Citadel baseball coach Fred Jordan was hoping for a destination other than Columbia, and believed his team had earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA regionals.
Neither happened for the Bulldogs. But if Jordan and his players were disappointed to learn Monday that they are headed for South Carolina as a No. 3 seed, they weren't saying so.
"You can't be disappointed when you are going to postseason play," said Jordan, whose team will take on No. 2 Virginia Tech on Friday in the four-team, double-elimination regional. "I told our guys, if you go there and are successful, you're just two hours from home. And if you are unsuccessful, you are just two hours from home. But no matter where you go, you are going to have to beat a great ball club."
USC coach Ray Tanner said he understood why the Bulldogs might have wanted to go somewhere else.
"I know he made the comment that he didn't want to come here. But, with that being said, he said that because of familiarity," Tanner said. "We play all the time. We go there and they come here. It might not have a great NCAA feel for their guys. They're not going to a new city or a different venue. But it'll be a great environment for an NCAA regional."
Jordan thought that his team's 42-20 record, Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles and a No. 32 ranking in the RPI warranted a No. 2 seed.
But he pointed out that if the seedings were reversed with Virginia Tech (38-20, No. 34 RPI), The Citadel would still be playing the Hokies.
"I felt with us playing the way we have down the stretch, winning our league and the tournament, I felt we'd be a No. 2 seed," said Jordan, whose team has won 12 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the nation. "But that's for the committee to decide. Maybe our league does not get as much respect as we inside the league think that it should."
For the players gathered at the Palmetto Ale House on James Island to watch the NCAA selection show, it was enough to see "The Citadel" pop up on a regional bracket for the first time since 2004.
"Absolutely, a thrill," said senior second baseman Bryan Altman. "I was a little anxious to see where we were going. We didn't want to go to South Carolina because we play them every year, and we wanted to experience something different. But we're fine with it, and we're excited."
The most encouraging news for Jordan was that, for the first time, the SoCon will send three teams to the NCAAs. College of Charleston landed as a No. 2 seed at Coastal Carolina, while Elon got an at-large bid as the No. 3 seed at Georgia Tech.
"It's a huge step for the league," Jordan said. "We've got three now, and if everybody keeps working, maybe we can get four in a year or two."
Only the ACC, Pac 10 and SEC, with eight teams each, and the Big 12 (five teams) received more bids than the SoCon. And by state, only California, Florida and Texas, with six teams each, have more teams in the 64-team field than the five from South Carolina (USC, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, The Citadel, and C of C).
The Citadel plans to start junior left-hander Matt Talley against Virginia Tech, which was 16-14 in the ACC and is in the regionals for the first time since 2000. The Citadel eliminated Virginia Tech in the 1994 regional at Clemson.
"It gives us some credibility on the national scene," Hokies coach Pete Hughes, a Davidson graduate, said of making the tournament. "And any time they are talking about your program on ESPN, it helps in the recruiting game, and that's what it's all about."
The Hokies are led by outfielder Austin Wates, catcher Steve Domecus, pitcher Justin Wright and relief pitcher Ben Rowen, all picked for the all-ACC team.
Wates batted .373 with eight home runs and 51 runs batted-in, while Domecus hit .371 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs. Wright, a 5-9, 174-pound left-hander, is 8-4 with a 3.59 earned-run average. Rown, a 6-3. 190-pound right-hander, is 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA and five saves.
The Hokies hit .322 as a team, fourth in the ACC, and had a team ERA of 4.67, sixth in the league. Virginia Tech played only one SoCon foe this season, losing 14-10 to Davidson on May 4. The Hokies lost to Coastal Carolina, 13-5, on Feb. 20, and swept three games at Charleston Southern in February by scores of 17-2, 4-2 and 13-1. The Hokies also lost to Bryant (5-3) and Rider (10-6), and were 13-14 against the RPI top 50.
The Citadel will practice today and Wednesday at Riley Park before heading to Columbia on Thursday. The Bulldogs will stay at the Marriott on Hampton Street in Columbia.
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