If you’ve never heard of Adley Rutschman, whom some are calling the best MLB Draft prospect since Bryce Harper, the University of Cincinnati just showed you why he’s likely to be the first player selected on Monday night.
In an NCAA regional game at Oregon State on Friday night, Rutschman came to bat with the bases loaded, nobody out and his Beavers trailing the Bearcats 5-2.
Grand slam, right?
Nope. Even better: intentional walk.
Yes, Cincy coach Scott Googins wanted no part of the Pac-12 Player of the Year, who entered Saturday batting .427 with 16 homers, 55 RBIs and nearly twice as many walks (69) as strikeouts (36).
The move was reminiscent of Buck Showalter’s decision to walk Barry Bonds intentionally with the sacks packed when he was manager of the Diamondbacks in 1998.
“We weren’t going to get beat by the best player in the nation,” Googins told The Oregonian. “When you’ve got a dude like that and he gets a hit, that energy, who knows what can happen? If he hits a double off the wall, this place goes nuts. So we were going to take our chances. … I was willing to give up a run.”
His team wound up allowing four runs that inning to lose the lead, but the Bearcats rallied to win the game 7-6.
Googins’ decision wouldn’t have been mine — even the best players in the world are more likely to make an out than they are to reach base — but it had to be exciting for the Baltimore Orioles, who’ve had little reason to smile this season except for owning the top pick in the draft.
Down year in Virginia
Not only did Virginia and Virginia Tech get shut out of the NCAA baseball tournament, but the commonwealth as a whole also looks like it’ll be light on draft picks this year.
Baseball America has only five players from Virginia listing among its top 500 draft prospects, led by UVa shortstop Tanner Morris at No. 124 overall. Cavaliers pitcher Noah Murdock (304) also made the list.
VMI right-hander Zak Kent is rated as the seventh-best draft prospect in Virginia but falls outside the top 500. Other notables include Radford University first baseman Spencer Horowitz (No. 8 in Virginia), Jefferson Forest High School southpaw and UVa signee Griffin Agee (No. 11 in Virginia) and Hokies outfielder Kerry Carpenter (No. 17 in Virginia).
The great equalizer
One might think Toronto’s victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals does little to shift the perception that Golden State is going to win the series. After all, the Raptors were a slight home favorite in that game. They merely held serve.
But Vegas oddsmakers considered it a pretty significant strike for Toronto. A 5-to-2 underdog to win the series entering Game 1, the Raptors head into Sunday’s Game 2 at a much more promising 11-to-10 price.
As somebody who liked the Raptors in this series from the start, that’s a welcome shift in odds.
Speaking of odds, Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear Jr. showed a good understanding of his by removing his name from the NBA Draft on Wednesday night.
Only 60 players are drafted into the NBA each year. A whopping 86 underclassmen have declared (and stayed in) this year, according to CBSSports.com. That’s up from 59 underclassmen just three years ago.
Blackshear, who’s already earned his degree, is essentially a college free agent in high demand. His myriad options include the Hokies.
Given the commitment of standout point guard Jalen Cone to Tech last month, Mike Young’s program should look more attractive than it did when Blackshear initially declared in mid-April.