Gamecocks take rubber match from Tigers by shutout

Nolan Belcher pitched a three-game complete game shutout and was backed by an offense that scored five runs with two outs in the sixth inning as seventh ranked South Carolina defeated Clemson 8-0 on Sunday afternoon to clinch the weekend series vs. Clemson in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242 fans at Carolina Stadium.

South Carolina is now 8-2 on the year while the loss drops Clemson to 6-4 for the season. South Carolina has won 20 of the last 28 meetings between the two schools from the 2007 season to the present.

A fifth-year senior, Belcher did not walk a batter and limited the Tigers to three singles in the entire contest. He struck out seven and tallied the first complete game shutout since Sam Dyson on May 15, 2010 in a 5-0 win at Arkansas. The complete game was Belcher’s second of his career. He threw a complete game on April 11, 2009 in an 8-1 win over Ole Miss. Belcher is now 2-1 on the year. Clemson starting pitcher Scott Firth suffered the loss and is now 2-1 for the season. He went six innings and allowed six runs, one earned, on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Scoreless in the fourth inning, the Gamecocks went ahead 1-0 on a solo home run by Chase Vergason. The senior third baseman struck a 2-1 pitch from Firth for his second homer of the year over the right field wall.

With a one-run lead the Gamecocks took advantage of a Clemson error in the sixth inning and struck with four consecutive two-out RBI hits to increase the lead to 6-0. Graham Saiko would reach base to open the frame as a soft liner went off the glove of Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson into right field. With two outs and first base open, Clemson intentionally walked LB Dantzler to give the Gamecocks a pair of runners. A wild pitch issued up by Firth moved Saiko over to third base. Joey Pankake would then get things going with a RBI single through the left side scoring Saiko. Erik Payne kept things going with a RBI base hit followed by a RBI single from Grayson Greiner. The Gamecocks then went ahead by six runs on a two-run double down the left field line off the bat of Connor Bright.

Carolina added single runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Saiko and Vergason both singled for runners on the corners in the seventh with Saiko scoring his second run on a balk. After loading the bases with one out in the eighth, Saiko would tally a RBI on a walk as Greiner scored his second run of the game.

Belcher worked a perfect ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts including one of pinch hitter Joe Costigan to end the game.

Carolina out-hit Clemson 11-3 with eight of nine position starters recording at least one hit. Bright, Greiner and Vergason each had two hits. Six Gamecock starters had at least one RBI as well.

South Carolina returns to action on Tuesday night beginning a two-game series with Ball State. First pitch for the opener at Carolina Stadium is 7 p.m. with Wednesday’s contest at 4 p.m. Live video broadcast for both games will be available on the All Access Channel at GamecocksOnline.com. Fans can also hear both games on the Gamecock Radio Network from IMG College including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”

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