Coastal Carolina had hit 40 more home runs than any other College World Series team going into Omaha, so you know it has some sluggers. The best of the bunch is third baseman Zach Remillard, who leads the Chanticleers in big flies this season with 19.
So when I asked him what super power he would bring to the baseball diamond given endless possibilities for a story on Sunday, his answer floored me.
After Monday night, his answer made complete sense.
Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the ninth against a hot pitcher, Remillard stepped to the plate with Anthony Marks on first and no outs. With Coastal down by a few runs, Remillard’s primary goal was to get on base in any way possible.
Conventional wisdom would suggest a hit, a walk or even one of his signature extra-base hits would do the trick. So what does Coastal’s No. 3 hitter do? He…. squares around to bunt?
With Arizona third baseman Bobby Dalbec playing back, Remillard laid an absolute beauty down the third base line and was safe thanks to a head-first slide.
Turns out, Remillard sort of has the whole ‘bunting thing’ down.
Zach Remillard, who leads Coastal with 19 home runs, just drag bunted for a single. He's 8-for-8 in attempted bunt hits this year.— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 28, 2016
Baseball is evolving; sabermetricians such as Bill James and a long list of others cite the bunt as the most senseless play in the game. Why? Because it’s like giving away a free out in a game where outs are so very, very precious.
Do a quick Google search of ‘college baseball bunting statistics,’ and you’ll see more of the same – how college teams overuse the bunt, and that they should do away with the strategy altogether.
I’m not here to argue whether or not that’s correct on a macro level. But I can tell you it’s wrong in Remillard’s case. Dead wrong.
Remillard’s bunt single very easily could have swung last night’s game. With runners on first and second and no outs, Connor Owings smashed a hard-hit grounder – right at the second baseman. Arizona turned a double play, and the rally was history. Had Owings placed that ball five feet to the left or right, we could be talking about Remillard’s bunt as a turning point.
Coastal Carolina has one of the most potent offenses in the country, yet it ranks eighth in Division I this season with 74 sacrifice bunts. For good measure, Arizona ranks third in the nation with 80.
On a general level, perhaps bunting isn’t the smartest strategy. The lesson here? It should just be reserved for guys who are really, really good at bunting. The Wildcats and the Chanticleers happen to have a lot of players who possess that skill.
It’s hard to be perfect doing much of anything on a baseball diamond. After all, it’s universally known as ‘the game of failure.’
So just soak this in: the best power hitter on the best power-hitting team in the College World Series is 8-for-8 in bunt-for-hit attempts this season.
In baseball, it’s all about the little things.