Freeport’s Jarrett Heilman ready to test himself in Big 26 Classic

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | 5:18 PM


Jarrett Heilman will be among select company at this weekend’s Big 26 Baseball Classic in Harrisburg.

The Freeport pitching standout will join other top rising juniors and seniors from Pennsylvania for the annual three-game series against a team from Maryland.

Heilman said he’s excited for the opportunity.

“I’ve played against people from across the state and Maryland in travel or AAU baseball before, and everybody here is going to be well above average,” he said.

When Heilman arrives in Harrisburg on Thursday afternoon, he will be meeting all of his Pennsylvania teammates for the first time.

“I’m going in blind as far as knowing anything about my teammates, but I am really looking forward to meeting them and getting to know them,” he said. “It will be great to see the talent they have.”

Each team consists of 26 players: six pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders, six outfielders and three multi-position players.

After a practice Thursday and a coaches’ combine Friday, the teams will play a series of games starting Friday night and continuing to Sunday afternoon.

Heilman is projected to start Friday, and his pitch count over his one or two innings most likely will determine his availability to pitch Saturday or Sunday.

College coaches and pro scouts can attend the event.

“I hope to play well and be able to broaden my perspective on schools,” Heilman said. “I also just want to make new friendships and have fun.”

Heilman said he also is looking forward to taking part in the Buddy Program that pairs a player with someone age 5 to 21 who has intellectual and/or physical challenges. A picnic and a game are two of the program’s activities.

“I know the reputation of the program and how special it is for everyone,” Heilman said. “That is probably going to be the highlight of the weekend.”

Heilman said he didn’t go overboard on the diamond this summer but kept sharp, including pitching a few games with Freeport Palomino.

Freeport was eliminated from its league playoffs in the semifinals Tuesday, but it was back on the field Wednesday at the Freeport International Baseball Invitational.

“Other than the Palomino team, I’ve just been working out and trying to take it easy on baseball since the high school season,” Heilman said.

“I was on a pitch limit, about 60 to 70 a week.”

Heilman was one of only two players from the WPIAL selected to compete at the Big 26 Classic. He and South Fayette rising junior outfielder Ryan McGuire passed the test at Pittsburgh-area tryouts in May.

The tryouts took on a combine format as each candidate was evaluated by coaches and scouts on his ability at his position as well as intangibles such as leadership and hustle.

Heilman’s baseball summer will not conclude in Harrisburg as he is scheduled to take part in the Keystone State Games on Aug. 1-4 in Scranton.

Heilman had a breakout junior season as he helped Freeport finish 15-7, win the Section 1-3A title, finish third in the WPIAL and qualify for the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 1998.

He went 9-2 with a 0.67 ERA in 73 innings. He struck out 107 and walked seven.

Two of his more notable performances came in the WPIAL playoffs. He took a perfect game into the sixth against Waynesburg in a 1-0 first-round victory and came back to shut down Keystone Oaks, 1-0, in the third-place game to help the Yellowjackets get to states.

For more information on the Big 26, visit big26.com.

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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