Saturday June 1, 2013Notes from Bloomington: Crawford's outing, slippery slides, Gushue, plus more tidbits
Updated: 11:38am, June 1
Updated: 11:38am, June 1
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Gators right-hander Jonathon Crawford made perhaps the final start of his UF career Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
If so, Crawford capped his junior season with the kind of performance the Gators expected each time he took the mound as the team's ace in 2013. Crawford, who throws in the mid-to-high 90s consistently, is projected as a first- or second-round pick in next week's MLB Draft by most analysts.
Crawford was in line for his fourth win of the season until Austin Peay's Michael Davis hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Ryan Harris to lift the Governors to a 4-3 victory.
In his 15th start of the season, Crawford allowed four hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked four, throwing a season-high 112 pitches (62 strikes). Crawford wasn't as sharp as Florida fans have seen during his career, but he was able to pitch out of trouble and prevent the four walks from coming back to cost him.
"Things were going quick for me,'' Crawford said. "So I just had to step back and take a deep breath and attack the hitter."
Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan complimented Crawford for the way he pitched his way out of trouble. Crawford's biggest escape was in the fifth inning when Austin Peay had two runners on with two outs and Jordan Hankins at the plate. Hankins and Crawford were teammates over the summer for the Team USA college squad that traveled to Cuba and Holland.
Crawford struck out Hankins to end the threat and keep the game within reach with Austin Peay up 1-0. Florida's Justin Shafer gave the Gators a 3-1 lead in the sixth with a three-run homer.
Governors coach Gary McClure was glad to see Crawford exit the game when he did.
"He's very, very good,'' McClure said. "You can tell why he's going to be a first-rounder."
SLIP, SLIP, SLIDING AWAY
The Gators quickly discovered how slick the FieldTurf at Bart Kaufman Field is in wet conditions. They are likely to experience similar conditions today against Valparaiso with an 80 percent chance of rain here at the Bloomington Regional.
Twice in the first two innings the Gators over slid second base on steal attempts. Richie Martin slid past the bag in the first inning and was called safe as he clearly beat the throw but then came off the bag. In the second inning Harrison Bader did the same on a stolen-base attempt but was tagged out as he tried to get back to the base.
In the third inning Austin Peay's Brett Carlson over slid the base and was called out when he appeared to beat the initial throw.
O'Sullivan said the Gators will stay aggressive on the bases despite the tricky turf.
"We will continue to run,'' O'Sullivan said. "But it was a bit frustrating to be quite honest with you. That's out game. We have to continue to generate runs that way because we don't have a whole lot of power."
O'Sullivan's advice to his players: slide earlier to avoid over sliding the bag.
GETTING GUSHUE GOING
Gators sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue could use a hit like a man stranded in the desert could use a drink of water.
Gushue went 0-for-3 on Friday -- he drew a one-out walk in the sixth and scored on Shafer's home run -- and is now 0-for-19 in his last five games. Overall, Gushue is in a 1-for-26 slump over the last seven games.
Gushue's last hit was May 12 against Auburn. His average has dipped from .308 to .275 during the slump.
"We have been working awfully hard in practice tinkering with his swing a little bit,'' O'Sullivan said. "He's just going through a tough stretch right now but we haven't moved him out of our three-hole because we trust him and believe in him."
O'Sullivan said he plans to hit Gushue third today against Valparaiso.
The Gators are facing Valparaiso for the first time in school history. Florida is expected to start sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi (4-2, 2.49 ERA, 12 saves) with the season on the line.
The Crusaders (31-27) are similar to the Gators in that they don't have a lot of power. Valpo has hit just eight home runs in 58 games. Valpo finished 13-11 in the Horizon League in the regular season but then won the conference tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
First baseman John Loeffler leads Valpo with 38 RBIs but has just eight extra-base hits.
For most of Friday night's game between Valparaiso and host Indiana it appeared the Gators would face the Hoosiers today in an elimination game.
Instead, the Hoosiers rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth to advance, winning their first NCAA Tournament game in 17 years and only second one in school history.
"That's why it's such a great game,'' Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. "Because you can never tell until that last out is over with."
With a 4-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth, Crusaders closer Karch Kowalczyk came in. Kowalczyk had allowed just one run all season. After Indiana trimmed the lead to 4-3, Chad Clark stepped to the plate with a runner on.
Clark had not hit a home run all season and his costly error in the top of the inning allowed two Valpo runners to score.
What did he do? Clark hit a two-run walk-off homer to make "SportsCenter."
The Hoosiers face Austin Peay today in the winner's bracket.
Gators outfielder Justin Shafer connects for a three-run homer in Friday's 4-3 loss to Austin Peay.
QUOTE OF NOTE
"We still have some games left. We have a great pitching staff, so we believe that we can come back and win the next four games.'' -- Gators OF Shafer on the task ahead if Florida is to advance out of the Bloomington Regional
QUOTE OF NOTE II
"We haven't swung the bats great for quite some time now, so we have kind of gone into every game with [a mentality of] it being a low-scoring event." -- O'Sullivan on his team's offensive struggles
QUOTE OF NOTE III
"The kid's been really good for us all year long. I'm not going to second-guess his effort. It's baseball. That's just the way things happen. We made a mistake on one pitch and fell behind and they did what they are supposed to do, simple as that.'' -- O'Sullivan on Davis' home run off Harris, only the second home run Harris has surrendered all season in 36 appearances
Friday's loss snapped Florida's 12-game win streak in regional play. Florida had not lost a regional game since a 17-11 loss to Florida State in 2008 ... The Gators need a win today to avoid their first losing record since a 29-30 finish in 2007. UF is 29-29 entering today's game ... Former big-leaguer Scott Rolen, who donated money to build Indiana's home clubhouse, toured the facility between games Friday. The facility is named in his honor.