On The Mound

HOOVER, Ala. – It's a pitching mismatch if you take a quick glance. But the way Ole Miss has been hitting lately, Nolan Belcher has to feel pretty good about things.

The South Carolina starter on Wednesday against Ole Miss hasn't even at times been one of the Gamecocks' "top 11-12 pitchers this season because of contol" problems, according to veteran USC head coach Ray Tanner.

"He's going to have to locate," Tanner said of Belcher, a 5-foot-8, 155-pound left-hander who has just 26.2 innings under his belt this season, with a 2.03 ERA and a 3-0 record with 10 appearances and five starts.

"At times he's pitched very well," Tanner continued. "He pitched a really good game against Ole Miss last year, and against Arkansas. He's had some quality starts. This year hasn't been like he wanted it to be. He hasn't pitched the number of innings he desired. He missed a lot of trips because of his control. That being said, he's experienced and capable of having a good game."

Tanner said having him go against the SEC Pitcher of the Year in Drew Pomeranz presents quite the challenge for young Belcher.

Drew Pomeranz

This is a big task for him to have to line up against Pomeranz," he said.

Belcher said he didn't really remember that much about his game against Ole Miss in Oxford last season.

Rebel fans may not remember him, but they might not be surprised what he was able to accomplish, length-wise. He complete-gamed the Rebs in an 8-1 Gamecock victory, with only eight hits and eight strikeouts along with three walks.

"That was a long time ago," Belcher, a sophomore now, said.

But he remembered it well enough to want to have a repeat performance.

"Hopefully I can have the same success I had last year against them," he said.

Certainly Ole Miss' recent games prove he just, might given the Rebels' lack of offensive productivity. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said the Rebels have to continue to try to work out of their at-the-plate and run-scoring woes no matter who they face.

"For us, we have to get on the right track regardless of who is pitching," he said. "We have to get some better swings off."

Ray Tanner

And better everything offensively. The Rebels are the sixth seed here, but their team batting average of .290 this season is dead last. They continue to search and to try to get better on that side of the ball, so to speak.

"I think it's more of a team thing where we have to be more aggressive," Bianco said. "I don't mean we need to swing the bat more at more pitches, but attack more to get some better swings off."

Regions Park, with its 340 down the lines and 405 to dead center, presents a challenge for all teams offensively. Of course for a home run hitting team like Auburn with 114, who just swept the Rebels in Oxford, any park is conducive.

For Ole Miss, with only 58 round-trippers, Regions Park is just another ball yard. Therefore Bianco said his team hasn't tried to necessarily adjust to bigger dimensions, just cnotinued to work on anything to get things to pick up offensively.

"We're not a home run hitting team," he said. "Maybe a team that hits a lot of home runs, they'll do something different (as far as approach here). For us, we'll just try to put runs across."

And Belcher will be the first pitcher they face who will try to stop them from doing so.

Last year here he pitched against LSU in this ballpark, a 4-1 Tiger victory. The Gamecock hurler went six innings with five runs, two earned, with four strikeouts, a walk, a wild pitch, and a hit batter.

"I've watched tape and I've seen the scouting report," Belcher said of the Rebels. "They're a good team. Pomeranz is a great pitcher. It's going to be fun. I think I'm ready."


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