Ryan Gold thought he blew it. Surely, the popup would find its way into the third baseman's mitt in foul territory and terminate his shot at a cycle.
But two pitches later, the Toronto catching prospect found himself standing on second base with the cycle, not for lack of further drama to reach that point. On top of the milestone, Gold drove in seven runs as Class A Lansing defeated Dayton, 12-4, on Thursday at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Needing a double to complete the milestone, the 21-year-old came to bat with one out and Otto Lopez on first base against Dragons reliever Andy Cox. He looked at a first-pitch strike and fouled off the left-hander's second offering. Third baseman Juan Martinez dropped the ball in foul territory to keep the possibility of the feat alive.
"I was like, 'Oh no, I blew it.'" Gold said. "I had a good pitch to hit and I just missed it. I guess [the cycle] was just meant to happen since that guy dropped it. Honestly, my last at-bat, I was really trying to zone in and get a good ball to hit instead of just going up there hacking and swinging at everything. I got a ball and I just missed it. Luckily, he came back with another one in the same spot and I didn't miss it."
Video: Lansing's Gold doubles to complete cycle
Two pitches later, the 2016 27th-round pick lifted a fly ball toward the left-field corner. And that was just the beginning of another turn of events. Dayton employed an outfield shift against him, and left fielder Shard Munroe was shaded toward the gap in left-center. Rain threatened the Lansing area all day and 14-mph winds blew in from left at first pitch.
Ultimately, Munroe didn't make the play.
"So the ball's dancing in the air," Gold said. "It may have clipped his glove. I didn't see it personally. I saw the ball hit the ground, but I didn't see what happened. All I knew was that I was getting to second no matter what."
Gameday box score
There was just one issue with that. Lopez, unsure whether the ball was caught, hovered near second. As Gold rolled toward the bag, he implored the shortstop to advance to third to free up the base.
"I saw him run toward second -- he was between first and second -- almost touching second base," he recalled. "I was like, 'Go, go, go, go! He dropped it!' And he got to third easily. We were just waiting to see if they'd [rule] it a hit or an error."
Once both runners were safe, Gold looked toward the home dugout and began pumping his arms in the air in celebration.
2019 Minor League milestones
But one more hurdle remained for the cycle to become official. The scorer initially ruled the play an error, but minutes later, the miscue was wiped off the scoreboard and changed to a hit, giving Gold the first Lugnuts cycle since Edward Olivares accomplished the feat on April 24, 2017. Gold had never hit for the cycle at any level, he said.
"Everybody in the dugout started freaking out," he said. "That's when I knew I had the cycle."
The South Carolina native's feat marked the third cycle in the Minor Leagues this season. Triple-A Charlotte's Ryan Cordell and Triple-A Albuquerque's Noel Cuevas achieved the milestone on April 10.
Gold began his night by beating out an infield single on a hard-hit ball to second base against Reds No. 11 prospect Lyon Richardson. Two innings later, he ripped a two-run triple to center field off the right-hander for his first extra-base hit of the season to double the RBI total he had entering the game. In his next at-bat, the 2016 27th-round Draft pick plated Reggie Pruitt on a groundout to second.
"Everything was looking pretty good," Gold said. "I was taking pitches away that were pretty close but were balls. I felt locked in the whole game. I just got pitches that I could drive and I didn't try to do too much. The ball just jumped off my bat tonight, which felt great."
Video: Gold smacks grand slam for Lugnuts
The California native wasn't close to being done, though. With the bases juiced in the sixth and facing right-handed reliever Adrian Rodriguez, he smacked a grand slam to right on a 1-0 offering.
Gold started his second season with the Lugnuts on a 4-for-27 slide over nine games. The left-handed hitter credited his support system in the clubhouse for giving him the confidence, and he more than returned that good faith Thursday.
"My teammates and my hitting coach [Logan Bone] and [manager Dallas McPherson] really believe in me," he said. "I can't thank them enough. They had a lot to do with tonight, which is just picking me up and telling me to keep going and keep swinging. It's easy to get in a slump and it's really hard to get out of it. It's really helpful when you got a whole clubhouse behind you."
2019 MiLB include
During 56 games in the Midwest League last year, Gold batted .264/.308/.346 with two homers and 26 RBIs. That followed a pair of abbreviated campaigns in 2016, in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, and in 2017, with Rookie Advanced Bluefield. His time with Lansing last year allowed him to learn plenty about himself as a hitter.
"Every year, you should probably take one thing away from the season," Gold said. "Last year, it was that I didn't really hit the pitches that I should have. I didn't hit them at all. I would roll them over or hit lazy popups. But now, I'm really trying to focus on staying within my zone and having good at-bats and squaring up baseballs every time that I'm up there."
Reggie Pruitt had three hits and scored twice for Lansing.
Reds' 19th-ranked prospect Mariel Bautista amassed three hits, two RBIs, one run and a walk.