MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – Hot off one of the best seasons in the illustrious history of Georgia College Baseball, senior shortstop Brandon Benson (Loganville) has been named a finalist for two prestigious Division II Baseball honors, the Tino Martinez Award for Division II Player of the Year, and the Josh Willingham Award for Division II Most Valuable Player.
A consensus First Team All-American, Benson hit .395 with 22 home runs, 79 RBIs and 74 runs scored in the 2017 season. The consensus Region Player of the Year and Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Player of the Year, he also tallied an .819 slugging percentage and .464 on-base percentage. The shortstop ended his career on a 17-game hit streak and boasted 22 multi-RBI games on the season, including seven with four RBIs or more.
The Josh Willingham Award is an annual honor presented to DII college baseball's most valuable player. The award is bestowed upon a player who not only excels on the field, but in the dugout, clubhouse and practice field as well, and leads his team to national championship caliber status. The award was created to honor players who help propel their teams to an elite level. The award is named after the former University of North Alabama Lion star, Josh Willingham. While playing baseball at DII's UNA, Willingham was a two-time All American and tied or broke 14 school single-game, season and career records.
Benson is one of 14 finalists for this award, joining the University of Mount Olive's Zack Mozingo as the only two from the NCAA Southeast Region.
The Tino Martinez Award honors DII baseball's most outstanding player and is named after the former University of Tampa Spartan, Olympian and MLB All-Star, Tino Martinez. Martinez is a former first round draft pick and MLB All-Star. While playing for the Spartans, Martinez was a three-time All-American and still holds a number of UT records including career home runs (54), career slugging percentage (.736), career on base percentage (.494), single season batting average (.452) and single season slugging percentage (.957). While he wore a Spartan uniform Tampa advanced to their first NCAA Division II National Championships (1986 and '87) and won their first of twelve SSC Championships ('87). Martinez was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
A trio of Southeast Region student-athletes are among these 12 finalists, including Nick Beinlich from Belmont Abbey College and Connor Hoover of the University of North Georgia.
The Georgia College Department of Athletics, two-time winners of the PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 11 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Bobcat Athletics prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the teams' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at @GCBobcats on social media for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit GCBobcats.PhotoReflect.com to purchase photo prints from home athletic contests.