Bryce Belcher is no stranger to Heritage baseball.
A senior for the Mountaineers this season, Belcher grew up around the program while watching his oldest brother, Trey, play for Heritage.
“I grew up watching him, and I was like, ‘I want to be out there, I want to follow in his footsteps,’” Belcher said. “Neither one of my brothers went off to play college sports, so I’m starting something new for the family.”
Baseball has always been a part of Belcher’s life, and he said it has always been a dream of his to play in college. On Thursday, that goal was realized when Belcher signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his career at Roane State Community College in Harriman.
Heritage coach Robbie Bennett has been coaching the Mountaineers for 19 seasons — since around the time Belcher was born. He has watched Belcher grow and improve over the years. Belcher was always a regular at Heritage baseball camps before reaching high school.
“He has been athletic his whole life,” Bennett said. “In middle school, he was one of their better defensive players.”
Belcher eventually became an anchor to Heritage’s defense. His versatility allowed Bennett to stick him anywhere in the infield, from catcher to shortstop to second or third base. Belcher had 47 assists this season, accounting for almost a quarter of the team’s total.
Bennett said that kind of player is hard to find.
“Anywhere we put him, he’s good,” Bennett said. “We try to tell kids, ‘You’re not a shortstop, you’re a baseball player.’ He kind of fits that mold. He’s a baseball player. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He plays it hard.”
Belcher had inspiration behind his work ethic. The team was special to him before he donned the Mountaineer uniform.
“I’ve really always been a part of it because of my brother,” Belcher said. “I’ve always loved coming here, and I finally got the opportunity to play here. I was like, ‘Alright, now it’s time to go on to the next level.’”
Belcher had been consistent on defense all season, but Bennett said he really began to shine at the plate during the District 4-AAA Tournament, when the No. 8-seeded Mountaineers survived four elimination games before their season came to an end against Hardin Valley.
Belcher notched two hits in postseason wins over William Blount and Knoxville Catholic.
“The whole district tournament, he shined defensively and offensively,” Bennett said. “I think it finally clicked that this may be it, and he stepped it up a notch in all aspects of the game.”