A solid pitcher who doubled as a catcher at Shiloh, Matt Vollenweider produced results but not baseball scholarship offers.
His choices were limited coming out of high school and he accepted one of his only offers from Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Ala. The decision has turned out great for both Vollenweider and CVCC, which has a long history of signing Gwinnett talent.
The pitcher has become a key player for the Pirates, proving himself to four-year colleges in the process. He had his choice of several scholarship offers this time around, eventually signing in the fall with defending NCAA Division II national champion West Florida over his other finalists, Georgia College and State University and Jacksonville State.
"I was a little bit surprised (with not getting more scholarship offers in high school), but I'm glad I came to CV, it's been a good fit for me," Vollenweider said.
Vollenweider has made some changes since arriving at the JUCO, not only converting to a full-time pitcher but also switching from starter to closer. He shared the closer's role as a CVCC freshman, going 2-2 with three saves and 1.82 ERA in 14 appearances.
He's picked up an impressive slider and sits around 88 to 90 mph on the radar gun, topping out at 93. Those skills have contributed to a strong sophomore season.
He currently is tied for fourth nationally with eight saves (nearing the school record of 11), and has a 0.56 ERA in 16 appearances. He's expected to be a closer at West Florida, too.
"I like (being a closer)," Vollenweider said. "It's one or two innings at a time and you go 100 percent. I like the pressure part of it, too."
Vollenweider isn't the only Gwinnett product faring well at CVCC.
Sophomore pitcher Daniel Szathmary, a North Gwinnett grad, is 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA after going 6-1 with a 3.23 ERA as a freshman. He has signed with Bryan College.
Fellow North grad Nick Jones is a freshman at CVCC. He's hitting .268 with three home runs and 20 RBIs.
Winder-Barrow has four standouts on the CVCC roster, including pitchers Dustin Dunagan (4-0, 2.06 ERA, one save) and Clint Spratlin (6-1, 2.94 ERA, one save). Dunagan has signed with Winder-Barrow and Spratlin has signed with GCSU.
Fellow Winder-Barrow grads Trace McDaniel and Taylor Hinshaw have signed with North Georgia and GCSU, respectively. McDaniel is 2-4 with a pair of saves this season and Hinshaw is hitting .306 with six homers and 35 RBIs.
Rakes gets academic, all-conference awards
Norcross grad Taylor Rakes, a junior pitcher at Tusculum (Tenn.), was named the South Atlantic Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year this week. The award is based on academic achievement, athletic excellence, service and leadership.
Rakes maintains a 3.88 GPA in economics and international business, business administration and general management and is heavily involved with campus clubs and charities.
He also has an 8-1 record, the second-most wins for a SAC pitcher this season, with a 3.56 ERA. Those efforts earned him second-team All-SAC honors this week.
Neidigh keeps racking up honors
Brookwood grad Jessica Neidigh was selected as the South Atlantic Conference Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-SAC selection earlier this week, in addition to picking up the league's player of the week honor.
The second baseman leads the conference with a .463 batting average, along with ranking first in hits (81), runs (80), total bases (117) and doubles (15). She finished the regular season on a 22-game hitting streak.
Neidigh earned her player of the week honor after going 13-for-25 last week with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. She also pitched a complete game in a non-conference win over Erskine during the week.
McElroy shines at Georgia Southwestern
Grayson grad Rachel McElroy homered in her first college at-bat, kick-starting what would become a strong debut season for Georgia Southwestern.
The freshman outfielder hit .315 with two home runs, 23 RBIs and eight doubles this season.
Herbert named league's top freshman
Greater Atlanta Christian's Emee Herbert was named the South Atlantic Conference Freshman of the Year earlier this week. She also was a first-team All-SAC selection.
The Tusculum golfer ranked second in the conference with a 77.11 scoring average during the regular season, posting eight top-20 finishes in her nine tournaments. Six of those finishes were top-10s.
Herbert concluded the SAC Tournament Tuesday with a third-place finish and a 54-hole score of 229, which broke a school record set back in 2003. She shot 73, 81 and 75 in the conference tourney.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.