Bulldogs counting on their pitching depth

Asher Wojciechowski will take over the Friday starting pitcher role.

In the Major League Baseball draft last June, The Citadel had a school-record four players chosen.

Those players -- pitchers Wes Wrenn and Matt Crim, catcher Richard Jones and first baseman Chris McGuiness -- accounted for 28 starts, 17 victories and 185 innings pitched (Wrenn and Crim), and 32 home runs and 128 RBIs (Jones and McGuiness).

And that doesn't even include the Bulldogs' top hitter last season, senior rightfielder Sonny Meade (.397, 5 homers, 67 RBIs), who went undrafted.

It doesn't take a sabermetrician to figure that Citadel coach Fred Jordan has some holes to fill as he

enters his 19th season.

"Very tough to replace those guys," said Jordan, whose club was 37-22 overall and 20-10 in the Southern Conference last season, finishing third in the regular season and winning three games in the SoCon Tournament.

"We feel like we've got pretty good experience in our pitching staff and pretty good experience from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, it's probably going to take us a little while to figure out who we are and what we are."

Despite losing Wrenn and Crim, who went a combined 17-7 last season, the Bulldogs placed three pitchers on the all-SoCon preseason squad -- starters Asher Wojciechowski and Matt Talley, and closer Drew Mahaffey.

The pitching staff, led by those three and augmented by freshman starter Michael Clevinger and sophomore T.J. Clarkson, will have to carry the load until the batting order sorts itself out -- and could be good enough to do just that.

Wojciechowski, a 6-4, 235-pound junior right-hander, was 3-3 with a 4.39 ERA last season, but his performance in the SoCon Tournament last year, and for the U.S. National Team last summer, augurs well for this season.

Wojciechowski pitched a complete game five-hitter in a 5-1 win over No. 22 Elon in the SoCon Tournament in Greenville, then went 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five appearances with Team USA. He will step into Wrenn's role as the Friday night starter.

"That whole experience just gave me a lot of confidence," Wojciechowski said. "Playing with the best guys in the nation really springs me into this season with high hopes."

Talley, a 6-6, 225-pound junior lefty, was 8-1 with a 3.42 ERA last season, and will follow Wojciechowski in the weekend rotation. Clevinger, a 6-4, 190-pound right-hander, earned the third starting spot in fall practice, and Clarkson (3-2, 3.92 ERA) will be the fourth starter, which should mean mid-week starts against teams such as South Carolina, Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern.

Getting the ball from the starters to Mahaffey (2-3, 7 saves, 3.60 ERA), a hard-throwing junior lefty, will be key. Senior Raymond Copenhaver (2-3, 2 saves, 4.75 ERA) has that job, and freshmen Jeffrey Spillane and Austin Pritcher will aid veterans Chris Boyce, Nick Sprowls and Matt Reifsnider in the bullpen.

Matching an offense that batted .333 (second in the SoCon) and produced 452 runs last season will be more problematic as the Bulldogs try to replace Jones, McGuiness and Meade.

Fifth-year senior Bryan Altman (.368, 7 HR, 47 RBIs) will bat cleanup and play a lot of catcher after playing second base last year. He will need help in the middle of the order from junior rightfielder Matt Simonelli (.302) in the three hole and sophomore David Greene (.376, 4 HR, 36 RBIs) in the five spot. Sophomore centerfielder Nick Orvin (.355, 18 stolen bases) should be effective in the leadoff spot, and a return to his sophomore form would be huge for senior shortstop Kyle Jordan. He batted .245 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 2008 before slumping to .179 last year.

New names in the lineup will include sophomore Justin Mackert at first base; a platoon of Josh Pless and Legare Jones at second; and William Ladd and Brad Felder in left field.