On a Different Level: Connor Milton taking advantage of opportunity with Illini

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Connor Milton is making the most of his opportunity to be an every day player for the Illinois baseball team and Tuesday night’s walk-off home run over No. 24 Indiana State is just another chapter of a two-week stretch he’ll never forget.

“I was just trying to put a line drive on the ball and ended up getting a little out front and went over the fence so it was awesome,” Milton said.

The Central grad ended the home run fest with the Sycamores in the 7th inning in a 21-11 rout. It was Milton’s fifth home run in the last 10 days, he has six this season after never clearing the fence in his first three years in college. It’s a run that all started when freshman outfielder Cameron Chee-Aloy went down with an injury mid-April.

“He was a guy that brought a lot of energy in the dugout and you fast forward, he gets an opportunity through an injury and he’s produced ever since,” Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said.

Milton had six hits and three RBI after the Northern Illinois series mid-April. Since then, Milton has 16 hits, 10 RBI and five home runs.

“Every single time I go up to bat, I kinda take it all in,” Milton said. “I’m present where my feet are but just so grateful to be able to play for the school I’ve always dreamed of playing for.”

“He loves Illinois,” Hartleb added. “He grew up an Illinois fan and I think he was realistic and understood that he had to perform to a level where he deserved to play and showed some toughness there.”

His teammates tease him and call him a hometown hero but the chance to share his passion for the community only fuels his love of the game. Sitting in a tie for first in the Big Ten, the Illini are in search of their first conference title since 2015.

“I really think the sky’s the limit for this team as long as we just keep playing together, believe in each other I think we can accomplish whatever we put our minds to so we just gotta stay at it and show up to work every day,” Milton said.

And with only three weekends left in the regular season, Milton and the Illini are looking to keep the good times rolling, winners of 17 of their last 20 games. Illinois hosts Ohio State this weekend for a three-game series starting Friday night at 6 p.m.

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