Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman has had an outstanding college career, especially these last two seasons. During that time he's hit 26 home runs, collected 141 RBIs, 227 hits and hit to an average of .413. Last year he helped the Beavers win their third national title, and was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. His list of accolades is so full it will make your head spin (he even kicked on the football team his freshman year), and all signs point to him being selected first overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the MLB Draft this Monday. He's been compared to Buster Posey and Joe Mauer, who have had decent careers behind the plate, some would say.
All that sounds kind of impressive, but his most remarkable feat may have come on Friday night at the Corvallis Regional, and it involved Rutschman doing absolutely nothing but walk to first base. With his team trailing 5-2 to Cincinnati in the bottom of the seventh, no outs and the bases loaded, Bearcats head coach Scott Googins opted to intentionally walk Rutschman, otherwise known as "the Barry Bonds." Have a watch:
There really is no bigger sign of respect for a hitter than being given first base with the bases jacked, something only TWO... TWO players have experienced in the MLB since 1955. Obviously, Bonds was one of them. In a 1998 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Buck Showalter did the unthinkable and gave Bonds first base with the bases loaded and his team leading 8-6, meaning the walk made it a one-run game. Bonds was stunned:
Showalter's unconventional move worked, as the following batter, Brent Mayne, lined out to right field and Arizona won the game. The only other instance occurred in 2008, when Josh Hamilton, in the midst of an incredible season, was intentionally walked with the bases loaded by Tampa Bay Rays closer Grant Balfour in the bottom of the ninth and the Rays leading 7-3 with two outs. The four-run lead likely made the move much easier to swallow for manager Joe Maddon, who is now with the Chicago Cubs:
Maddon's move also worked, as reliever Dan Wheeler came in for Balfour and struck out the next batter, Marlon Byrd, to give Tampa a 7-4 lead. It did not work for Cincinnati on Friday night, as Oregon State went on to score four runs in the inning to take a 6-5 lead. But the Bearcats came back to win the game 7-6 with one run in each of the final two innings. So what appears to be a "bold strategy, Cotton" move might be much more next-level than we think. Every team that does it ends up winning.