March Madness, long known for its association with college basketball, can no longer be confined to an inside arena.

Case in point: Sunday’s NCAA baseball play, in which a third baseman almost became a no-hit pitcher and the nation’s top-ranked team was looking at a 10-0 deficit on the scoreboard — and won anyway.  The third baseman/pitcher is named Gold, and the top-rated team wears it.

And all this happened on just the first day of March!

Sophomore Brandon Gold, normally the third baseman for Georgia Tech, was named the starting pitcher for the Yellow Jackets in Sunday’s weekend series closer against Indiana State.  Although the school’s media guide lists him as “INF/RHP,” Gold didn’t throw a single pitch as a freshman (the coaching staff was being careful in the absence of infield depth) and wasn’t even mentioned in Tech’s preseason Web site examinations of the Yellow Jackets’ rotation or bullpen.  He’s basically touted as the team’s returning third baseman, expected to be a much more solid player with a year of experience under his belt.

Until Sunday when, with normal weekend starter Devin Stanton out with shoulder soreness, Coach Danny Hall decided to give him his first collegiate start on the mound and then watched him carry a no-hitter deep into the 7th inning before the Sycamores managed a two-out single up the middle by Andy Young.  Gold finished off the 7th to conclude his 87-pitch, 1-walk, 1-hit scoreless gem.  Reliever Zac Ryan delivered the final four outs after ISU scratched out a run in the 8th, and the Yellow Jackets (8-3) had a 7-1 victory.

Connor Justus ripped a 2-run single and red-hot A. J. Murray followed with an RBI double to give Tech a 3-0 advantage in the 3rd.  Murray and Daniel Spingola each drove in 2 more runs in the fifth to complete the Jackets’ offense for the day.  For the weekend, Murray was 7-for-13 with a couple of homers, 3 doubles, and 5 RBIs.

“Brandon (Gold) was outstanding and I would have loved to see him get out of there without giving up a hit but they squeaked one in on him,” Hall said.  “He threw it as well as he could have thrown it.  I was very encouraged by what I saw from our pitchers all weekend and I know Coach (Jason) Howell and our guys have been working very hard to get some things right.  Offensively, we’re still not clicking on all cylinders, and we’ve got to get some guys right.  But A.J. (Murray) is seeing the ball well right now and playing with a lot of confidence.  He’s a senior and he seems to be delivering in a lot of key spots.”

Gold, from Alpharetta, Georgia, had appeared twice in relief this season and allowed just 2 earned runs in 7.1 frames of work.  As a third baseman, he’d started 7 games and currently has a .348 batting average and 5 RBIs, including a homer.  Known for his solid defensive skills, Gold flashed a .963 fielding average as a freshman at the hot corner.

Meanwhile, up the road in Nashville, Tennessee, the nation’s top-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores found themselves down to Illinois State by a 10-0 margin after just 2 innings — and it was still 10-0 when the homestanding ‘Dores came to bat in the 5th.  With one out, Jason Delay singled up the middle.  Bryan Reynolds singled to right.  Rhett Wiseman singled to center to load the bases, only to have the normally reliable Dansby Swanson take a called 3rd strike for the 2nd out.

Zander Wiel stepped to the plate and promptly walloped his 2nd grand slam of the week to cut the Illinois State lead to 10-4 and breathe life into the Vandy dugout.

The Commodores continued to rally in the 6th when Swanson belted an RBI double and the Sycamore defense began to crumble, committing several key errors to aid a 6-run uprising which also featured an RBI single by Penn Murfee.  Murfee’s hit was then booted by the centerfielder, allowing the game to be tied at 10-all.

In the bottom of the 7th, Vandy sent at least 10 batters to the plate for 3rd straight inning, even though the first 2 were retired.  The next 7 ‘Dores all reached base safely, with Nolan Rogers driving in 2 with a single and then stealing home himself as part of a double theft with Ro Coleman.  Delay, who started the dramatic comeback in the 5th, then completed it with a 2-run double, turning the contest over to southpaw reliever Ben Bowden.  All Bowden did was strike out 8 batters over the final 3 innings, earning the victory and complementing an outstanding middle relief performance by Ryan Johnson, who twirled 4.2 hitless, scoreless frames to help Vanderbilt improve its record to 9-2.  Illinois State, now 4-5, received 2 RBIs each from Mason Snyder and Ryan Koziol.

