Nolan Belcher experienced few difficulties during his standout prep career as a Greenbrier High School pitcher.
But he quickly found that his first season as a pitcher for the University of South Carolina would be a learning experience.
"I wasn't ready for it," said Belcher, who was in town last week for Christmas break. "It's definitely a different ball game up there."
The left-hander, who helped conduct a youth baseball clinic Monday and Tuesday, will start preparation for his sophomore season immediately following the new year.
Belcher found himself in the weekend rotation as a freshman and pitched against East Carolina in the NCAA regional in Greenville, N.C. He said there has been talk of a possible move to the bullpen this season because of the Gamecocks' shortage of lefty relievers.
"I would like to start, but it doesn't matter to me," Belcher said. "Either way is fine, as long as we're winning games."
Belcher was a 2009 All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team selection and at times showed the dominance that made him a high school star. He pitched a complete game to beat Ole Miss in April. He struck out 11 in six innings on the way to a victory over Georgia in May.
But he was tagged for eight runs during the Gamecocks' Game 2 loss to the Pirates in the NCAA regional. Nothing like that had happened in high school.
"You could not have your best stuff and still get high school kids out," Belcher said. "In college, if you're not on your 'A' game, you're going to get rocked."
Belcher's former Greenbrier teammates also were in town helping with the clinic last week.
Rich Poythress, a former University of Georgia standout, was drafted this year and signed with the Seattle Mariners. He's preparing for a 142-game season with the Mariners' Double-A affiliate, the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, and hoping for a call-up.
Poythress said he's trying to take his pro career in stride.
"A lot of times you feel like, especially when you make the transition, you want to do so much right then," Poythress said. "You want to do it now, now, now. You think because you're older, that it's not another process. It's a process. You learn."
Georgia Tech teammates Brandon Cumpton and Jeff Rowland return for their junior seasons. Rowland will play center and bat leadoff. Cumpton said he expects to earn a spot as a starter.
"I'm looking forward to a good season," Cumpton said.
Another former Greenbrier player, Mitchell Knox, was also in town for the clinic. He signed with Winthrop University during the early period after playing at Young Harris.
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