On Interstate 20 heading east is where I will be as many of you read this column today. I am taking the family to Columbia. We aren't going to the zoo, and, thankfully, neither of my kids are old enough to be enrolling at the University of South Carolina.
I will be going to watch former Greenbrier High School star Nolan Belcher make his college debut.
The lefty has been chosen by Gamecocks head coach Ray Tanner to start Game 2 of the 2009 season today against Duquesne. Luckily, the first pitch is not until 2 p.m. and Columbia is only an hour away, so you still have time to adjust your plans.
Those of you who are unaware of Belcher's prep exploits might wonder why this is a big deal. Well, for a true freshman to make the weekend rotation is rare. To accomplish the feat in the Southeastern Conference is even more rare.
In the Gamecocks' final intrasquad scrimmage, the "Little Unit," as he has been dubbed by his teammates (after Major League pitcher Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson), solidified his spot in the rotation with a masterful effort. He worked four innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts. He finished by retiring the final 10 batters he faced. His performance drew raves from Tanner and many of his Gamecock teammates.
I have no idea why I am surprised. He concluded an amazing prep career last May with an astonishing 47-2 record on the mound. As if that were not impressive enough, he also tallied 516 strikeouts in just 287 innings of work. His four-year ERA was a miniscule 0.83.
Oh, did I mention he won three state titles? He also managed to post batting averages of .438, .395, .385 and .527 during his four seasons, and became the first, possibly last, four-time county player of the year in baseball.
He is a young man who loves to play the game of baseball, he loves to be on the mound, and he has worked extremely hard to get where he is. It is always fun to see good kids do well, and even more fun when you know the individual has worked so hard.
Belcher spent the off-season running and lifting weights to prepare himself for the level of play in the SEC. Due to his 5-foot-8 height, people have doubted him throughout his career. And trust me; there will be quite a few doubletakes today when Gamecock fans look out on the mound. However, all that will cease when Belcher does what he does best, which is mow down whoever steps in the batter's box to face him.
So I will be there today to watch one of the county's all-time best take the next step in his career, and you should make it a point to make the trip up Interstate 20 sometime this season to watch "Little Unit" on the mound.
Dugout club honors Harlem pitcher
Harlem senior Patrick Gamblin, who has signed to play at Winthrop, was recently selected as First Team All-State by the Georgia Dugout Club. Gamblin hit .465 last season for the Bulldogs with seven homers, 16 doubles and a county best 42 RBI. He also led the county in hitting in 2007 as a sophomore with an impressive .488 average.
He will be one of the area's hardest throwers this year with a fastball that reaches 90 mph. The Bulldogs also were penciled in as the No. 15 Team in the state Class AAAA.
In Class AAAAA, Greenbrier earned a No. 13 pre-season ranking, and power hitting T.D. Davis was named to the second team all-state squad. Davis had a breakout year in 2008 with nine homers and 11 doubles while hitting .343.
The slugger has signed to play for Georgia Perimeter College.
Congrats to the Greenbrier girls
Casey Dees and his Greenbrier basketball team are headed to the AAAAA state tournament. Not bad for a team that opened the season 1-8 and finished the regular season 10-15.
That record is a little deceiving. Greenbrier played in an extremely tough region and lost a number of close games. The Wolfpack lost nine games by five points or less, including an overtime loss and two double-overtime defeats.
All those tough matchups paid off in Round 1 of the 2-AAAAA Region tournament. Greenbrier squared off with Newton, which came into the game ranked No. 8 in the state. Greenbrier had come close to knocking off Newton twice this season, losing by six points at home and falling in double overtime at Newton.
The roles were reversed Wednesday night. With his team trailing by one point with less than five seconds left, senior guard Bryan Andrews split two defenders, raced up the court and knocked down a long 3-pointer to give Greenbrier the win and a state playoff berth.
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