Reynolds, Wiseman, Swanson, and Ziel all had 3 of the Commodores’ 19 hits in the 16-10 triumph that completed a weekend sweep for Coach Tim Corbin‘s squad.

Elsewhere around the nation Sunday in college baseball…

Freshman Adam Haseley smacked a walkoff sacrifice fly to provide the final 5-4 margin as Virginia (10-0) stayed unbeaten with a win over Cornell (1-5), which wasted a brilliant effort from starting pitcher Brian McAfee (7 scoreless innings, 7 Ks)… San Diego (4-6) swept a doubleheader from Texas (8-4) 3-1 and 6-1 as David Hill and P. J. Conlin each contributed strong starts… Josh Tobias tripled in the 2nd and homered in the 3rd to tie a school record with hits in 8 consecutive at-bats as Florida (10-1) rolled past Stony Brook (2-7) 6-2.  Dane Dunning tossed 6.2 innings of shutout ball, improving to 3-0… UCLA (10-1), in a game shortened to 5 innings by rain, defeated Michigan State (3-6) 4-1 as Luke Persico and Sean Bouchard contributed RBI doubles…

Columbia (2-2) blasted 20 hits Sunday to down Houston (8-4) 12-7 and salvage a split of the 4-game series.  Will Savage had 4 hits and scored 3 runs, Robb Paller had 3 hits and 3 RBIs, and Joe Falcone drove in 4 runs with a homer and double for the Lions… Rice (8-5) gained a series split with Stanford (6-6) by toppling the Cardinal 12-1 as Kirby Taylor knocked in 4 runs with a pair of hits and Austin Orewiler (2-0) tossed 7.2 innings of 3-hit ball… Maryland (7-2) pounded Appalachian State (4-5) 8-2 behind 2 RBIs apiece from LaMonte Wade and Nick CieriTexas A&M (12-0) made it 12 in a row by besting Dartmouth (0-3) 10-4 as Mitchell Nau drove in 3 runs and hit his 7th double of the young season… Freshman Brendan McKay went 3-for-4 and then locked down his 3rd save as a relief pitcher as Louisville (7-4) nipped Xavier (4-6) 2-0.  The win went to Josh Rogers, who struck out 9 over 6.2 frames of 2-hit, scoreless work…

Shortstop Mitch Roman plated 3 runs with a pair of doubles as Wright State (5-4) surprised Miami (8-4) 12-6, offsetting the 4 hits collected by the Hurricanes’ Willie AbreuSikes Orvis, who homered earlier, drew a bases-loaded walk in the 9th to force in the game-winner as Ole Miss (6-4) won the nightcap of a twin bill 4-3 and knocked Central Florida (10-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten.  Jordan Savinon‘s homer gave the Knights a 3-2 triumph in the opener… Cameron Newell belted a 4th-inning solo HR and Gaucho starter Justin Jacome made it stand up, hurling 8 shutout frames, as UC Santa Barbara (8-3) slipped past red-hot Oregon (10-2) 1-0.  Jacome (2-1), who scattered 5 hits and whiffed 10, watch James Carter toss a scoreless 9th for his 4th save…

Vance Tatum (2-0) struck out 12 over 8 innings and shortstop Seth Heck had 2 hits and an RBI as Mississippi State (13-0) continued its perfect start with a 6-2 victory over Samford (3-8)Jacob Robson added 2 hits, scored twice, and stole his 8th base for the Bulldogs… Louisiana (6-5) surprisingly hammered Alabama (7-4) 14-2 as Blake Trahan drilled 4 hits (2 doubles) and knocked in 4 runs and starter Gunner Leger (2-0) fired a 2-hitter over 8 frames for the Ragin’ Cajuns… Illinois (7-2-1) split a Sunday doubleheader, edging West Virginia 2-1 on Ryan Nagle‘s 9th-inning RBI groundout but dropping the nightcap 4-3 to Kent State (5-4), which won all 3 of its games in the Chanticleer Classic in Myrtle Beach, SC…

Hunter Hope slammed a long RBI walk off single off the left-field wall as Tulane (10-2) outlasted Creighton (5-3) 3-2… Iowa (7-1) and Cincinnati (1-9) engaged in a scoreless pitchers’ duel for 12 innings before Joel Booker‘s solo home run kickstarted a 5-run 13th for the Hawkeyes, who claimed the 5-0 triumph.  Jake Mangler 3 hits, the last one a bases-loaded double, and Calvin Mathews led the 5-man pitching parade for Iowa with 5 scoreless frames… Dante Flores crashed a 3-run homer and drove in 5 overall as the Trojans of Southern Cal (12-0) remained unbeaten with a 10-1 pounding of Fordham (1-8)Mitch Hart (2-0) threw 7 innings of 2-hit ball for the winners…

Alex Acosta‘s walk off single in the bottom of the 9th gave Davidson (5-2) a 12-11 thriller over Georgetown (1-5) and a sweep of their Sunday twin bill.  Acosta was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs as the Wildcats won the opener 6-2… Cooper Mickelson ripped a 10-th frame RBI single to score the game-winner as VCU (3-5) nipped Pittsburgh (3-6) 3-2… Catcher Nick Sciortino went 4-for-4 and scored twice and Blake Butera plated 3 runs with a double and sacrifice fly as Boston College (4-7) defeated Kansas (4-6) 6-4 at Port Charlotte, FL… Wake Forest (8-4) saw Justin Yurchak go 5-for-8 with 2 RBIs on the day as the Demon Deacons topped Towson 15-8 and Marshall 8-3…

Florida State (8-3) outslugged UNC-Wilmington (6-3) 9-8 as Taylor Walls and Gage West each collected 3 hits and D. J. Stewart cracked his 3rd homer of the season… Derek Burkamper hurled 7 innings of 2-hit ball as Nebraska (6-4) throttled Loyola Marymount (7-4) 5-1… Troy Kuhn belted a solo home run off the left-field foul pole in the 8th to provide the winning margin as Ohio State (5-4) edged UAB (8-2) 4-3… Brett Adcock tossed a complete-game, 2-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts as Michigan (6-5) swept a twin bill from Siena (1-10) 6-4 and 11-0… Michael Freeman carried a no-hitter until 2 outs in the 8th as Oklahoma State (7-4) blanked Western Illinois (0-6) 5-0…

Devin Pearson went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and Aaron Knapp was 3-for-3 with 1 RBI as Cal (7-3) downed Kansas State (4-6) 6-2… Long Beach State (8-3) celebrated its 1st no-hitter in program history as freshmen Chris Mathewson (7 innings, 8 Ks) and Darren McCaughan (2 perfect frames, 3 Ks) combined for the 4-0 masterpiece over Wichita State (3-7).  Daniel Jackson went 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Dirtbags… Brad Anderson crashed a 3-run homer in the 8th to break open a close game and drove in 4 runs overall to help Pepperdine (7-5) get past Hawaii (5-8) 10-5… Missouri (10-1) is off to its best start since 1985 after downing Illinois-Chicago (2-4-1) 10-1 behind the 4-hit, 8-strikeout pitching of Peter Fairbanks

Georgia Southern (8-4) swept a twin bill from Georgia (6-4) 1-0 and 4-3.  Logan Baldwin‘s RBI single in the 2nd won the first game for Jason Richman (now 3-0), and Chase Griffin‘s 2-run, 7th-frame single was the decisive blow in the nightcap… and Jacksonville State (6-3) upset Auburn (9-3) 10-9, scoring the key runs on bases-loaded walks in the 8th inning.

 

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