It took one weekend in late February and early March for Scott Streiffert to realize Emily Heimberger’s game had evolved.
As a sophomore, the diminutive shortstop hit .458, a number that by itself draws plenty of respect. But that average was a product of Heimberger’s legs. She’d make any contact she could, and then rely on beating out a throw from an infielder.
A trip to the Bishop Blast tournament – an event loaded with some of the best schools in the state – proved something was different. Not only did Heimberger exit the tournament hitting .600, she was doing it while also hitting for power.
“That was very important,” said Heimberger, the Toast of the Coast Softball Player of the Year. “I used to not be able to hit it past the pitcher. That didn’t help when we had runners on base and needed to bring runs in.”
As the season progressed, Heimberger’s newfound skill did, too. She finished 2014 with 15 of the team’s 54 extra-base hits and had 39 RBIs. Still, she did all that without sacrificing batting average or speed.
She raised her average nearly 150 points to an eye-popping .596, a single-season school record. Heimberger, also stole 33 bases and scored 44 runs from her lead-off spot. All those numbers helped the Warriors win 17 consecutive games during the second half and reach the Class AA Lower State finals for the second straight season and the fourth time in six years.
Even with another year at Waccamaw remaining, Heimberger has already put her name next to some of the greats who have come through the program in the last decade.
“I don’t want to take anything away from kids we’ve had in the past, but Emily brings everything to the table,” Streiffert said. “She’s amazing on defense. She’s as fast as anyone I’ve ever coached. Now, she can hit for power. She can do everything. That’s what makes her so good.”
Streiffert contends his shortstop is even better defensively than she is with the bat. Still, what she accomplished offensively in 2014 makes that hard to believe.
“The fact that she hit more than 100 points higher than anyone in the history of our program is phenomenal,” Streiffert said. “We played very good competition. Emily was incredibly consistent. You just felt like you knew she was going to get a hit. There were times where I felt she was going to get a hit every time.”
The major jump in offensive statistics, though, isn’t going to change much for Heimberger’s future, she said. She is firmly locked in to the verbal commitment she made to Mississippi State earlier this year.
“I have my heart set on it,” Heimberger said. “Once I visited, I fell in love with it. It definitely is a big relief. … But it doesn’t mean I can slack off. You definitely have to keep working.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.