Ace picks Gamecocks

Chris Thelen/Staff
Greenbrier pitcher Nolan Belcher, who has won three state titles in his prep career, will play for South Carolina after he graduates.

Nolan Belcher wins games with what's in his head and his arm.

He's the area's most successful prep pitcher. He's also the most cerebral. His own scientific method about where he should play college baseball has led him to South Carolina.

The three-time Augusta Chronicle Player of the Year will be a Gamecock.

"It was a lot of things," Belcher said over the phone from a summer league practice in Tampa, Fla. "I'm already a (South Carolina pitching coach) Mike Navi guy. I like (head coach) Ray Tanner. I like the fact they are getting a new stadium. I also wanted to stay to play in the (Southeastern Conference). All those things were factors in a really good fit."

Belcher said the decision to pick the Gamecocks over Georgia Tech was the toughest of his life. It was even tougher than his switch from Augusta Christian to public school baseball at Greenbrier prior to the 2005-2006 academic year, which led to three state championships and a stat line any major league hopeful would take in a minute.

"Playing at Greenbrier really helped me," Belcher said, who's 35-1 in his prep career. "I'm not sure I would've gotten the same opportunities if I would've stayed at Augusta Christian. It all worked out. Doing well at Greenbrier opened doors to play in certain prestigious summer tournaments."

Belcher said he thought hard about attending Georgia Tech and Georgia, where his teammates have moved on to play. Brandon Cumpton and Jeff Rowland are heading to Tech. Former Greenbrier standout Rich Poythress just completed a solid freshman year at Georgia.

"They all were working on me to join them," Belcher said. "But in the end it wasn't that I wanted to go my own way. South Carolina was just the best place for me."

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.

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