA (11 earned runs in 45 1/3 innings) and 49 strikeouts. At the plate, Gillette batted .338 with 16 RBIs.

MATT JERPE

FOX CHAPEL, SR., THIRD BASE

The Point Park commit surged offensively at the end of the season to finish as the team leader in average at .389. He singled three times to pace the Foxes in their Class 5A first-round playoff loss to Mars. Jerpe also led the team in RBIs (12), runs (11) and extra-base hits (seven).

GINO MARRA

PLUM, SR., PITCHER

The ace of the Mustangs pitching staff posted a 2-2 record with a 1.71 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 41 innings. The first-team selection in a deep Section 2-6A struck out 54. He tossed a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over section foe Norwin on April 15. Marra will pitch at Division I UNC-Ashville.

ZACH MILLER

BURRELL, JR., OUTFIELD

Hitting and speed at the top of the lineup and a strong arm in the outfield helped Miller stand out for the Bucs, who grabbed the No. 7 seed for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs and made the quarterfinals. He finished with a .418 average (23 of 55) with 11 RBIs and 15 runs. He also sparked the team with 13 stolen bases.

BILLY PERROZ

KISKI AREA, JR., PITCHER/FIRST BASE/OUTFIELD

The versatile veteran led the team with a .464 average (26 of 56), scored a team-leading 20 runs while driving in 15 and ripped eight doubles and two triples. He collected nine multi-hit games, including a 3-for-3 effort with two RBIs in a key Section 1-5A win over Fox Chapel that fueled the team’s drive to the postseason.

JOSH PROBST

DEER LAKES, SR., CATCHER

Behind the plate or at the plate, the Lancers co-captain was a steady force during the team’s run to the postseason. He tied for the team lead in hits (22) and runs scored (15) and finished second in RBIs (19). Probst tallied four doubles and hit a pair of home runs. He went 3 for 5 and drove in two in a key section win over rival Burrell.

LUKE VIRAG

BURRELL, SR., PITCHER/THIRD BASE

The Washington & Jefferson commit posted a 7-3 record and a 1.49 ERA (12 earned runs in 56 2/3 innings) with 61 strikeouts. He fanned nine and scattered six hits in a complete-game victory over McGuffey in the WPIAL Class 3A first round. Virag also batted .447 (25 of 56) with 17 RBIs and 16 runs.

SECOND-TEAM ALL-STARS

Justin Branagan, Deer Lakes, Fr., CF

Dom Fellows, St. Joseph, Jr., P/SS

Zac Kuniak, Highlands, Sr., P/LF

Matt Mitchell, Freeport, Jr., 1B

Tyler Mock, Burrell, Sr., C/OF

Jonathan Simon, Fox Chapel, Sr., P/INF

Ethan Sloane, Knoch, Sr., OF

Tanner Spohn, Burrell, Jr., INF/OF

Ryne Wallace, Kiski Area, Sr., P/OF

Tyler Wood, St. Joseph, Jr., INF/P

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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