Saturday, June 02, 2012
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Florida's Crawford throws no-no vs. Bethune-Cookman

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[June 02, 2012]  GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Jonathon Crawford was nearly perfect for Florida.

Turned out the Gators right-hander was plenty good enough to make some college baseball history.

Crawford threw the seventh no-hitter ever in the NCAA tournament, shutting down Bethune-Cookman in a 4-0 victory in the opener of the Gainesville Regional on Friday night.

"When I came out for the eighth, I got really nervous and excited and that's when it hit me that I could get a no-hitter," Crawford said. "I was pumped. It was crazy, but a lot of fun. I guess it's a pretty big deal."

No doubt about it.

Crawford, a sophomore who wasn't even part of the Gators' three-man weekend rotation this season, faced the minimum 27 batters. The only player to reach base was Bethune-Cookman's Jake Welch on a walk in the third inning, and Florida catcher Mike Zunino threw him out trying to steal.

Crawford (6-2) struck out five and walked one for the Gators' first no-hitter since 1991, by John Burke -- also the last one thrown in the NCAA tournament -- in a 2-0 win over Furman. Crawford needed just 98 pitches, throwing 70 for strikes, for Florida (43-18).

It was the fifth no-hitter by a single pitcher in program history; Florida also has had three combined no-hitters.

"Unbelievable," Bethune-Cookman coach Jason Beverlin said. "It was a pretty unbelievable game. Crawford did an unbelievable job pitching, probably an understatement."

Crawford completed his no-hitter less than an hour before the New York Mets' Johan Santana threw the first no-no in the team's history, beating St. Louis 8-0.

The Wildcats managed to hit just six balls out of the infield, but nearly broke through in their final at-bat when Carlos Delgado ripped a line drive to the right side. Florida second baseman Casey Turgeon leaped to make the catch and secure the no-hitter.

When Turgeon came down with the ball, the crowd roared and Crawford's teammates swarmed him on the field.

"I jumped as high as I could," Turgeon said, "and luckily I got it."

Crawford had first-pitch strikes against 19 of the hitters he faced, and his fastball reached 97 mph in the ninth inning.

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"The last batter," Crawford said, "I was just throwing as hard as I could."

His brilliant pitching pushed Florida, the top overall seed in the country, to a matchup with Georgia Tech on Saturday. Bethune-Cookman (34-26) will face the College of Charleston in an elimination game.

The Gators took an early 1-0 lead and piled on three more runs on Turgeon's homer in the bottom of the fifth inning. Turgeon went 3 for 4 and drove in all of Florida's runs.

Crawford, 20, is a soft-spoken guy from Okeechobee, Fla., a town of almost 6,000. Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said Crawford's level personality helped him finish out the game while the crowd was in a frenzy.

"You see a lot of innocence with Jonathon," O'Sullivan said. "His calmness helps and Mike Zunino helps a lot with that. They worked outstanding together all night and Mike deserves a lot of credit for that."

The no-hitter was a milestone for Crawford, who threw a total of 3 2/3 innings as a freshman last season.

When Florida went to the College World Series a year ago, O'Sullivan chose to leave Crawford off the roster in favor of more experienced pitchers.

"Twelve months later, he's starting the first game of a regional and he throws a no-hitter," O'Sullivan said. "To me, this is what coaching is all about. This is a night he will never forget and I will never forget."

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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