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Western Lands Six on the Coaches' All-Southern Conference Baseball Team; Kenny Smith Named SoCon Player of the Year

May 23, 2007

Charleston, S.C. - Western Carolina landed six players, including a league-best five on the first team, as the 2007 Coaches' All-Southern Conference team and yearly awards were announced today at the outset of first round play at the SoCon Baseball Championship. In addition to being named to the first team, WCU senior Kenny Smith was tabbed the league's Player of the Year by the league's 10 head coaches.

Smith led both the team and the conference with a .412 batting average, while also pacing the league with 79 RBI, five shy of tying the school-record (84, Chris Moore in 1999) and eight shy of tying the conference record (87, Chris Campbell, CofC - 2005). The Asheville, N.C., native, who was a two-time SoCon Player of the Week and Player of the Month in March, also hit a team-best 18 home runs for the Catamounts.

Smith headlined five WCU starters on the first team where he was joined by junior catcher Blake Murphy, junior outfielder Barrett Shaft, and pitchers Drew Saberhagen and junior Greg Holland. Junior Steven Strausbaugh rounded out Western's selections, garnering second team honors in the outfield.

Murphy led the Catamounts with nine home runs during conference play this season, hitting .380 in league-only games. A second-team selection last season, the Waynesville, N.C., native raised his overall batting average 38 points over the final nine games of the regular season by hitting .516 (15-of-27) with six home runs and 14 RBI and was also named a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week. He enters the tournament this week leading the conference in walks (48), which also ranks him 21st nationally.

Shaft, who started every game for the Catamounts in centerfield this season, garnered his first career all-conference accolade this season. The Lilburn, Ga., native ranked second on the squad with 88 base hits this year, which additionally ranked fifth in the SoCon. He earned Player of the Week recognition after a trio of 3-for-4 performances at the plate against The Citadel.

Rounding out Western's five, first-team selections were starting pitcher, Drew Saberhagen, and reliever, Greg Holland. A weekend starter for the Catamounts who posted an 8-1 overall record, Saberhagen only allowed 17 free passes in 91 innings pitched this season. The Calabasas, Calif., native season earned victory in eight of his 14 starts this season, including the victory over the then-sixth ranked Clemson Tigers in Cullowhee. A preseason All-SoCon selection, Holland, like his classmate Shaft, earned his first post-season accolade from the league office this season. The Marion, N.C., native earned SoCon Pitcher of the Week honors after earning all three victories over Elon in relief in a three-game sweep of the Phoenix in Cullowhee. He led the team with 30 appearances this season, all in relief, with 51 strikeouts.

Strausbaugh, a preseason all-conference and first team All-American, hit just under .300 in SoCon play this season, belting eight home runs, second only to Murphy. It is the third time in three years that the Venice, Fla., native has been recognized after garnering SoCon Freshman of the Year and second team accolades in 2005 and first team honors a year ago.

The College of Charleston had seven players named to either the first or second team to lead all league schools, just ahead of Western's five. Seventh-seeded The Citadel, who WCU plays in the first round on Wednesday night, had four players recognized, with Appalachian State tallying two. Davidson, Elon, Georgia Southern, UNC Greensboro and Wofford each had one player named to the honorary squad.

CofC's Nick Chigges was named the conference Pitcher of the Year, with head coach John Pawlowski earning Coach of the Year accolades. Rounding out the individual awards was The Citadel's Richard Jones capturing the Freshman of the Year honor.

Western (40-16) opens play in the 2007 SoCon Baseball Tournament at approximately 7:30 pm Wednesday night against No. 7 The Citadel at Riley Park in Charleston. The Catamounts swept the Bulldogs during the regular season, taking all three games the two played in Cullowhee.

Each game Western plays in this year's tournament will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard locally in Western North Carolina on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee or online at

2006 Coaches All-Southern Conference Team

First Team C- Blake Murphy (Western Carolina) 1B- Zach Brown (The Citadel) 2B- Kenny Smith (Western Carolina) 3B - Brandon Waring (Wofford) SS - Oliver Marmol (College of Charleston) OF - Michael Harrington (College of Charleston) OF - Barrett Shaft (Western Carolina) OF - David Rubinstein (Appalachian State) DH - Rob Wilson (Davidson) SP - Nick Chigges (College of Charleston SP - Drew Saberhagen (Western Carolina) RP - Greg Holland (Western Carolina)

Second Team C - Alex Garabedian (College of Charleston) 1B - Graham Maiden (College of Charleston) 2B - Chris Campbell (College of Charleston) 3B - Ben Lasater (College of Charleston) SS - Jason Altenhof (Appalachian State) OF - Chris Swauger (The Citadel) OF - Steven Strausbaugh (Western Carolina) OF - Sonny Meade (The Citadel) DH - Richard Jones (The Citadel) SP - Steven Hensley (Elon) SP - Ryan Falcon (UNC Greensboro) RP - A.J. Battisto (Georgia Southern)

Player of the Year - Kenny Smith (Western Carolina) Pitcher of the Year - Nick Chigges (College of Charleston) Freshman of the Year - Richard Jones (The Citadel) Coach of the Year - John Pawlowski (College of Charleston)