The message from The Citadel at Thursday's press conferences was that the military school from Charleston, S.C., is "just happy to be" in the NCAA Tournament. But make no mistake, this is a dangerous team that is a threat to make it out of this weekend's regional in Columbia, S.C.
Head coach Fred Jordan didn't exactly extol the virtues of his club when he said his team didn't hit for much power or average and had a bullpen that struggles at times. But he did say his team had good starting pitchers ("on certain days") and had at least one advantage going into its matchup with the Hokies.
"We have four or five guys who can run and if we could figure out how to steal first base we'd have a better chance of scoring runs," he said.
For a team that's just happy to be there, Jordan is playing to win it all. By saving the pitching staff's ace, Asher Wojciechowski, for a possible second-round game against host South Carolina. Doing this could mean that Jordan thinks the Bulldogs' best chance of winning the regional is to throw his ace against the No. 1 seed. But he insists it's because Wojciechowski pitched twice in the conference tournament.
"When we decided to throw him (in the conference championship game) I told him he would go on Saturday," Jordan said. "We're just not going to do that. Besides that, Matt Talley's pretty good also."
Talley, a 6-6 junior lefty, will get the start against Virginia Tech. Talley struggled early in the year but pitched well down the stretch. He's 7-3, 3.79 in 15 starts this season. Jordan attributed Talley's resurgence to playing within himself and a simple change in climate.
"Early in the year Matt was trying to be too good," he said. "His control is a lot better and he's getting ahead in the count. The warm weather has also helped him greatly."
In his last seven starts, Talley is 5-1, 2.01 (53.2 IP/12 ER), so Jordan is doing the Hokies no favors by letting them miss Wojciechowski.
Although they're a No. 3 seed, the Bulldogs shouldn't be taken lightly no matter how much they claim they're just happy to be here. They won the regular and postseason title in a conference that sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament, including Elon and the College of Charleston. They're out to prove something this weekend in Columbia, starting with their game against the Hokies.
"We've been playing with a chip on our shoulder the whole year," Wojciechowski said. "People werent expecting us to anything this year and that gave us motivation."