Mark McLeod, ESPN Radio
Florida assistant coach Brad Weitzel watched Florida sophomore Jonathan Crawford throw his bullpen session prior to tonight’s NCAA Regional game against #4 seed Bethune-Cookman and made a bold prediction that came to pass before a crowd of 3,285 at McKethan Stadium.
“Brad makes power statements all the time,” O’Sullivan said with a grin. “I always ask, Brad, how was the pen? He said the pen (thrown by Jonathan Crawford) was the best he’s thrown this year and he might throw a no-hitter. I will confirm that he did say that."
Florida assistant coach Brad Weitzel
Crawford did just that...leading the Gators to a 4-0 shutout win.
It was the last no-hitter pitched in the NCAA Tournament since former Florida ace John Burke accomplished the feat back on May 23, 1991. It was just the 8th no-hitter in NCAA post season history. Only two have been thrown by Southeastern Conference pitchers and both were by Florida pitchers.
It was a night of firsts. Crawford (6-2, 2.59) had never thrown a no-hitter at any level in his life. Senior Preston Tucker had never been a part of a no-hitter in his life. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan had never been a part of a no-hitter, either. It was a game that will be talked about by these players, their children, and Gators fans for years to come.
It's a Cinderella success story too.
Crawford threw a total of 3.2 innings last season for the Gators. He was left off the University of Florida College World Series roster last year. The 6’1, 205 pound Okeechobee native worked on his game playing for the Madison Mallards in the Northwest League and was noticeably improved upon his arrival for Fall Ball at the University of Florida.
“For me this is what coaching is all about,” O’Sullivan said. “When you feel like you help a player get close to reaching his potential and, obviously, Jonathan has a long way to go, but this is a night that he will never forget and one that I’ll never forget. This is what coaching is all about.”
“I’m awfully proud of him and where he is now and where he came from. But, he knows that when he comes to the ballpark tomorrow it’s a new day and he’s still got to work hard," O'Sullivan added. "And I think that’s the mindset of people that are starting to figure it out. You enjoy, you relish in the moment, but, like I said tomorrow when he gets his running in, his lifting in that he’ll be focused and ready to move on to his next start.”
Crawford did so by working both sides of the plate with his fastball and slider. He threw one change the entire night. Crawford was so pumped up that he was lighting up the radar in the ninth inning with a fastball clocked at 98 miles per hour.
O’Sullivan also sought to acknowledge the strong play of All-American catcher Mike Zunino, who called all but 10 or so pitches in the game. Crawford nodded in approval while Sully made those remarks. When Crawford ran the count to three balls on Carlos Delgado, Zunino went to the mound and told Crawford to stay focused and calm down. Zunino was pretty pumped up too.
“What a way to start the regional play,” O’Sullivan said exclaimed upon entering the post-game press conference. “Great night by him (Jonathan Crawford). We needed a good start by our starting pitcher. I thought that their starting pitcher (Bethune-Cookman’s Rayan Gonzalez) was going to be just outstanding tonight, which he was. I thought that we did a good job of getting his pitch count up. It was one of those games where it was going to be tight. Bethune is always a very good team.”
Florida (43-18) scored in the bottom of the second. Senior Daniel Pigott led off with a single up the middle. He wasted no time stealing second base. He then moved to third on a wild pitch by Bethune-Cookman starter Rayan Gonzalez (9-2, 2.33). Freshman Casey Turgeon then drove him home with a single to center field that give the Gators a 1-0 lead.
Bethune-Cookman (34-26) designated hitter Jake Welch was the only member of the Wildcats to get on base when he reached on a walk by Crawford, who ran the count to 3-1 in the top of the third. Welch was easily cut down by Zunino when he tried to steal second.
The Gators distanced themselves from the Wildcats in the fifth during a two-out rally. Designated hitter Brian Johnson reached on a single. Pigott followed with a walk issued by Gonzalez. Bethune-Cookman head coach Jason Beverlin went to his bullpen. Casey Turgeon jumped on the first delivery from sophomore reliever Bryan Rivera and deposited it into the left field bleachers to give Florida a 4-0 lead.
Second baseman Casey Turgeon
“Usually when a reliever comes in they want to jump ahead and they want to set the tone,” Turgeon said. “So, I was looking fastball and he threw it and I hit it well.”
The three starting Florida freshmen were big tonight. Turgeon, Justin Shafer, and Josh Tobias combined on a 4 for 9 performance with a home run, double, and three walks. Turgeon accounted for all of the RBI’s. The Gators had only eight hits.
Florida will face #2 Georgia Tech on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Yellow Jackets were 8-4 winners over #3 College of Charleston in the afternoon game on Saturday night. The pitching figures to be pretty good tonight too. Georgia Tech will start Buck Farmer (8-3, 3.43). He leads the Jackets with 110 strikeouts. Florida will counter with Hudson Randall (7-2, 2.91). The junior has walked just nine in 80.1 innings.
Mark McLeod is the host of “The Mark McLeod Show” and covers Gators football, recruiting, and baseball for ESPN Radio (Gainesville/Ocala). Mark is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. He’s been covering recruiting since the ‘90’s and Florida baseball since 2005. You can follow him on Twitter at @McLeodLive. E-mail Mark at