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Two former area baseball standouts taken in draft
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When Robby Hefflinger’s name was called on the second day of the 2009 MLB Draft, it conveniently came from the closest team possible. The former Gainesville High standout and current outfielder and pitcher for Georgia Perimeter College was selected by the hometown Atlanta Braves on Wednesday in the seventh round, 208th overall.

The selection puts the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Hefflinger within driving distance of his prospective new team, as the Jaguars’ field in Covington is only 42 miles away from Turner Field.

Hefflinger could not be reached by press time Wednesday.

Hefflinger worked his way up the draft board after a successful first year at Georgia Perimeter College. As freshman with the Jaguars, he hit .324 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs and was an All-District selection from the East-Central District of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

While managing his plate performance, Hefflinger adjusted to a new position in the outfield, a position he didn’t play in high school, collecting 22 assists with only two errors.

Hefflinger also saw time on the pitcher’s mound, where he was 7-0 with three saves, five complete games, 60 strikeouts and a 2.68 ERA in 14 appearances and eight starts. He held opponents to a .168 batting average.

Hefflinger’s heralded freshman college season came after comparable success at the high school level as a third baseman and pitcher for the Red Elephants. As senior in 2008, he hit .476 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs and was a Times All-Area first-team selection, All-Region and All-State selection. He helped the Red Elephants win a Region 7-AAA title in 2007 and earn region runner-up in 2008.

“He’s a strong kid with a big body, and the pros are looking for that,” said former Gainesville coach Wayne Vickery, who coached Hefflinger. “You don’t find too many kids like him.

“All those times that he came to school at 5:30 in the morning and hit is paying off now,” Vickery added. “On top of being a good player, he’s a good person. I think this is something great for him.”

Hefflinger was the first of two Hall County players to be drafted this year. Also selected was Chestatee grad and current University of Georgia pitcher Alex McRee, who was picked in the 26th round, 787th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McRee recently completed his third season with at the Bulldogs, where he was 4-4 with 6.27 ERA in 15 appearances, including 13 starts.

During his sophomore year, the 6-foot-7, 235-pound left-hander set career-best numbers in wins (7), strikeouts (65) and ERA (3.98). He was a member of the Georgia team that played in the College World Series championship series in 2008.

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