GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida pitcher Jonathan Crawford earned himself a chunk of history Friday night, throwing a no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman in the second game of the NCAA Gainesville regional. The Gators defeated the Wildcats 4-0, with Florida second baseman Casey Turgeon saving the no-hitter with a leaping grab of a line drive for the final out of the game.
“I guess the stars aligned for me,” said Crawford, who needed only 98 pitches to take care of the Wildcats.
Crawford’s teammates mobbed him in the center of the infield after the final out. It was the first no-hitter in NCAA tournament play since 1991, when Florida pitcher John Burke no-hit Furman. It came on the same night of another rarity – Kent State’s 20-inning win over Kentucky in the Gary, Ind., regional. Both seem to point to the impact of rule changes instituted prior to the 2011 season to deaden bats.
“This is a night that doesn’t come around very often,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I’m going to let them enjoy it.”
The win placed Florida in the winner’s bracket, where the Gators will face Georgia Tech Saturday at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium.
It’s a moment to be cherished for Crawford, who was left off the Gators’ College World Series roster last season. Crawford is Florida’s No. 3 starter, behind Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson. Randall, a Dunwoody High grad, will start against Tech.
Turgeon also provided the offense, driving in all four runs. His fifth-inning three-run home run gave the Gators more cushion than they’d need on Crawford’s spotless night.
Said Crawford of his game-ending catch, “I jumped as high as I could and luckily I caught it.”
Crawford faced the minimum 27 batters; he walked one batter, Jake Welch, but he was erased caught stealing second base by Florida catcher Mike Zunino. Fueled with adrenaline, Crawford was throwing well in excess of 90 miles per hour in the ninth inning.
O’Sullivan said that prior to the game, pitching coach Brad Weitzel alerted him to Crawford’s crispness warming up in the bullpen.
“The pen was the best he’s thrown this year,” O’Sullivan said, repeating Weitzel’s report, “and he might throw a no-hitter.”
O’Sullivan said Weitzel is unsparingly honest in his assessment of his pitchers’ warm-up sessions in the bullpen, but had never before made such a prediction.
O’Sullivan’s assessment of Georgia Tech: “They’re obviously one of the hottest teams in the country right now. The middle of their lineup, they swing the bat really well with (Brandon) Thomas, (Daniel) Palka and obviously (Jake) Davies. They’ve got one of the better leadoff hitters in the country with (Kyle) Wren and (Sam) Dove is probably one of their most unsung heroes on the team and one of those guys who just keeps getting hits. Mott Hyde, he’s been a guy who’s been starting for them for a long time.
“I know they’ve had some injuries pitching-wise, but I know Buck Farmer is one of the better pitchers in the ACC. He’s got a really good arm, he’s got pitch ability. He’s got a change-up and a breaking ball he goes to in fastball counts. He’s very competitive and obviously they didn’t have to use a lot of their pen today. They’ve still got Zane Evans they can close with and probably (Alex) Cruz, as well.
“It’ll be a very difficult game, there’s no question. It’ll probably be very similar to a Friday night-type game in the SEC or ACC. Both teams are going to have to play well and it’ll be a heck of a ballgame.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog