Fletcher's 3 Homers Ignite UI Offense over SIU, 10-1
April 30, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Junior Casey Fletcher entered Wednesday's game with one career home run in his first season at Illinois. The Illini left fielder left Illinois Field with four career homers, as he belted three dingers to lead the Orange and Blue past Southern Illinois, 10-1. The Oakwood, Ill., native finished 3-for-4 with five RBI and became the seventh Illini with three home runs in a game and first since Willie Argo hit three at No. 1 LSU on March 7, 2009.
"I'm just kind of taking it all in right now," Fletcher said. "I wasn't trying to hit it out and just tried to stick with my approach. I got pitches that I could pull and just hit it out. This is probably the most memorable day of my career, easily."
After grounding out in his first at-bat, Fletcher homered in his final three at-bats. He smacked a solo shot to right center with two outs in the third to give Illinois a 3-0 lead. With one out in the sixth, he sent another bomb over the right field wall, making it 4-1. Fletcher capped off a five-run seventh inning with a three-run blast to right, increasing Illinois' lead to 9-1. He was left on deck at the end of the eighth and did not have a chance to equal the school record of four home runs.
"I guess it's Casey Fletcher day at the ballpark," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "He had a great day and took very good swings. His swing has improved a lot throughout the year and he has done a good job leading this year. It's not something you see a lot at any level."
Former Illini Bubba Smith set the Illinois record with four home runs in a game against UIC exactly 23 years ago on April 30, 1991. That marked the first time an Illini hit three home runs or more in a game at Illinois Field. It has now been done four times in front of the Illinois Field home crowd: Bubba Smith: 4 HR vs. UIC (4/30/91)*, Kevin Rudden vs. Michigan (3/27/98), Drew Davidson vs. Northwestern (5/8/05) and Casey Fletcher vs. Southern Illinois (4/30/14). Casey's father, former Illini Darrin Fletcher, is tied for fifth in school history with 38 career home runs, but never had a three home run game. A full list of all seven occurrences is listed below.
Before Fletcher's impressive feat, the Illini jumped out to an early lead on a two-run double by sophomore Jason Goldstein in the first inning. Junior Will Krug walked and junior David Kerian wore a pitch following a fly out before the extra-base hit to right center gave UI a 2-0 advantage.
Starter Rob McDonnell, who improved to 4-0, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, notching four strikeouts and allowing one hit in three scoreless innings as part of a staff day. Freshman Cody Sedlock took over in the fourth and worked a scoreless frame but gave up the lone SIU run on a solo shot in the fifth, making it 3-1.
Sophomore Nick Blackburn came in for the sixth and posted a zero. Redshirt-sophomore Charlie Naso turned in a scoreless seventh and the Illini followed with their biggest inning of the game. Redshirt-junior Reid Roper connected on a two-run single to center that plated Kerian and junior Michael Hurwitz before Fletcher's final homer made it a five-run inning.
Senior Ronnie Muck did not give up a hit over his final two scoreless innings, as the Illini out-hit the Salukis 10-4 in the game. Redshirt-junior Kelly Norris-Jones knocked in freshman Pat McInerney with an RBI single in the eighth for the final run of the game.
Hartleb, who is in his ninth-year at the helm, tied Tom Dedin for fourth place on Illinois' all-time wins list with 268 career victories. Illinois improved to 24-17 on the season, while SIU dropped to 21-24.
Up Next: Illinois will host Michigan State for the final home series of the season this weekend (May 2-4). The Illini and Spartans will square off on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. on Friday followed by Honor and Serve Day on Saturday at 1 p.m. Sunday's series finale will be Senior Day with a 1 p.m. first pitch.
Illinois Baseball Players with Three Home Runs in a Game