Purdue Travels to Carolinas for ECU's Four-Team Keith LeClair Classic

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Kevin Plawecki was one of four Boilers to hit safely in all three games of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
Kevin Plawecki was one of four Boilers to hit safely in all three games of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

Feb. 23, 2012


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Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday: Joe Haase (Sr, RHP) vs. ECU's Kevin Brandt (Sr, LHP)
Saturday: Lance Breedlove vs. UM's David Carroll (Sr, RHP)
Sunday: Calvin Gunter (Sr, LHP) vs. WCU's Jeremy Null (Fr, RHP)

Weekend Weather Forecast for Greenville, N.C.
Friday: 71 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 53 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
Sunday: 52 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - As Purdue baseball travels to the Carolinas for the first time since 2006, the Boilermakers are scheduled to square off against a pair of opponents that are also unbeaten on the young season at the four-team Keith LeClair Classic hosted by East Carolina.

Purdue (3-0) is slated to play ECU (4-0) Friday at 5 p.m., Maryland (2-1) Saturday at 11 a.m. and Western Carolina (4-0) Sunday at 10 a.m. at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, N.C. The Boilermakers (No. 26) and host Pirates (No. 20) are both ranked among Perfect Game USA's Top 50.

A March 2006 weekend series at North Carolina marked the last time Purdue traveled to the Carolinas. The Boilermakers played a series at East Carolina in 2000, but have not played Western Carolina since the 1987 NCAA Regional in Starkville, Miss. Maryland represents one of four first-time opponent on Purdue's 2012 regular-season schedule.

The Keith LeClair Classic, now in its ninth year, is named in honor of the former Western Carolina player and coach who later became the head coach at ECU. He passed away in 2006 after a lengthy battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). LeClair helped lead WCU to four straight Southern Conference titles as a player, and three more as head coach before taking over at ECU. Before stepping down in 2002, he led the Pirates to four consecutive NCAA Regional appearances.

Entering the weekend, the four teams participating in the Keith LeClair Classic this season are a combined 13-1. Maryland may have suffered the only loss so far but the Terrapins also posted the most impressive series victory of the season-opening weekend, winning two-of-three at UCLA. Purdue travels to Southern California to take on the Bruins in May.

The Boilermakers are off to their first 3-0 start since the 1991 team opened the year 5-0. Purdue had a base runner in 22 of the 25 innings in which the team batted at the season-opening Big Ten/Big East Challenge, scoring in 12 innings and batting .367 as a team. The Boilermakers were able to capitalize on extra opportunities afforded them by their opponents. Combined, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Notre Dame committed 14 errors and issued 16 free passes (11 walks, 5 HBP) over the three games. Even though Purdue has proven to be adept at working counts and putting pressure on opposing defenses, teams will play cleaner games against the Boilers as the season continues.

Meanwhile, Purdue will see some size on the mound this weekend. The probable starting pitchers for Maryland (senior right-hander David Carroll) and Western Carolina (freshman right-hander Jeremy Null) are both listed at 6-foot-8. The Boilermakers will face a left-handed starter for the first time this season Friday. East Carolina's Kevin Brandt worked 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball, striking out nine, in the opening day win against Milwaukee. He has struck out over 200 batters in his ECU career.

Null also dominated hitters in his collegiate debut last weekend, helping WCU complete a series sweep of Fordham. He struck out eight and surrendered only one hit over 5 1/3 innings.

East Carolina won a midweek game at Old Dominion Wednesday after outscoring Milwaukee, 26-4, in the season-opening sweep. Six Pirates have already homered this year. Second baseman Tim Youngster, who is wearing LeClair's honorary No. 23 jersey this season, is off to a hot start while batting ninth in the lineup. The senior is 8-for-13 while playing flawless defense at second base.

Maryland only batted .211 as a team in its series at UCLA but managed to limit the Bruins to a single run in both the series opener and finale. Lefty reliever Jimmy Reed closed out both wins, striking out six of the 11 batters he faced.

Western Carolina won a one-sided midweek game at Winthrop Tuesday, jumping out to a 10-0 lead. The Catamounts are led by second baseman Ross Heffley. The four-year starter was the team triple crown winner last season, batting .419 with 11 home runs and 65 RBIs. He is the NCAA Division I active career leader with 274 hits while ranking second with 179 RBIs. While batting cleanup behind Heffley, freshman Jacob Hoyle (9-for-16, 6 XBH, 9 RBIs) has made teams pay early this season for pitching around the accomplished senior.

With next weekend's four-team tournament at Auburn on the horizon, Purdue will have played each of its first nine games of the new season against nine different teams before its first traditional series against the same opponent.