Dawgs sweep SEC's major awards

ATHENS - University of Georgia junior shortstop Gordon Beckham is the 2008 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year; Bulldog Joshua Fields is the SEC Pitcher of the Year; Georgia's David Perno is the SEC Coach of the Year, the league announced Tuesday.

It is an unprecedented sweep of the major awards by the Bulldogs as voted on by the league coaches. No school had ever won all four awards in the same year until Georgia this season. Beckham was a unanimous choice for SEC Player of the Year. The league established this award for either a player or pitcher in 1993, and Beckham becomes the first Bulldog to win it. Since 2003, the SEC has named a Pitcher of the Year. Fields is the first Bulldog to win this award. Meanwhile, this is the second time Perno has been named SEC Coach of the Year after sharing it in 2004 with Arkansas' Dave Van Horn when the Bulldogs and Razorbacks were SEC co-champions. The SEC has recognized a Scholar-Athlete of the Year since 2004 and Beckham is the first Bulldog recipient. Coaches are not permitted to vote for their own players or themselves, thus a unanimous selection earns 11 of the 12 first-team votes.

Beckham and Fields headline a list of players named to the first and second-team All-SEC squads this season. Also, Georgia junior catcher Bryce Massanari earned first team All-SEC honors while junior pitchers Trevor Holder and Stephen Dodson made the All-SEC second team. Bulldog sophomore first baseman Rich Poythress made the SEC All-Defensive team.

"This is a tremendous honor for our program and all of the guys on our 2008 SEC Championship team," said Perno. "I'm very excited for Gordon to be recognized for his accomplishments both on the field and in the classroom, and I'm very happy for Joshua who came back for his senior season and has put together a huge year," said Perno. "We've had a great regular season and now we're looking forward to playing well in the post season."

Beckham (.401-23-57, 16 SB, .959 FLDG%), a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, batted .391-13-33 in SEC action in helping Georgia to the 2008 SEC title. An Academic All-America candidate, the 6-0, 185-pound native of Atlanta, ranks among the NCAA leaders in home runs, runs scored, total bases and slugging percentage. He has tied the Bulldog record with 23 home runs this season and is three shy of the career mark now with 48. He has set the runs scored record with 76 this year. Fields is on the national ballot for Academic All-American as a real estate major. He has already made the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District team.

Fields, a semifinalist for the Clemens Award and on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year list, leads the NCAA with a school record 16 saves this year. A 6-0, 178-pound native of Hull, Ga., Fields owns the SEC and Bulldog career saves record with 39. This year, he is 2-2 with a 1.52 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. Fields had 12 saves in SEC play this year.

Perno guided the Bulldogs to a school record 20-9-1 SEC record and the program's sixth overall league title. It was the second conference crown for Perno in his seven seasons at the helm. It marks the seventh time a Bulldog has been named SEC Coach of the Year. Perno joins Jim Whatley (1953-54) as the only Georgia coaches to be honored twice by the league in their tenure.

Massanari, a 6-2, 215-pound native of Las Vegas, Nev., hit .370-8-35 in SEC action this year, starting all 30 league games. Overall, he is batting .326-9-51. In 13 starts on the mound, Holder posted a 7-4 mark and 4.48 ERA while Dodson went 5-2 with a 3.89 ERA. Holder, a 6-3, 195-pound native of Birmingham, Ala., went 5-3 with a 4.99 ERA in SEC action while Dodson, a 6-5, 210-pound native of Norcross, Ga., went 3-1 with a 3.98 ERA.

Poythress, a 6-4, 235-pound native of Grovetown, Ga., carries a .996 fielding percentage in 461 total chances. He has started all 55 games at first base. He ranks second on the club in batting at .365-12-53. This is the first year the SEC has recognized an All-Defensive Team.

Sixth-ranked Georgia (35-19-1) will be back in action Wednesday when it opens play at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. The Bulldogs, seeded No. 1, face No. 8 seed Ole Miss (34-22) at Regions Park at 6 p.m. EDT (CSS-TV).


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