CHAMPAIGN — How hot has Illinois’ Casey Fletcher been at the plate recently? Teammate Ronnie Muck offered this advice to anyone burdened with the task of facing the sizzling junior.
“I’d probably walk him — or hit him,” Muck said of Illinois’ left-handed swinging right fielder.
Three days after blasting three home runs in a win against Southern Illinois, Fletcher belted two more round-trippers against Michigan State on Saturday at Illinois Field. But his RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning was the decisive blow in leading the Illini to a 5-4 win.
Illinois coach Dan Hartleb declared Wednesday as Casey Fletcher Day after the performance against the Salukis. Saturday’s showing, he said, made it Casey Fletcher Week.
“It’s been a good week, I don’t know what else to say,” said Fletcher, who went 3 for 5 with three RBI on Saturday. “I’ve just been putting good swings on the ball and good things have happened. I’m just taking it in. I don’t even really know what to say. I’m just hitting it and it’s going where they’re not at.”
Fletcher’s heroics made a winner out of Muck (1-3) who pitched four scoreless innings in relief for the Illini (26-17, 12-5 Big Ten). Will Krug also had three hits and scored two runs for the Illini while Jason Goldstein hit a solo home run for the second straight game against MSU (24-19, 8-9).
Fletcher’s 10th-inning single down the line in left with the bases loaded set off a wild celebration in right field with teammates mobbing Fletcher on the day the Illini wore orange and blue camouflage jerseys that were auctioned off as part of their Honor and Serve Day.
“I just kept jumping up and down,” said Fletcher, the Oakwood product who said he’s never had a walkoff hit at any level during his life. “I was actually a little worried because I thought they were going to rip my jersey and I know Mom and
Dad bought it, so I was trying to keep everyone from tugging on me. They got a hold of me.”