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Statesboro High loses a pitcher's duel against Greenbriar


        Nolan Belcher out dueled Crawford Simmons and the Greenbrier Wolfpack escaped Mill Creek with a 3-2 win over Statesboro Wednesday. Greenbrier, the defending Class AAAA state champions, scored the game winner on an odd defensive gaff by SHS (9-8, 2-4) in the fifth inning.
        "It was a tremendous game," said Statesboro coach Chris Bishop. "I have no qualms about this game. We faced two great pitchers."
        Belcher pitched six innings, struck out 10 and allowed just two runs. He was matched by the sophomore Simmons who allowed three runs over 6+, striking out six.
        The fateful play for the Blue Devils came in the top half of the fifth. Belcher led off the frame with a bloop single to right, then advanced to second on a single by Pat McGowan. Simmons caught McGowan leaning at first and picked off the right fielder, but during the ensuing rundown, a heads up Belcher scampered all the way from second to score Greenbrier's third and decisive run.
        Belcher was 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run at the plate, but it was his nasty curve ball that earned him and his No. 6 ranked Wolfpack the win.
        "(Belcher) could throw it where he wanted too," said Bishop. "As good and as tight as he rolls it up there, you ain't got a whole lot of time to be thinking. I told the kids to be aggresive."
        Statesboro got on the board first with a Zach Taylor double in the bottom of the third scoring courtesy runner Carl Hendrix. Hendrix was in for catcher Scott Sarratt, who had a sensational game going 2-for-2 and saving numerous runs behind the plate by blocking balls in the dirt from Simmons.
        Greenbrier (14-4, 6-0) countered in the top of the fourth when Brandon Compton drew a four-pitch walk to start things off. Compton was sacrificed to second, then scored on Ryan Cato's single to right to tie the game at 1-1. Cato would later score on a Simmons wild pitch during a Chase Huffman walk to give GHS the lead for good.
        Statesboro cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth when Sarratt reached on a third strike passed ball. Hendrix again came in for Sarratt, stole second and third, then scored on a wild pitch during the at bat of Trent Lewis to make the score 3-2.
        The Blue Devils had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh with two on and two outs, but Georgia Tech signee Compton, on in relief, got Taylor to roll a fast ball to second to end the game.
        "(Taylor) did exactly what I asked him to do," said Bishop. "Ball goes six inches one way or the other — we tie the ball game."
        Compton earned the save for GHS and Statesboro's Josh Ware pitched a scoreless seventh to keep SHS in the game.
        The Blue Devils host North Oconee Saturday at J.I. Clements Stadium following Georgia Southern's game with the College of Charleston at 1:30 p.m.

        Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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