Adam Heidenfelder has had the presence of an ace since he first stepped onto the mound for MacArthur last season. And that's before you account for the junior's 6-4, 245-pound frame.
In his first appearance as a sophomore, the righthander came in from the bullpen against Hicksville, and on the third pitch of the first batter he faced he shook off MacArthur coach Steve Costello's call for a curveball and went at the batter with his heater that had earned him an 0-and-2 count.
Heidenfelder would get that strikeout on the next pitch and then fanned eight of the next nine, as his hitless, nine-strikeout, three-inning relief debut would foreshadow the fantastic season he had this year.
In the 2013 campaign, Heidenfelder's 6-1 record with a 0.92 ERA, 88 strikeouts and 12 walks in 53 innings earned him the Diamond Award, given by the Nassau County Baseball Coaches Association to the county's best pitcher at an awards dinner Wednesday night at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale.
Heidenfelder said the support and confidence of his coaches and teammates from that first outing allowed him to have the success he had this season.
"Now I have the freedom to shake him off since I knew what I was doing, but he still jokes around with me about it," Heidenfelder said. "Knowing that I could dominate last year out of the bullpen, I knew I could get the best of everyone and that's another confidence booster for me that helped me this season."
Said Costello: "I've never had a pitcher shake me off as much as Adam does, but I don't mind. He's got the confidence and he's usually right."
Heidenfelder, whose fastball tops out at 93 mph, is the eighth player from MacArthur to win the Diamond Award since 1987.
"It's pretty cool, especially knowing that some guys from MacArthur have won it before," Heidenfelder said. "I did well last year out of the bullpen, but I couldn't imagine that this year would happen."
Heidenfelder, who has received interest from top college programs like Clemson, USC and Hofstra, had a number of memorable starts this season. He pitched a two-hit shutout in a quarterfinal game against Bellmore JFK and struck out 17 batters in a game twice -- once in a six-inning outing and the other in a one-hit shutout after the first batter of the game led off with a hit.
But the one start that stands out the most in his mind was one where he didn't even record the win.
Heidenfelder went eight shutout innings in a semifinal game against Syosset with four hits and nine strikeouts, but had to wait until his team walked off with a 1-0 win in the bottom of the 10th to celebrate.
"I didn't get the win in that game but I pitched great and my team rallied behind me," he said. "After that I knew I could trust my teammates more and more and that stood out because it showed how much my team meant to me and how much we cared about winning."
MacArthur fell short of its ultimate goal when it lost in the Nassau AA championship series, but Heidenfelder's Diamond Award gives him and the Generals something to be proud of and to build on for next season.
"This makes me feel better about this season even though we lost, but just a little bit." Heidenfelder said. "I couldn't believe the season I had and am just going to try to one-up it next year. I don't know how I'm going to do it but I'll try."