Gamecocks get little fight from Arkansas

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Almost no hitting and very little solid pitching is a bad combination to try to win baseball games. For Arkansas it made winning impossible Saturday as the Razorbacks never put up a fight at the plate or on the mound in a 9-1 loss to South Carolina.

"It was just a frustrating game for us," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "South Carolina played extremely well, and they could have beaten us worse than they did."

With an announced crowd of 7,239 on hand at Carolina Stadium, the Gamecocks looked determined from the start to even the series. And it didn't take South Carolina long to do so. Two runs in the first inning and one more in the second staked the Gamecocks to an early 3-0 lead off of Arkansas starter T.J. Forrest.

And on this day that would more than enough.

South Carolina pitcher Nolan Belcher, who is 5-foot-8, didn't appear to be much of a challenge for Arkansas batters at first glance. Neither did his 0-1 record and 5.70 earned run average entering Saturday's game.

But Belcher was nearly perfect against the Hogs, throwing a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings. He went two outs from a complete game before his brilliant day on the mound was through.

"It may not always be the case in baseball, but normally it starts with the guy on the mound," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "And certainly Nolan Belcher just gave us a tremendous outing and gave us a chance to win the game.

"We got a few home runs, a couple from (Nick) Ebert, but Nolan Belcher was very, very special."

Belcher (1-1) walked three and struck out nine, keeping Arkansas completely off balance with an assortment of pitches. And as much as the performance came as a surprise to many who had seen the true freshman struggle so far this season, it stunned the pitcher himself just as much.

"Actually the bullpen I threw was one of the worst I've thrown," Belcher said. "After I threw in the bullpen I thought it was going to be a long day, but luckily things turned around when I got out there."

The same couldn't be said for Arkansas' pitchers. Forrest lasted just 4 1/3 innings and was pulled after throwing 59 pitches. Then in a four-run South Carolina fifth inning, relievers Sam Murphy and Christian Kowalchuk both failed to get out of a jam as the Gamecocks (20-9, 5-6) blew the game open.

"Their pitcher did an outstanding job and he kept us off balance," Van Horn said. "That's where the credit needs to go first.

"But on the other end, we made some serious mistakes on the mound. At the end of the first inning we get two quick outs and then T.J. is trying to throw the ball through the wall. We've got a guy 0-2 and next thing you know it's a walk and then a home run and we're behind. ... And the relief pitching, what can you say. It wasn't very good."

Arkansas (21-6, 9-2) lost to South Carolina for the first time since March 19, 2005, breaking a streak of seven straight wins against the Gamecocks. The Razorbacks are now also in a new position for the first time this season. They need a win today in order to claim another SEC series.

"It's important to win on Sunday. I mean Sunday is where it's at," Van Horn said. "They've got to win just as bad as we want to win. We're going to have to come out and play much better if we're going to beat them."

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