Alex Rauso steals HRDX show with two walk-off homers, epic bat throw

August 27th, 2023

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- Alex Rauso won the HRDX trophy as a member of Jake Arrieta's team in Hartford two weeks ago. The only problem: They won the game without Rauso ever getting to take a hack in the final.

He more than made up for it on Saturday night.

Selected second overall to Ian Desmond's Freddies -- each of the teams on Saturday night wore alternate identities of the Fredericksburg Nationals -- Rauso helped make Desmond look like a drafting genius.

In the Freddies' first matchup, they took on Jonny Gomes' Fundadores. Rauso came up as the last batter with his team trailing just by a few points. He hit two home runs, one more than he needed. Once he realized the victory was theirs, he launched his bat into the air, screaming before the hyped-up crowd.

He did the same in his second at-bat. Facing Arrieta -- Rauso's Hartford teammate -- and his Gus Bus club, Rauso came to the plate trailing by six. This time, the weight of all those swings seemed to weigh on the former University of Bridgeport standout, who holds the school records for career home runs and RBIs. His laser beams had a little less oomph, his fly balls were just a touch shorter.

Not to worry, though, Rauso worked through the fatigue. When he hit his final home run into the eagerly waiting crowd at Virginia Credit Union Park, he made his earlier celebration look positively pedestrian. This time, his bat wasn't flipped so much as hurled, flying end over end into the FredNats' infield.

"I made it worth it for missing [getting to hit] last time around," a deliriously joyous Rauso said after the victory. His shirt was stained with sweat from the 90-something degree evening and champagne from the Freddies celebration. "I had to do a little extra, put on a little show. Got to bat flip to make up for it."

It can be tough going to the plate with the game on the line and a bona fide Major League All-Star standing behind you. But Desmond put all of his faith in Rauso stepping up to the dish.

"Ian looked at me right and goes, 'Yeah, let's go walk it off. Come on,'" Rauso said. "I mean, when a big leaguer is telling you 'Let's do it,' you kind of lose it for a little bit, and you just lock in."

The night -- which set a FredNats attendance record -- was not just a celebration of home runs, though. It was also to raise money for charity. The Freddies' charity -- Sunshine Ballpark -- was awarded $4,000, while Gwyneth's Gift Foundation, The YMCA, and Big Brother Big Sisters of America all earned $2,000.

It's something that is very important to Desmond, who was known for his charitable outreach during his big league career.

"Tonight, we had 20 kids from the Children's Tumor Foundation that came out," Desmond said. "To be able to see them, to support their families, that was phenomenal."

Ian Desmond and Jasmine Picini celebrate the Freddies' win.

Desmond's work doesn't end there, though. When he returns home to Florida, he'll get back to work with his foundation, Newtown Connection.

"It's a sports, health and education program that we offer for free to inner-city kids in a town called Newtown in Sarasota," Desmond said. "We're gaining momentum right now. ... We're going towards those kids, having a blast, and really enriching their lives, finding people in the community that are doing good and we connect them back to the community."

As for Desmond's swings, which resulted in some of the longest and most majestic blasts of the night?

"It felt great today, but we'll see how it's gonna feel tomorrow," Desmond joked. "I mean, it was really fun to be able to connect with the ball again and get out here and see the fans. That's the stuff you miss you know, interactions, seeing kids smile. That's just stuff that really motivates you as a player and it doesn't ever go away."

Let's break down the full results:

Semifinal 1: Freddies 59, Fundadores 56

Rauso may have walked this one off, but Desmond destroyed in this one. The former Nationals star came out to a raucous ovation from the hometown crowd and proceeded to put up a remarkable 41 points on 23 home runs. It was enough to help the team overcome 20 points from former Red Sox legend Gomes, 17 points from USA women's national team star Ashton Lansdell, and 12 from local star Beau Banglesdorf.

"I mean, anytime there's a sell out in a Minor League ballpark, you know something cool is happening," Gomes said afterward. "Super stoked to be part of it. Ian Desmond at his home Nats fans park -- that's good for the show."

Banglesdorf may have missed getting a second game to swing the bat, but he's still proud of the performance he put together.

"I've got about 40 or 50 people out here," Banglesdorf said. "The love they've shown me has been incredible."

Ashton Lansdell and Beau Banglesdorf in the dugout.

Semifinal 2: Gus Bus 61, Choppin' Georges 55

If only every pitcher could hit like Arrieta. The former Cubs World Series winner and Silver Slugger Award winner put up 36 points on 20 home runs, helping his Gus Bus team to a victory. Texas Smoke softball star Baylee Klingler added 8 points and former Wake Forest slugger Charlie Morgan added 9 points of his own in the victory.

The standout for the Choppin' Georges was not team captain and all-time NCAA home run leader Jocelyn Alo (10 points), but former D-backs Draft pick Luke Lowery. The winner of the 2015 Northwest League/Pioneer League Home Run Derby showed off those skills as he put up 23 points on 11 home runs.

"I was just trying to do anything I could to give our team a chance to win," Lowery said. "Just trying to help out Jocelyn [Alo] and Parra do anything I could. I felt it was really, really fun. Excited to get back in the box and get competitive juices flowing again."

Fan favorite Gerardo Parra also lined up for the Choppin' Georges and he helped lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of "Baby Shark" one more time.

"It's fun when you hear the people that love you, no matter what happens. It was almost five year ago [that I last played here]," Parra said.

Alo arguably received the loudest ovation of the night thanks to the Unity Softball organization, which brought out a section of fans.

"It feels good, especially to have the little girls here watching," Alo said. "I just want them to see that and visualize that could be their future self. I just want them to be inspired by tonight and know that you can hit balls just as far as the guys."

Women's Professional Fastpitch stars Baylee Klingler (Texas Smoke) and Jocelyn Alo (Oklahoma City Spark) in the dugout before the game.

Final: Freddies 56, Gus Bus 55

Rauso may have walked it off, but Desmond did some serious work, too. The star put up 31 points -- outpacing Arrieta's 27 -- on 10 home runs, including a remarkable eight target hits. Morgan scored 12 points in his final at-bat for the Gus Bus, while Klingler added six points of her own in the loss.