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#TGW: Golden Year

July 9, 2014

By Jon Cooper

The Good Word 

It’s been a long year baseball-wise for Brandon Gold, as he’s played pretty much non-stop since February.

Yet, the way it’s been going he’s hardly in the mood to stop.

Gold, who is spending his summer playing up in Virginia with the Harrisonburg Turks of the Valley Baseball League — they began play Wednesday in second place, with a 17-8 record — was one of eight Turks to be play on the South squad in the League’s annual All-Star Game, which took place last Sunday.

His playing in the showcase game of the league is just the latest layer of icing on a cake that seems to add another layer every week. 

“Our team won, 2-1, so it was a pretty low-scoring game, as you would expect from an all-star game,” said Gold, who joined Jackets and Turks teammate Thomas Smith on the roster. “I played the last five innings, got two at-bats. I don’t think I got any plays in the field but it was real fun and our coach from the Turks (Bob Wease) was the head coach, so it was just a fun experience.”

It’s been that kind of summer and, really, that kind of year for the freshman from Alpharetta (Johns Creek High School). He played in 54 games for the Jackets in 2014, starting 50 of them, and basically earning the starting spot at third base.

He finished the regular season hitting .246, .221 in ACC play, but had a superb .316 on-base average (.315 in conference play), was tied for sixth on the team in runs scored (tied for third in ACC action), was third on the team with 12 doubles and tied for third with three sac flies.

In postseason, Brandon started every game of the ACC Tournament and NCAAs, hitting in seven of the eight postseason games, including all three games of the Oxford Regional.

“It was actually a lot different than I expected,” he said. “Obviously, I wanted to come in and play a lot but I didn’t expect to play as much as I did and have somewhat of a major role in some of our key wins, and supporting our star players. It was a lot of fun, everything that I dreamed it would be and more.”

Gold was involved in eight game-winning plays, scoring five game-winning runs (tied for second on the team with fellow freshman Connor Justus behind Daniel Spingola’s nine) and driving in three game-winning runs (tied for fourth, with upperclassmen Mott Hyde, recently drafted by the Houston Astros, and Smith).

The summer has seen a continuation of the fun in Harrisonburg, with fellow Jackets Smith, and pitchers Ben Parr and Tanner Shelton. They share an apartment.

“It’s just the four of us living together like we’re back at school,” said Gold, who roomed with Shelton during his freshman year.

While having three college teammates as roommates is nice, they’re not the only familiar faces Gold has seen this summer.

“There’s been a good amount of kids from Wake Forest on a couple of the teams (five, including outfielder Luke Czajkowski on the Turks), a kid from my high school that I played with who goes to Furman now (outfielder Sky Overton),” he said. “Then there’s a kid that lives in my neighborhood that goes to Georgia Southern (outfielder Hunter Thomas). So pretty much every night I play an opponent that I played with or played against the last couple of years. So it’s pretty familiar.”

In addition to the familiar faces on the field, there are plenty of friendly faces off it.

Harrisonburg may be a small town — a population of 51,395 according to the 2013 Census — but everyone is avid about its Turks.

“The fans are very enthusiastic and they do care about their Turks baseball,” Gold said. “Whether I go to a gas station or a Subway and I’m wearing something Turks, they’ll be like, `Oh, who do you guys play tonight?’ or `Good luck tonight.’ It’s pretty fun. It’s like a high school football team in Texas, I guess. Everyone knows who the Harrisonburg Turks are.”

Everyone is starting to know who Gold is, although they’re not sure where to watch for him on a night-to-night basis.

In addition to third, he’s added pitching to his repertoire.

In two games he’s pitching to a 0.00 ERA with one save, having allowed only two hits in two appearances, covering three innings. He’s struck out five and has yet to walk a batter, as opponents are hitting just .182 against him. He admitted that pitching isn’t exactly new for him, as he pitched in high school. It simply was put on hold last spring. Getting the rust off was part of the plan for the summer.

“During the fall this past year I pitched a little bit,” he said. “If that’s what I need to do, go into the bullpen then I’ll do that,” he said. “[The Georgia Tech coaches] just wanted me to come up here and get some innings, pitch once or twice a week, maybe.”

While Gold anticipates a long playoff run with the Turks, he is eager to get back on the Flats for fall practices.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to school after I kind of know what to expect from my freshman year,” he said. “The guys were just so fun to hang out with and then, obviously, the new freshman class coming in, so it will be interesting to see what kind of talent we have. I think it’s going to be a great season for us.

As exciting as seeing what responsibilities he will have this year, is seeing what responsibilities he will no longer have, as a sophomore — even if it means the official end of a heck of a freshman year.

“You don’t understand how much me and the other freshmen talked about that when the season was finally over,” he said, with a laugh. “No more going out early to set up for batting practice. No more cleaning up the busses and loading the busses. That’s also something that might be high upon the list of things we’re looking forward to for next year for all of us upcoming sophomores.”

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