If there’s any player you should familiarize yourself with before this year’s MLB Draft, it’s Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman. The junior is listed as the consensus No. 1 overall pick by nearly every draft board because of things like his .419/.580/.765 slash line, his ability to get walked twice as often as he gets struck out, and the fact that he’s a switch-hitter. But after Friday night’s game against Cincinnati in the Corvallis Regional, you don’t even need to look at a draft board to recognize his greatness.
In the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and nobody out, the Bearcats decided that instead of facing the greatest college player in the country head on, they’d take the coward’s way out and walk Rutschman, driving in a run. It was a move that even seemed to bewilder the Beavers catcher for a second.
To Cincinnati’s credit, the decision paid off in the long run as the Bearcats beat last year’s national champions 7-6, sentencing the Beavers to the elimination bracket with a likely matchup against No. 1 UCLA in their future. With the benefit of hindsight on his side, Cincinnati coach Scott Googins defended the move after the game.
Asked if he would pitch to Rutschman in that situation if he had it to do over, Googins said: “I don’t think so because they only scored four runs. You just don’t know.
“When you have a dude like that, and he gets a hit you just don’t know what could happen. … If he hits a double off the wall, this place is nuts. The energy here was incredible. That guy gets a hit, or hits a home run, this place erupts.”
Googins added that his assistants tried to talk him out of the call, but he stood firm in his decision to give Rutschman the Barry Bonds treatment.
But even if it was a cowardly decision, you’ve almost got to respect it as an act of kindness. Googins clearly knows that Rutschman will end up on some awful franchise next year where he’s not going to get many opportunities to shine right away. He just wanted to give the kid a chance to feel like one of the sport’s greats before the inevitable frustrations of having to play for the Orioles breaks the catcher’s brain.