OMAHA, Neb. — Gordon Beckham is good.
Beckham, the eighth overall draft pick of the White Sox in this year's MLB draft, is the lifeblood of the Georgia baseball team, and never was that more apparent than in Monday's Game One of the College World Series championship series.
With his team down three in the eighth inning, Beckham launched a two-run shot that put his team within one and ignited the Bulldog offense—and he called his shot, too.
"I told [Georgia] coach [David Perno] earlier on in the week you know, every one was giving me grief for not hitting a home run and breaking that record and our school record and all that stuff," said Beckham, one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes award, which will be announced at the MLB All-Star Game.
"I turned to coach and said, ‘I’m going to hit it when we need it the most.'"
The homer was the 52nd in the shortstop's Georgia career (the school record), and his first since the Bulldogs' Super Regional against N.C. State. His 27th shot of the season added to the single-season Georgia record he already owns, and pulled him to within one of the NCAA lead (LSU's Matt Clark had 28 before his Bayou Bengals were ushered out of Omaha).
"He's a pretty special player," Perno said. "He's called a bunch of shots throughout his career. A couple of guys have been on him about when he would hit his next home run and he said, 'When we need it the most.' He delivered."
More importantly, the .404 hitter again served as a catalyst for his team en route to another win, this one pushing Georgia baseball to within one win from its first national championship since 1990.
"He’s our leader, if he goes we’ll go, and the time that he picked you couldn’t have asked for a better time to get going,” said designated hitter Joey Lewis, who delivered the game-winning RBI double in Georgia's 7-6 Game One win. “We see what he does and go from there.”
This isn't the first time Beckham's done it. From walk-off home runs to scoring the winning run on wild pitches, the Bulldog junior has done it all season after a "mediocre" sophomore campaign (.307-13-51). His team looked dismal in a first-game loss to Lipscomb in the Athens Regional, and not much better in the first six innings of its second game against Louisville.
Cue the SEC Player of the Year, whose seventh-inning, three-run shot set off a four-game winning streak in the Regional and carried them all the way to the championship series in Omaha.
"[Monday's] homer is bigger, because this is the national championship," said the six-foot, 185-pound righty. "But the Louisville one got us going, and it's the reason we're here."
It's an oft-used cliche in sports, but Beckham makes his teammates better too. Georgia cleanup hitter Rich Poythress is having an outstanding season in his own right, batting .374 after Monday's game with 15 home runs and 71 RBI.
Though this "pick your poison" situation doesn't allow Beckham to be walked as often as his All-American status should dictate, when it does happen, Poythress makes opposing pitchers pay—he's hitting close to .700 (yes, that's a seven) after a Beckham intentional walk this season.
"When Rich is up there he's got as good of a chance as I do," Beckham said. "If he wasn't producing [the walks] would be aggravating."
During the entry draft, ESPN's Peter Gammons repeatedly praised Beckham as, simply, "a baseball player," and that's exactly what he is—the Atlanta native does it in the field and on the basepaths too. On Monday, his unassisted double play (where he snagged a line drive and dove to tag a Fresno State runner caught off of second) kept a three-run Fresno inning in check.
The three-hole hitter also leads the Bulldogs in stolen bases (17-for-19 on the season).
"It's unbelievable, he's like Nintendo," Perno said in March.
Along with closer Joshua Fields, Beckham is part of only the second Georgia tandem to go in the first round (Cris Carpenter and Derek Lilliquist in 1987). After a dismal 2007 season that saw the Bulldogs go 23-33 and not ranked this preseason, if Georgia goes on to win its second national championship, Beckham will obviously be a huge reason why.
With Fields projected to be one of the first draftees to debut in the Majors (20th overall pick to the Mariners), Beckham shouldn't be far behind.