USC bats wake up, pitching rolls on

Gamecocks pound out 18 hits, allow two in rout of Blue Hose

Special to The StateMarch 3, 2010 

South Carolina pitcher Nolan Belcher throws against Presbyterian College in the third inning against at Carolina Stadium.

C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM

The biggest obstacle Nolan Belcher encountered during South Carolina's 15-0 victory against Presbyterian on Wednesday at Carolina Stadium was staying warm in the Gamecocks dugout.

The left-hander was not battling the weather elements as much as he was the USC offense having extended stays at the plate. South Carolina banged out seven doubles and two home runs - including a grand slam by Whit Merrifield - among their 18 hits.

The onslaught helped the Gamecocks break a two-game losing streak. USC scored 11 runs in a three-games series at East Carolina.

"I think this is a good game heading to Clemson with," second baseman Scott Wingo said of the offensive outburst. "It has our confidence up a lot."

Every USC (5-2) starter collected at least one hit. Wingo homered and was hit by a pitch twice to tie the school record for most hit by pitches. He has been hit 34 times.

After his 2-for-3 performance with 2 RBIs, the No. 9 hitter in the USC lineup is hitting .462 on the season with an on-base percentage of .667.

"I'm doing what I was working on in the fall and spring," Wingo said. "I'm seeing the ball better and changed my approach and stance a little bit. I hope it's all paying off."

Merrifield extended his hitting streak that began last season to 21 games and his grand slam in the sixth put a cap on the South Carolina scoring.

The Gamecocks jumped on top with an 8-run second inning in which they sent 13 batters to the plate. In that inning, they got the home run from Wingo and scored all of the runs with two outs.

"We got a bunch of runs early with two outs and that put us where we needed to be," Tanner said.

Belcher hopes the strong showing will help him regain a spot in the weekend rotation. The sophomore started 13 games a year ago and was a weekend starter for the SEC portion of the schedule in all but one series.

Tanner said Belcher was helped Wednesday by a good change-up.

Belcher allowed an infield single in five innings while striking out seven and walking one in a 90-pitch outing on a brisk, cool afternoon.

"I was trying to work hard and throw a lot of strikes to get us back in the dugout as quick as possible," Belcher said. "That 8-spot in the second helped a little bit. There is always room for improvement but I spotted my fastball pretty well so, overall, it was a good day."

Five Gamecocks pitchers combined to hold Presbyterian (1-7) to two hits. The staff ERA is 2.63.

"It has been only seven games but our pitching continues to do a nice job," Tanner said. "That has been the encouraging, consistent sign so far."

Short Hop. Jackie Bradley Jr. made his first start of the season in centerfield. The sophomore is returning from a broken right hand that was expected to sideline him 4-6 weeks. He has been out three weeks. He finished 2-for-4 and came away with no pain.

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