If there were any questions concerning the baseball pecking order in Columbia County, this past weekend's play left no doubt: Greenbrier High School is the best.
"If there's a better team out there, I'd hate to face them right now," Evans High School coach Ricky Beale said.
His statement came after the Wolfpack scorched the Knights at Evans on Friday for an 11-1 win. The matchup pitting the No. 1 Wolfpack against the No. 3 Knights, according to the GaSports.com coaches poll, looked like any other Greenbrier blowout.
Before Evans even came to bat Friday night, the Wolfpack put six runs on the board with five first-inning hits. Left fielder Cal Morris capped the inning with a three-run home run, his first of two on the weekend, to stun the home crowd.
"I never thought it would happen like this," Greenbrier coach Ed Williams said. "We came out swinging the bats well."
Chris "Fud" Johnson, Greenbrier's starting short stop, led the Wolfpack with a three-for-four showing at the plate, including two doubles and two RBI.
Wolfpack pitcher Brandon Cumpton took advantage of the big lead and silenced the Evans bats. Cumpton threw five innings and gave up only one run on three hits and five strikeouts for the win.
That was only good enough to count as the second-best pitching performance of the weekend for Greenbrier.
The best performance came a day later, when sophomore Nolan Belcher took his second start on the mound for the Wolfpack. The opponent, Jones County, had defeated defending state champion Henry County on March 8 by a score of 8-2.
When Belcher was finished with Jones County on Saturday, the left-handed sophomore walked off the mound with a no-hitter.
Belcher's no-hitter came on seven innings of work with seven strikeouts. Of the 25 Jones County batters he faced, five reached base on three walks and two were hit by balls. No base runner reached farther than second base, and only three batters hit the ball out of the infield.
Belcher said he's accomplished the feat in recreation ball and last year at Augusta Christian Schools playing in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association. In this no-hitter, he said, he was unaware of the situation until the final inning.
"I didn't realize it until someone on the other team was yelling about breaking up the no-hitter," Belcher said. "Once I started thinking about it, I got kind of nervous."
In the final inning, Jones County's lead-off batter launched a shot to deep right field. Fortunately for Belcher, right fielder Rafael Parks didn't give up on the ball.
"It was hit high," Parks said. "I thought it was going to hit the fence. I got up under it. I backed up. Then I tripped. I didn't know I caught it until I looked in my glove."
Park made the less-than-glamorous catch for the first out in the seventh. Belcher walked two batters in the inning, but got the final two outs on infield grounders for the no-hitter.
The win kept Greenbrier undefeated at 6-0 on the year and 2-0 in Region 2W-AAAA play.
Also in action Saturday, Evans rebounded from its loss to Greenbrier with a 9-6 win at Lakeside High School. The Panthers committed seven errors in the loss despite J.C. Huffman's home run.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.