Weekend Preview: Keith LeClair Classic

This weekend, Illinois baseball will take part in the Keith LeClair Classic (named in honor of a baseball coach with ties to both East Carolina and Western Carolina) at the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Two of Illinois’ opponents in the Classic, Western Carolina and East Carolina, have had their most recent games fall victim to the nasty weather the east coast has been having.  Both of their games were canceled.

Let’s take a look at Illinois’ opponents for the Keith LeClair Classic.


East Carolina Pirates

March 5, 2010 4 pm ct
Greenville, NC
Program website link Record 4-3
Head Coach: Billy Goodwin Key player: Dustin Harrington

Harrington leads the Pirates with a .393 batting average and six runs.   Jared Avchen is also someone to watch.  He’s the Pirate catcher and was named to the Johnny Bench Watch list just like Aaron Johnson was.


Western Carolina Catamounts

March 6, 2010 10 am ct
Greenville, NC
Program website link Record 6-1
Head Coach: Bobby Moranda Key player: Tyler Kirkpatrick

The Catamounts have a trio of boppers in Kirkpatrick, Tyler White, and Cameron Dulling.  All are hitting over .400.  Kirkpatrick got hot against  Charlotte and hit two dingers last Tuesday. 

And if you’re wondering (because I was and had to look it up), a catamount is a cougar.  cat-a-mount… makes sense now.


West Virginia Mountaineers

March 7, 2010 9 am ct
Greenville, NC
Program website link Record:  2-5
Head coach: Greg Van Zant Key player: Jedd Gyorko

Set your alarm clock.  This is an early game. 

The Mountaineers just came off an 18-14 win so despite their 2-5 record, it’s clear they can put some runs on the board. 

Gyorko is main offensive threat on this team.  He leads in homers, doubles, rbis and runs.   Matt Frazer (.450) and Dom Hayes (.429) are also hitters to watch out for.


What the Illini need to do this weekend

Obviously, the key thing for the Illini to do is to put the last two losses out of their mind and focus at the task at hand.  These games are winnable. 

Will Strack can to build on his success he had against Notre Dame.  Kevin Johnson and Brian de la Torriente, who from all accounts, didn’t pitched ok, just need to translate their good work into wins. 

Of course, that can’t happen without some offense.  It’s common, almost a Murphy’s Law, that when you get good pitching, you don’t get offense and vice-versa.  It’s just a question of how to break out of it. 

And Matt Dittman… don’t change a thing.

Go Illini!!!



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