Belcher, Big innings propel USC past Wofford

After a weekend when very little went their way, the South Carolina Gamecocks (37-11) bounced back in prime fashion Tuesday night dominating the Wofford Terriers (16-32) in every facet of a 17-4 victory. Three Gamecock pitchers combined to six-hit the Terriers and every Gamecock starter reached base. Sophomore Nolan Belcher picked up the win with his five shutout innings of hitless baseball.

Head baseball coach Ray Tanner admitted that it was a tryout situation for Nolan Belcher. The sophomore lefty who was an opening week starter for the Gamecocks as a freshman last season had only pitched 19.2 innings before Tuesday night's game.

Yet there Belcher was after five innings of work – no Wofford hits. While the final line was impressive, the outcome exactly what the Gamecocks needed, Belcher and Tanner both want more. Belcher gave the outing a six out of 10, but admitted it was a confidence booster.

"Obviously if you look at his line score it's pretty impressive," Tanner said. "I was hoping he would be a little bit sharper than he was. The four walks [are] little bit disturbing, that being said he hasn't been there in a while. We're looking for somebody to take it and run with it. But he did fine … He gave us a chance to win."

While it was a tryout opportunity for Belcher, it was a bounce-back opportunity as Jackie Bradley, Jr. called it, for the Gamecock hitters. After scoring a combined four runs in Saturday and Sunday losses to Kentucky, the Gamecocks pushed across 17 runs on 14 hits Tuesday.

Bradley led the way going three-for-six with a three-run homer, 4 RBI and 4 runs scored while Nick Ebert added 4 RBIs of his own with a seventh-inning grand slam that capped off the evening.

But it was the line-up from top to bottom that was most encouraging for Carolina. Every starter with an official at-bat had a hit (Bobby Haney was hit by pitch and walked twice) as seven different Gamecocks had RBIs. Parker Bangs had three RBIs while Christian Walker added two.

"It feels good and it's big for us to do that right away," Ebert said. "It would have been tough if we had came out today and struggled swinging the bats but we didn't and that's big for us. Hopefully we'll do the same thing tomorrow and roll into Arkansas on a high note."

It was a relatively quiet first three innings at the plate for the Gamecocks as Wofford starter Cash Collins gave up a single first-inning run before giving way to freshman righty Ryan Traylor. Traylor got a quick out as Adam Matthews was gunned down by a half-step at first trying to bunt for a base hit, but the second out of the inning wouldn't come until Matthews came to the plate again.

Catcher Kyle Enders laced a line drive into left field to get the inning started and then Traylor lost control. Back-to-back walks to Haney and Scott Wingo loaded the bases before Taylor hit Whit Merrifield to bring in Enders and give the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead.

A Bradley swinging bunt in front of home plate appeared to make for an easy play at home, but Traylor couldn't get the ball out of his glove leaving everyone safe and a 3-0 Gamecock lead on the board.

Walker then was hit by pitch, again loading the bases, as Bangs came to the plate. Bangs doesn't usually get at-bats against righties, but was left in the game and the decision paid off. The junior from Laurinburg, N.C. lofted a single off the end of his bat into right field scoring Merrifield and Bradley to put the Gamecocks up 6-0.

Adrian Morales continued the big inning lining a pitch past the diving third baseman to put Carolina up 7-0.

Traylor, who worked just a third of an inning while giving up six earned runs and four hits, then gave way to Pete Noordsy who retired Matthews and Enders to end the inning.

South Carolina wasted no time in tacking on three more runs in the fifth. A Haney walk and Wingo single followed by a Merrifield sacrifice bunt set the table for Bradley. The sophomore centerfielder lofted the high, outside fastball into the visitor's bullpen in left center for a three-run homer and 10-0 Carolina lead.

South Carolina struck for seven more in the seventh. Walker grounded out to shortstop as one run scored. Pinch hitters Robert Beary and Richard Royal pushed the lead to 13-0 with RBI singles. Ebert then capped off the inning and the night with a grand slam blast over the left field wall.

While the Gamecock batters were getting the job done, the Carolina hitting continued even after Belcher exited the game. Making just his eighth appearance of the season, sophomore Jimmy Revan continued the no hitter through the seventh inning working two shutout innings of hitless ball.

It wasn't until the eighth when the first batter of the inning Matt Moore lined an Alex Burrell pitch into right that dropped right in front of a diving Evan Marzilli. Wofford would get four more hits in the inning and broke up the shutout on a Kyle Behrendt RBI fielder's choice. Wofford pushed across three more runs in the inning.

Burrell worked a scoreless ninth getting the final two outs on a 4-6-3 double play.

South Carolina returns to action tomorrow night at Carolina Stadium against Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. before traveling to Arkansas this weekend. Sophomore lefty Tyler Webb will start for the Gamecocks.

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