Lefty's legacy will be hard to forget

Chris Thelen/Staff
Greenbrier's Nolan Belcher had a remarkable prep career. In four years, he was 47-2 and had 516 strikeouts in 282 innings.

On the last day he would play high school baseball, Nolan Belcher rounded third base and told his coach to give him the ball.

Rodney Holder wasn't about to argue with his left-handed pitching star, who was coming around to score after teammate Kevin D'Antignac homered to give Greenbrier a two-run lead in the state quarterfinals. Really, there was no reason.

Belcher's career to this point included: a 47-1 record, three state titles and an immeasurable amount of resolve.

"When the No. 1 guy tells you he wants the ball, what are you going to say?" Holder said.

Belcher, who had thrown a complete-game shutout 24 hours prior, surrendered a two-run lead to Loganville. The Red Devils won the series and, nine days later, were Class AAAA state champs, ending Greenbrier's two-year title streak.

Belcher lost his final game on the mound. But that result doesn't sour an otherwise remarkable career.

Belcher went 12-1 as a senior. His ERA was 0.89, and had 142 strikeouts in 78 innings. In addition, he hit .527.

For the third year in a row, he is The Augusta Chronicle's Georgia Baseball Player of the Year.

Belcher departs in August to play at the University of South Carolina, but he will leave behind quite a legacy. In four years, he won three state titles (one at Augusta Christian, two at Greenbrier), had a career record of 47-2, never had a season with an ERA higher than 1.00, and recorded 516 strikeouts in 282 innings.

"He's just a champion," Holder said. "And you know what? He never offered any excuses for (the loss to Loganville.) Think about how many times he had come through for us."

Said Belcher: "It was tough to swallow, of course. I felt like I had let my team down."

Belcher said he found closure last week when he played in a wood-bat tournament with Line Drive, a Savannah-based travel team. The team went to Jupiter, Fla. for six days and challenged some of the country's top talent.

Next year, Belcher will pitch for a team in search of stability, especially on the mound. The Gamecocks, whose team ERA was 4.36, didn't advance out of their postseason regional.

Plenty around here expect Belcher to succeed.

"He's such a self-made player," Holder said. "Anything and everything he gets, he's earned."

One day last week, the past, present and future of Greenbrier baseball collided at the school.

The ninth-grade team took on Evans in a summer-league game. New coach Chris Wilkins grilled hot dogs and burgers behind the concession stand.

On one end of the practice field, Belcher chugged up and down a hill, shirtless. It was just past noon, at least 90 degrees. Before long, he was doubled over in exhaustion. He may be leaving, but for Belcher, another level of baseball was two months away.

NOLAN BELCHER

HIGH SCHOOL: Greenbrier POSITION: LHP, OF

HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 5-8, 155 YEAR: Senior

NOTABLES: Went 12-1 this season with a 0.89 ERA and had 142 strikeouts in 78 innings. Hit .527 with nine doubles. ... Three-time state champion (two at Greenbrier, one at Augusta Christian). ... Will pitch for South Carolina next season.

FAMILY: Parents Brian and Janis; brother Jordan, 25; sister Lindsay, 24

FAVORITE FOOD: Steak

FAVORITE TV SHOW: SportsCenter

FAVORITE TEAM: Atlanta Braves

FAVORITE CAR: Cadillac Escalade

FAVORITE MOVIE: Remember the Titans

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