It all comes down to this.
Both teams have at least a share of the Southern Conference regular-season title on the line, today’s game will feature perhaps the marquee pitching matchup the league has seen this season and by the time the three-game series between Georgia Southern and the Citadel at J.I. Clements Stadium is over, there will be a champion.
If Georgia Southern (34-19, 19-8, 3rd place SoCon) sweeps, it will end the regular season in a first-place tie with College of Charleston. The Cougars (40-14, 22-8, 2nd place SoCon) – who concluded their conference schedule last weekend with a sweep atAppalachian State – would earn the No. 1 seed in the SoCon tournament by virtue of theirs sweep of GSU, but the Eagles, who would be the No. 2 seed, would be co-champions.
If Georgia Southern takes two of three from The Citadel, Charleston would claim the conference title for itself.
A two- or three-win performance by The Citadel against the Eagles this weekend, and the Bulldogs (35-20, 21-6, 1st place SoCon) take the No. 1 seed and the regular-season championship.
Just another weekend at the office.
“These guys know what’s going on,” said GSU coach Rodney Hennon after Tuesday’s 18-4 win at Jacksonville. “I don’t have to talk about anything as far as (scenarios) go. The biggest thing is just to continue to focus, go out and play good baseball.”
Tonight’s pitching matchup pits The Citadel’s Asher Wojciechowski against GSU’s Jake Brown, two of the statistical leaders in nearly every SoCon pitching category.
Wojciechowski is first in wins (9) while Brown is tied for eighth (7). Wojciechowski leads the league in strikeouts with 119 – 40 more than second-place Ian Parry of Furman (79) – and Brown is fifth with 73. Wojciechowski’s earned run average (3.16) is second best in the conference, while Brown’s (3.96) is fifth. Opposing batters hit .219 against Wojciechowski and .261 against Brown.
In short – it sets up for a pitcher’s duel.
“I think it is an outstanding matchup,” Hennon said. “Both guys have had outstanding years, and we’ve just got to continue to go out and take care of our business. I think it’s important we rest up and have a good day of practice (Wednesday) to prepare for (tonight).”
The Eagles have been doing just fine at taking care of their business. They racked up 25 hits Tuesday at JU and have won 12 games in a row entering this weekend’s regular-season finale. In fact with the win, GSU’s batting average shifted seismically from .310 to .315 after the 53rd game of the season because of Tuesday’s performance.
Defensively and at the plate the Eagles – who had growing pains at the beginning of the season with new faces starting in the outfield, behind the plate and at shortstop – have bounced back to lead the SoCon in fielding percentage (.968) and on-base percentage (.414).
The seedings for the SoCon tournament will be decided after this weekend’s games, and the contest runs next Thursday-Sunday at Joseph P. Riley Park in Charleston, S.C.
NOTES: The current top six teams in the Southern Conference – The Citadel, Charleston, GSU, Elon, Samford and Western Carolina – are each assured a spot in the conference tournament. … Appalachian State needs one win over Wofford this weekend to secure a spot in the tournament field. … Entering the weekend’s matchups, Davidson (19-29, 5-22) is the only team eliminated from tournament contention.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.