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Friday April 6, 2012 In matchup of sophomore hurlers, Florida's Crawford outshines heralded LSU ace Gausman

Gators pitcher Jonathon Crawford

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Not sure if there were odds in Vegas for Friday night’s pitching matchup between Florida’s Jonathon Crawford and LSU’s Kevin Gausman.

If so, perhaps Crawford’s parents would have dropped some coin on the sophomore right-hander considering the guy on the hill for the Tigers.

Gausman is a draft-eligible sophomore who stepped onto the mound Friday night at McKethan Stadium with a 5-0 record, 2.27 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. Gausman is projected a top 10 pick on most MLB draft charts, armed with a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph.

Crawford, on the other hand, was coming off his worst outing of the season, lasting just 1 2/3 innings in a loss at Ole Miss on Sunday.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Crawford was the one who pitched like a first-round draft pick in his finest outing at Florida. The right-hander from Okeechobee pitched six shutout innings, surrendering just three hits. He walked two and hit a pair of batters but was able to get out of the little trouble he got in.

He did it the way Gausman (6 1/3 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 8 SO) often does, throwing a fastball in the high 90s and a sharp slider that danced away from hitters.

Crawford showed he has a short memory as well, perhaps the most important part of his outing.

“To have to match one of the best pitchers in the country pitch for pitch, that’s not easy to do,’’ Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I’ve got to believe he grew up an awful lot tonight.”

The Gators dropped the opening game of the series on Thursday, 7-6, and had lost four of five prior to evening the series with the Tigers.

Mike Zunino was the hitting star, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs after O’Sullivan held a brief team meeting prior to the game to refocus his team.

After that, he handed the ball to Crawford and let him do much of the work.

“I knew I had to come out and be really good,’’ said Crawford, who pitched only 3 2/3 innings as a freshman. “That was a really bad outing [at Ole Miss].”

Crawford showed how important the start was to him when he gave an emphatic fist pump after striking out LSU’s Mason Katz to end the sixth, the final batter he faced. Katz came to the plate with a runner in scoring position and two outs.

After that, O’Sullivan turned the game over to the bullpen and three relievers finished what Crawford started.

A start the Gators’ desperately needed.

“This is a big win for us. I’m not going to sugarcoat it,’’ O’Sullivan said. “We faced arguably one of the top pitchers in the country. I know it only counts as one in the win column, but it’s a big win for us.”

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