Asher Wojciechowski got his way last weekend. Citadel coach Fred Jordan got his way this weekend. And suddenly, the Columbia Regional is looking a lot more interesting to the Bulldogs than it did Monday.
Jordan gambled by starting junior left-hander Matt Talley instead of ace pitcher Wojciechowski in Friday’s NCAA regional opener against Virginia Tech. Talley paid off big by working six shutout innings in a 7-2 victory against the second-seeded Hokies before 5,075 fans at Carolina Stadium.
As a result, the third-seeded Bulldogs (43-20) will have Wojciechowski, a prospective first-round pick in Monday’s major league draft, on the mound for a winners’ bracket showdown with top-seeded South Carolina, which beat No. 4 seed Bucknell late Friday.
“Wojo got his call on Sunday,” Jordan said, referring to Wojciechowski’s determination to pitch in the Southern Conference tournament title game last weekend. “And I got my call on this. No way I’d send him out for this game when we had a fresh arm in Matt Talley. Now, Wojo has got his normal rest, and whoever we face, we will feel good about running him out there.”
Virginia Tech (38-21), in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000, must now play out of the losers’ bracket.
"Credit to Matt Talley," Hokies coach Pete Hughes said. "He pitched out of some jams. We didn’t. They got big hits with two outs, runners in scoring position. We didn’t. Now we have to figure out how to win this thing through the loser’s bracket."
The Bulldogs were not thrilled Monday when they learned they were headed for Columbia for the third straight time in the regionals. But 20 years after The Citadel’s 1990 team made its magical run to the College World Series, this Bulldogs team finds itself only four wins from Omaha.
Against Virginia Tech, one of eight ACC teams in the regionals, every Bulldog in the lineup got a hit as The Citadel won its 13th straight game, the longest active streak in the nation. David Greene’s two-run home run keyed a four-run second inning, and Grant Richards drove in two runs in the sixth as the Bulldogs built a 7-0 lead.
Talley (8-3), a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder from Sumter, shut out the Hokies for six innings on a humid, largely windless day before giving up a two-run homer to Sean Ryan in the seventh.
“We’re used to being underdogs,” Jordan said. “But we’re playing loose, and we’ll see what happens.”