Pirates primed to host 11th Annual Keith LeClair Classic

Published 11:37 am Thursday, February 27, 2014

By Michael Prunka

Sports Intern

After starting the season strong with a series win against James Madison and a weekday win versus Campbell, East Carolina’s (3-5) trip to Virginia resulted in the Pirates returning to Greenville riding a four-game losing streak.

They’ll be hoping to right the ship during this weekend’s 11th Annual Keith LeClair Classic, in which ECU will meet Western Kentucky (6-2) on Friday, Pittsburgh (4-2) on Saturday and Ohio State (5-2) on Sunday.

Heading into Friday’s matchup, WKU is on the other side of the fence. The Hilltoppers have won their last four. In their last outing, they edged No. 4 Vanderbilt, 3-2.

WKU boasts a core of dangerous hitters. Scott Wilcox, Trevor Lowe, Thomas Peter and Ryan Church are all batting above .300 through the first eight games of the season. The four combine for 21 runs and 25 RBI on 42 hits.

Jeff Hoffman has been playing Fridays in the weekend pitching rotation, so he’ll likely be the one tasked with stopping those Hilltopper batters. He made his second start of the season this past Friday against Virginia. He gave up three runs (all earned) on five hits in 6.2 innings pitched en route to his first loss of the season.

Manager Billy Godwin has been inserting different pitchers in the Saturday and Sunday slots. David Lucroy has started on both Saturday and Sunday so far. Godwin also experimented with Reid Love in the Sunday role last weekend against Virginia.

While Friday may be a showcase of WKU’s hitters, Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh is a chance for ECU’s hitters to shine. The Panthers, despite only having lost twice this season, have given up 37 runs in six games. Zach Houchins, Luke Lowery and Ian Townsend are all hard-hitting Pirates that should thrive against Pittsburgh.

And the Panthers can score, too. Their two best batters, Dylan Wolsonovich and Boo Vasquez, combine for 11 runs and 14 RBI on just 16 hits. However, beyond that duo, they aren’t very deep offensively.

Ohio State will be participating in its third tournament of the young season. The Buckeyes took part in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. and are coming off a three-win showing in last weekend’s UCF Tournament in Orlando, Fla.

A lot of Ohio State’s talent is concentrated in its pitching staff. Their trio of starters—consisting of Greg Greve, Ryan Riga and Zach Farmer—has a 3-1 record throughout six games. They have started six of the team’s seven games and all have an earned run average of less than 4.00.

The Pirates will respond—not just to Ohio State, but all three squads—with a talented pitching staff of their own. They’ll continue to rely on the strength of their relief pitchers. The bullpen has only surrendered five earned runs in 12.2 innings pitched over the span of ECU’s four-game losing streak.