Pitching depth will prove most vital to the Bulldogs' tournament hopes

Citadel pitcher Asher Wojciechowski.

Citadel baseball coach Fred Jordan doesn't hesitate when asked for the key to his team's chances this week in the Southern Conference tournament at Riley Park.

"Pitching," he said. "The team that pitches the best will win the tournament, no matter what team it is. Runs will be scored, but you've got to have good starting pitching."

If that's the case, the top-seeded Bulldogs could be in line to add their first SoCon tournament title since 2004 to the regular season championship they have already won.

Headlined by SoCon pitcher of the year, Asher Wojciechowski, The Citadel has the top staff in the SoCon in terms of ERA at 4.64, the only squad in the league with an ERA under 5.00.

Weekend starters Wojciechowski, Matt Talley and Michael Clevinger were a combined 17-3 in SoCon games this season, and two of those losses went to the 6-4, 235-pound Wojciechowski, projected by some as a first-round pick in next month's major league draft.

Jordan is likely to stick with his usual rotation in the tournament, starting with Wojciechowski against No. 8-seeded Furman at 5 p.m. today.

At 10-2 overall with a 3.23 ERA, Wojo was the only 10-game winner in the SoCon this season and ranked second in the nation with 128 strikeouts. He also led the SoCon with 103 innings pitched and opponents' batting average (.218).

Wojciechowski started the year 8-0 before losing two straight starts against Davidson and Samford, but has righted the ship since then with complete-game victories over UNC Greensboro and Georgia Southern.

Furman will counter with its ace, Ian Parry (5-6, 4.09 ERA). Parry gave up just six hits in eight innings for a 4-2 loss to The Citadel on April 16, but he was tagged for two homers by Bryan Altman and one by Kyle Jordan.

Wojciechowski will be followed in the Bulldogs' second game by 6-6 left-hander Matt Talley (7-3, 3.84 ERA), who somehow went 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA in league games without making an All-SoCon squad.

No. 3 starter Clevinger made the all-freshman team while going 5-2 with a 5.45 ERA.

The three starters have helped the Bulldogs' bullpen by averaging almost 6 1/2 innings per start. Seniors Raymond Copenhaver (3-1, 2.81), Matt Reifsnider (2-1, 2.93) and Chris Boyce (5-0, 5.00 ERA) have been key in the bullpen, and the return of Drew Mahaffey to good form would be huge.

Mahaffey, a 6-2 lefty, has seven saves this season, but has only pitched three times in May. He has allowed just one hit and no runs over 2 1/3 innings in his last two appearances, at Winthrop and at Georgia Southern.

Should the Bulldogs go deep in the tournament, look for freshman Austin Pritcher (3-3, 6.18 ERA) or sophomore T.J. Clarkson (1-4, 6.48 ERA) to start a fourth game.