Rigo Gutierrez didn’t get to make the trip to see his son, Eric, play in the College World Series.
So, when Eric, Texas Tech’s first baseman, was invited to participate in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha, he had an epiphany.
He was going to have his dad pitch to him.
“He didn’t get to watch it here in Omaha, so I was like, ‘You know what, Dad? Let’s go have some fun,” Gutierrez said.
And looking at the numbers, the two had more fun than anyone else at the derby Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
Gutierrez hit 52 home runs in the derby and destroyed the previous record of 20 set by Rice’s Michael Aquino in 2013.
“Michael told me I almost beat his record in one round, and I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ ” Gutierrez said. “I didn’t know what the record was or nothing and I didn’t play attention to the scoreboard. I just wanted to hit the ball hard.”
Despite hitting 11 more home runs than any other competitor, Gutierrez was defeated in the championship by Texas freshman catcher — and former Sharyland High teammate — Tres Barrera, who hit 25 home runs in the finals.
Gutierrez hit 18 homers in the championship round.
“It was a crazy night,” Gutierrez said following the event. “Having the opportunity to come back to Omaha, especially with my Dad throwing to me, was just incredible. It was also a special experience to be there in the finals with Tres — being able to represent the Big 12 Conference and Sharyland High School with him was great. It felt like old times back in high school when we would take batting practice together. Overall, it was just an amazing night.”
Barrera said he and Gutierrez were just having fun like they did in high school together.
“It’s crazy, man. We knew what we were capable of doing. I know the nation didn’t think so, but we knew what we could do,” Barrera told the Omaha World-Herald. “We did it all the time in practice back home. We just said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ ”
Gutierrez hit 15 home runs in the opening round — four more than Barrera — and added 19 homers in Round 2, which gave him 34 homers entering the championship round. Barrera tallied 16 homers heading into the finals. Ohio State’s Zach Ratcliff posted nine homers and Richmond’s Matt Dacey finished with 14 homers after the semifinals.
Gutierrez, who led the Big 12 in home runs (12) and RBIs (58), started fast in the opening round. After two quick outs, the sophomore hit four of his next five into the stands before finishing with 15.
“The first round, I needed to get at least one home run early because after you hit one, you feel relaxed. I was focused,” Gutierrez said. “I was seeing the ball like it was a watermelon and my adrenaline started pumping. It was good.”
Gutierrez’s two-round home run total was so high that it surpassed the total number of home runs hit by all competitors in the 2011 competition (27) and his three-round total of 52 nearly bested the record of 61 for all competitors combined in 2013.
“There was not a strategy ... It was just being comfortable and hitting the ball out front a bit,” Gutierrez said. “In a home run derby, you are not going to wait for the ball ... I was just trying to have fun and enjoy every round. I was not trying to save energy. I was just caught up in the moment.”
In Round 2, it looked like Gutierrez wouldn’t add much to his total, hitting one home run in his first five outs.
He made the last five count. The Red Raider hit six straight home runs before making his sixth out and then hit a staggering five more before making the seventh and eighth outs. With two outs left, he smacked seven more and finished with 19 in the round.
“Not for one second did I not think that I couldn’t (catch Barrera),” Gutierrez said. “I like to compete. I ended up short a little bit, a lot of it is just baseball.”
Despite this success in Omaha, Gutierrez is focused on making it back, but not to the derby. Instead, he has his sights on the Red Raiders returning to the College World Series.
“Next year, I want to be back with my whole team — not just me,” he said. “I am looking forward (to trying to get back). It is going to take a lot of work to get back, and we just have take it day by day like we always do.”
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