April 30, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Brandon Gold nearly went the distance Friday night, when Georgia Tech beat No. 15 Coastal Carolina 9-1 to reverse a trend, and it came as no surprise.
Every one of the junior righthander’s 11 starts this season has lasted five innings or longer with him allowing two earned runs or fewer in nine. So, when he went eight innings, limiting the Chanticleers (31-12) to six hits while striking out five and walking two, the No. 25 Yellow Jackets (28-14) cooled a hot team.
Coastal entered Russ Chandler Stadium having won 18 of 20 with a 4-2 record against ACC squads, including wins over then No. 4 Virginia, Duke, Wake Forest and at No. 13 North Carolina. CCU also had beaten Tech three consecutive times.
With one final weekend break from ACC competition, where Tech is 10-10, head coach Danny Hall gave the ball to his inning eater and the Jackets rolled.
Gold (5-2, 2.36 ERA) has as many 5.0-inning starts as the rest of the roster combined (11 of 31). His 72.1 total innings are 19 percent of Tech’s 390.1. Cole Pitts is second with 40.
“We have a lot of confidence in him so we usually play really well behind him,” Hall said. “He’s a good guy to have on Friday night because he’s going to keep you in every game.”
The Chanticleers are no joke.
They came to Atlanta with an RPI of 9 (to Tech’s 22), a strength-of-schedule of 13 (to Tech’s 34) and a non-conference SOS of 9.
Head coach Gary Gilmore’s team entered third in the NCAA in home runs (55), 12th in runs scored (322) and 31st in batting average (.305).
CCU’s 2-5 hitters brought a combined 40 home runs, as Michael Paez (.301, 10 HRs, 35 RBI), G.K. Young (.353, 10, 45), Zach Remillard (.347, 9, 37) and Connor Owings (.399, 11, 38) have been known to thump.
Gold lived up to his label, though, moving the ball in and out, up and down, and mixing pitches quite nicely on the way to throwing a season-high 114 pitches.
Paez-Young-Remillard-Owings combined to go 4-for-14 with one RBI, and leadoff hitter Anthony Marks went hitless and did not reach base after entering with a .426 on-base percentage.
“I’ve learned so much and even on a week-to-week basis this season,” Gold said. “Today, I focused on reading the hitters and how they were fouling pitches off, how they were diving into pitches, where I needed to locate.”
Gold’s location has changed a bit since he arrived from Johns Creek High.
He played in 54 games as a freshman, starting 50 at third base. He did not pitch to a single batter.
During the fall of his sophomore year and into the following spring, injuries to several pitchers left coaches to experiment in practices and scrimmages.
“That was just out of necessity,” Hall said of pitching Gold. “We felt like we needed to stick him in the rotation because he does throw strikes and that worked out good. This year, he’s very comfortable pitching.”
Chalk one up to understatement.
After going 7-3 and leading Tech with a 3.26 ERA in 12 starts last season, Gold earned third team All-ACC honors. He also hit .273 while starting 17 games at third, four at designated hitter and two at first base.
He hasn’t hit as much this season, especially over the last month, but that’s OK.
“They’re both equally fun when I’m successful so I don’t have a preference,” Gold explained. “I would miss [hitting] if our team wasn’t doing really well. My replacements are carrying the load.”
Indeed, first base, where Gold started 10 of Tech’s first 16 games, is being manned capably by freshman Tristin English. With a hit Friday, he’s at .343 with 30 RBI. At third, sophomore Trevor Craport – a pitcher as a freshman – added a hit to leave his average to .354.
All freshman Brandt Stallings did Friday at designated hitter was single and hit a grand slam off the flag pole in left center in the fifth inning. He has six home runs and 26 RBI in just 70 at-bats, batting .286.
After two more games against Coastal Carolina, the Jackets close the regular season with nine of 11 against ACC opponents Miami, Virginia and Boston College.
Chances are Gold will have to come up big three more times before the postseason because two starting pitchers are down for the count.
Junior Jonathan King went five innings in the season opener, but shoulder issues finished him for the spring for the second time in three seasons.
Freshman Jonathan Hughes went six innings in each of his first three starts, but his season ended with elbow surgery after two more.
So it’s good to know that in ACC action Gold’s 46.1 innings are nearly triple the next two busiest Jackets. Zac Ryan has 18, and Burton Delaney 16.2.
“I thought he adjusted [to CCU hitters], they kind of adjusted to him a little bit and he adjusted to their hitters,” Hall said. “They’re very good hitters . . . I felt like he kept them off balance all night.”
Gold has stayed on track, even though he came to Tech, “More as a position player. I didn’t pitch much in high school, maybe less than 15 innings.”
Never mind the scouts scribbling away. June’s Major League draft can wait.
“I’m not thinking about that,” Gold said. “My teammates and I set goals at the beginning of the year and if everyone is not 100 percent bought in, we’re not going to reach those goals so it’s not even in the back of my mind right now.”