PORTLAND — Luke Heimlich, a standout pitcher for Oregon State's top-ranked baseball team, pleaded guilty to a single count of molesting a 6-year-old girl when he was a teenager.
Heimlich's criminal history was reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive on Thursday, a day or two before he's slated to pitch in this weekend's regional final against Vanderbilt. The two teams play at 6 tonight in Corvallis (ESPN2).
The left-hander from Puyallup, Washington, is projected to be an early round pick in next week's Major League Baseball draft. MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said the league had no comment.
In an editorial accompanying the article, the newspaper said it learned about Heimlich's 2012 conviction while doing a routine background check before running a profile on him.
Heimlich failed to renew his registration as a sex offender in Oregon within 10 days of his most recent birthday and was cited in Benton County on a misdemeanor charge that was dismissed last month, according to court records reviewed by the AP.
That citation led The Oregonian to the Washington state case, and it obtained those records using a public information act request.
Heimlich did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper. Beavers coach Pat Casey could not comment on the case. At practice Thursday, Casey told reporters that Heimlich was available to pitch, but he did not announce the rotation for the weekend.
Heimlich's attorney, Stephen Ensor, did not return a call from the AP.
Oregon State spokesman Steve Clark declined to say when Oregon State became aware of Heimlich's status as a registered sex offender or to answer any questions about the case, citing federal laws that protect student privacy.
The state police provide the school with a list of registered sex offenders who are affiliated with the campus on a regular basis, Clark said, and the school then interviews each person and puts safeguards in place to protect other students and staff.
He declined to say if Heimlich's name had been provided to the school by the Oregon State Police.
"We're not able to discuss the specifics of this case, when we knew, what we knew or any other student information specific to this student or other students. It's a federal law," Clark told the AP.
"What I would offer to you is we're very aware of this matter now and we take this very seriously."
OSU President Ed Ray called the account "disturbing" in a statement released Thursday and said the school "does not condone the conduct as reported."
"But we also understand that this case involves a criminal matter that was previously addressed by the judicial system in the state of Washington," he wrote.
Students who are registered sex offenders are not allowed to live in student residence halls or work with minors, he said.
The school also released a statement that said Oregon State follows the U.S. Department of Education's recommendation that universities not allow past criminal history to disproportionately hinder a student's access to higher education.
Prosecutors initially charged Heimlich with two counts of molestation for abuse that began when the girl was 4, The Oregonian said.
Heimlich ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of molestation between February 2011 and December 2011, a period during which he was 15. Prosecutors dismissed the other charge as part of a plea bargain.
He entered a diversion program, received two years of probation and was ordered to attend sex offender treatment for two years, according to court records. He was sentenced to 40 weeks of detention at Washington's Juvenile Rehabilitation authority. But that sentence was suspended and he served no time, according to court records, because he successfully completed probation.
Heimlich was classified in Washington state as the lowest-level sex offender with little risk of repeating the behavior. He finished his probation and court-ordered classes in fall 2014, around the time he moved to Corvallis, Oregon, to attend Oregon State.
Clark, the OSU spokesman, said he didn't know if publicity about the case would lead to any changes in this weekend's pitching line-up.
Heimlich is the top pitcher on Oregon State's No. 1-ranked baseball team, compiling an 11-1 record with a 0.76 ERA.