Through his first six appearances on the mound in a South Carolina Gamecock uniform, former Greenbrier High School star Nolan Belcher did not seem like himself.
We were somewhat spoiled by the hard-throwing lefty. He did, after all, win 47 times and lose just twice during his prep career. So when he started to have some control problems early in his college career, I did not know how to react. He wasn't getting hit much, but he was struggling.
Well, it appears Nolan has righted the ship. During his last three starts, Belcher has been about as good as any pitcher in the country.
On March 28, he got the start against a solid Kentucky team. Belcher worked 5.2 innings, limiting the Wildcats to just one run on four hits. He struck out four batters and exited the game with the lead. Kentucky battled back to win 5-4 and Nolan got a no-decision.
Then on April 4, against Arkansas, Belcher had the start that might have set the stage for big things to come in the remainder of the season. Facing the No. 5 team in the nation, Belcher was simply brilliant. He worked a career-high 8.1 innings and shut down one of the top teams in the nation. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and yielded just four hits and one run in a masterful outing.
Belcher managed to post a career-high nine strikeouts and picked up his first career college victory as the Gamecocks won 9-1. His performance drew praise from coach Ray Tanner and gave him top billing with every form of media in Columbia.
As if those two outings were not enough, Belcher saved his best performance for this past weekend. Facing yet another nationally ranked foe, Belcher was sensational. He had the first complete game of his college career, allowing nine hits and just one run in a 127-pitch masterpiece. His effort carried the Gamecocks to a 9-1 victory and improved his season mark to 2-1. His eight strikeouts on Saturday moved his season total to 39 in just 41 innings. He also lowered his ERA to 3.73, which is tops among the Gamecocks starters.
I can sleep a little easier knowing that the world is back to normal. Nolan is baffling hitters once again.
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