Three stand out with best offensive performances in Illini baseball history

Junior+Kyle+Hudson+jogs+back+to+the+dugout+during+the+game+against+Illinois+College+on+Wednesday%2C+April+9%2C%2C+2008.

The Daily Illini File Photo

Junior Kyle Hudson jogs back to the dugout during the game against Illinois College on Wednesday, April 9,, 2008.

By Rich Eberwein, Staff Writer

During the brief 2020 baseball season, it looked as though Illinois shortstop Brandon Comia was on his way to a memorable offensive season after finishing with the fourth best batting average in the Big Ten.  Perhaps he will add his name to the list below when baseball returns to Illinois Field. Until that happens, let’s look at some of the most prominent offensive contributors from past seasons.

Darrin Fletcher

From 1985-1987, the main backstop for the Illinois pitching staff was Darrin Fletcher. Drafted in the sixth round by the Dodgers in 1987, Fletcher was mostly known for his defensive skills as a catcher in his professional career. During his time in Champaign, however, Fletcher is statistically the best hitter in Illinois history. Over three seasons, Fletcher’s batting average was a magnificent .392, culminating in an unbelievable 1987 season. In the same year he was drafted, Fletcher hit a whopping .497 for the Illini. During the 46 games he started that year, Fletcher had 73 RBIs, hit 15 home runs and was named to the All-American First Team.

Darrin Fletcher also enjoyed a 14-year career in the MLB, playing for the Dodgers, Phillies, Expos and Blue Jays until he retired in 2002. Fletcher’s father and grandfather were pro baseball players as well and his son Casey Fletcher patrolled center field at Illinois during the historic 2015 season.

Kyle Hudson

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Kyle Hudson was a skilled speedster on the diamond and the gridiron during his time at UIUC. An outfielder for the baseball team and a starting wide receiver for the football team, Hudson eventually chose baseball when the Orioles took him in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB draft. His Major League career was unfortunately over almost as soon as it began, but his time at Illinois was impressive to say the least. With a .376 career batting average, Hudson proved his worth offensively not only at the plate, but also on the base paths. The fleet of foot outfielder stole 66 bases for the Illini over three seasons, placing him third on Illinois’ all-time list. Hudson also has the second best on base percentage (.459) of any Illinois player with a minimum of 100 at bats. In addition to making the All-American third team by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2008, he never hit below .351 during his three seasons in an Illinois uniform.

Although his playing career is over, Hudson briefly returned to Illinois as a volunteer coach in 2015. He now coaches in the Cleveland Indians organization as a staff assistant at the Major League level.

Craig Marquie

A walk-on redshirt freshman in 1996, just four years after a season he didn’t start a single game, Craig Marquie became the man who played more baseball games than anyone in Illinois history totaling 240; a record he still holds to this day. No injuries during his collegiate career likely led to his longevity, but his skills at the plate are what earned him the starting job at third base in 1997, which he kept until 2000. Marquie is still at the top of several offensive categories for Illinois including total hits (2nd with 289), total bases (1st with 469), runs (3rd with 200) and home runs (tied for 4th with 38).

Marquie helped lead Illinois to a Big Ten Championship in 1998 and was named to an All Big Ten team three times. Following his time at Illinois, Marquie signed a free agent contract with the Yankees. He only played one season in the minors before walking away from baseball.

More names will surely climb Illinois record lists in the future and with the coronavirus hopefully slowed to a halt by next year’s opening day, those names may appear sooner rather than later.

@ebs_rich

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