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Reaching New Heights

May 3, 2004

By Scott MacDonald
Sports Information Assistant

When Georgia Tech signed Erin Voeltz out of Westlake High School in California, the Yellow Jackets were coming off four straight losing seasons. Tech had never won a championship and had only won 35 games or more on two occasions. Since Voeltz’s arrival in 2001, the Jackets have gone 155-85, for a .646 winning percentage, and have captured the program’s first ever ACC title in 2002. It’s the winningest class ever at Georgia Tech and has clipped the 35-win plateau in three straight seasons.

“I think it’s an amazing accomplishment. I feel it has a lot to do with Coach E [Ehren Earleywine] coming in after our freshman year and turning hitting around. Coach J [John Bargfeldt] has done amazing things with the pitchers. I mean Jessie’s [Jessica Sallinger] ERA, and mine, have gone down a lot this year.”

Head coach Ehren Earleywine knows that an integral part of the recent success can be accounted to Voeltz’s hard work and dedication.

“The thing I like about Erin is her consistency, not just physically, but her mental approach to the game,” said Earleywine. In the three years that I’ve been here, I can count on one hand the times that she has shown negative emotion after something did not go her way, good or bad. She has proven to other pitchers on the staff, the importance of location of pitches. She is someone with average velocity and movement, but day in and day out, continues to hit her spots.”

The right-handed pitcher is quick to dismiss personal accolades. Voeltz is a ‘team’ player that always wants to give credit to the team and coaching staff, never pointing the finger at herself. When told that she ranked second in the Tech record books in almost all the pitching categories, including wins, saves, ERA, innings pitched, complete games and strikeouts, to name a few, she shrugged it off.

“I would’ve never believed you,” said Voeltz. “When I came to college I knew that I was going to be throwing against the best hitters in the country. But the improvements I’ve made throughout the years, and the way my team has played behind me, has given me a shot to succeed.”

This season, Voeltz is 15-7, two wins shy of tying a career-high in victories. She currently ranks 25th in the nation with a 0.96 ERA and has fanned a career-high 160 hitters. She broke the school record back on March 19, with 16 strikeouts in seven innings against Austin Peay. The staff broke the school record of 16 shutouts in a single-season with 27 this year and just broke the strikeout record of 459 set last year with 461 in 2004.

“Developing a change-up. It’s a huge difference for me because I’m not going to overpower anyone, so I have to change speeds. Having a change-up is a huge deal for me to be able to keep hitters off balance.

“The reason I’ve been able to strike out more batters this year is due to my movement. Along with developing a change-up, coach J and I worked on a drop-curve pitch that has also been a key ingredient to my success this season.”

According to pitching coach John Bargfeldt, Erin was able to expedite the learning curve and make quick adjustments, allowing her to have command of her new pitches.

“When I came here in August, she was like a sponge,” said Bargfeldt. “She was willing and ready for any type of instructions and was able to add to her pitch reparatory. She developed a change and a drop-curve pitch and worked hard on locating them. Even though she was a senior, she still felt like she could get better and has. What more can you ask from a leader.”

The pitching staff has led the Yellow Jackets to a 41-13 record with two regular season games remaining at Mississippi State on Saturday, May 8. The Jackets will be the No. 4 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament, May 14-16, in Tallahassee, Fla., and will face No. 5 seed NC State, Friday at 11:30 a.m.

“I think we really pulled together as a team. We only have 13 players so we do not have a lot of depth. We had an uncanny ability to bounce back from games where we did not play our best and that’s important during a season. We have played as a team and I think that we are just as capable as Florida State, to win the ACC Championship. It’s going to be tough, but if we play our game, we can play with just about anyone.”

The Westlake, Calif., native started pitching when she was six-years old. Her father, Randy, was an athlete in college, playing football at South Dakota State University and was instrumental to her softball career. Although he never played baseball or softball, he learned what it took to be an athlete and studied up on the art of pitching.

“My dad coached all the teams I played for,” said Voeltz. “He really worked hard with me, from playing catch with me everyday, to reading about pitching in books and teaching me. So I owe a lot to him and the rest of my family.”

Success has not just been limited to athletics for the senior. Voeltz graduated from Tech this past Saturday with a degree in management with highest honor. The 2003 Verizon Academic All-District III first team selection is a three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll honoree and was awarded the Robert Cup, given to Tech’s top senior student-athlete. After the softball season, Voeltz will head back to California for her job at GEICO.

“Yes, I’m going to be living in San Diego working with GEICO in their management and training program.”

Voeltz has given Tech fans a lot to cheer for over the last four years. She posted her 17th complete-game shutout on Senior Day at Glenn Field Sunday afternoon, scattering four hits and striking out seven to lead Tech over Maryland, 1-0. That was just another day in the office for Voeltz, who has enjoyed being a Yellow Jacket for four years.

“It’s been a great experience. Bringing up my game, playing with teammates that live all over the country. The best thing was having the turnaround in 2002 after having a sub par season in 2001. Winning the ACC Tournament and coming one game from going to the World Series. I’ve really enjoyed the comradery of the team, we’re all good friends and have been able to sustain success the last three years.”

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