Keith LeClair Classic lifts Pirates

ECU baseball went undefeated in the tenth annual Keith LeClair Classic.

A few short days ago, Pirate Nation was in turmoil over the baseball team's 0-3 start. Then came the Keith LeClair Classic, an annual tournament hosted by the Pirates to honor the legendary ECU baseball coach who passed away as a result of Lou Gherig's Disease.

ECU (3-3) went out and won every game they played in The Classic. The Pirates beat Illinois, 8-2, followed by wins over Boston College, 2-1, and New Mexico State, 5-1, over the course of the weekend. This came as a surprise after opening the season with a home series loss to Virginia and a mid-week loss against Campbell.

The Pirates took control of this young season and didn't let things get out of hand with a mixture of skill, a little luck, and someone up above looking out for them along the way.

ECU's first win of the season came on Thursday night over the Illinois Fighting Illini. Starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman gave up six hits, one run and struck out nine batters in six and two thirds innings of work to pace the Pirates. The bullpen, which has been scrutinized heavily this season, gave up a total of two hits in the final innings.

At the plate the Pirates did well, collecting ten hits and eight runs. ECU's Drew Reynolds recorded two hits and scored two runs in five at bats. Travis Watkins had a team-high three RBIs and Zach Houchins hit his first home run as a Pirate (a two-run homer in the fourth to take the lead).

On Friday, ECU beat Boston College in a game that went down to the very end. The Pirates led 2-0 after five innings, but a run on a throwing error in the sixth for BC's Tom Bourdon made things interesting in the final few innings. No more runs would be scored.

Jay Cannon and Bryan Bass both went 2-for-3 at the plate for the Pirates, with Cannon recording an RBI.

With the pitching unit again the central focus for Pirate Nation, starter Ryan Williams struck out five batters, allowing six hits and one run in seven innings. Reynolds came in for relief to record his first save of the season.

After taking Saturday off, ECU returned on Sunday to play New Mexico State. Trailing 1-0, the Pirates used a four-run sixth inning en route to a 5-1 victory. ECU pitcher David Lucroy made his first career start, allowing three hits and three walks in five scoreless innings of work. Freshman Nick Duranzo made his first appearance as a Pirate in relief before Reynolds closed the game with his second save of the year.

In all, the weekend successfully shored up some of the team's early season questions. The batters performed well. The pitching unit found its groove. Players are stepping up to fill roles that were missing during the three-game losing streak.

It was fitting that things were turned around during the Keith LeClair Classic- a time to celebrate the life of an outstanding individual of Pirate lore. The annual tournament is meant to celebrate the life and keep the morale up for a great upcoming season. And at a time when morale was wavering, it was none other than LeClair to figuratively have a hand in righting this ship.

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