Wednesday February 22, 2012No. 1 Florida Blanks No. 19 UCF, 8-0
Florida sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) held No. 19 UCF (3-1) hitless for 4.1 innings in his collegiate starting debut and senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) tied the school’s career RBI record as the No. 1 Gators (4-1) had four pitchers combine on a six-hit, 8-0 victory on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. UF’s first shutout of the season marked the first time that it held the Knights scoreless since a 10-0 win on April 12, 1977, and for only the second time in school history.
After pitching 3.2 innings as a freshman, Crawford (1-1) limited the Knights to a pair of singles over five shutout innings. He was followed to the mound by sophomore Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (2.0 IP, 1 H), freshman Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 1 H) and freshman Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 2 H). Tucker (2-for-4) began the fifth inning with a solo homer, his team-leading third of the season, to match the standard of 214 RBI held by Brad Wilkerson (1996-98).
“I think overall, from offensively to a pitching standpoint, this was our best game so far,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought we swung the bats really well. We came out of the gates, we had good approaches and, needless to say, Jonathon Crawford was really, really good tonight in his first career start. I thought our bullpen was really good – it’s good to get those young guys out there as much as we can.”
“UCF has a tough lineup to throw to,” O’Sullivan continued. “You look up and the first six hitters are left-handed and then obviously they go right, left, right all the way down. So, seven left-handers with a couple of switch hitters in the middle there – it’s not an easy lineup to pitch to if you’re right-handed. I thought Jonathon did a great job. He threw quality change-ups and breaking balls early in the count.”
“I just tried to throw strikes, keep the ball low and keep ahead of the hitters,” Crawford said. “Sunday, I didn’t have too much luck. They hit one ball hard off me, so it wasn’t too hard it get it out of my mind. I thought that I had everything working tonight. Early on, I did really well with the slider. Last year, I didn’t have good command with it, but once I got to the fall and I changed my arm slot, then command came. It feels great and it gives me a load of confidence to go into the next outing.”
Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3, two RBI) opened the scoring in the first inning with a solo homer into the left-field bleachers off UCF senior right-hander Matt Collins (0-1). It was Pigott’s first big fly since hitting a pair in the NCAA Super Regional against Mississippi State on June 12, 2011, and all six of UF’s homers this year have been of the solo variety. Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) extended his hitting streak to nine games dating back to last season with a two-out double before Collins had junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) fly out.
The Gators added another run in the second on an RBI grounder by junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) for a 2-0 lead. Freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (0-for-1, three walks) started the inning with a walk and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (2-for-4) singled into left field to raise his hitting streak to five games. A fly out to center field by freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) advanced Gushue to third base and an RBI grounder by Dent brought across Gushue. Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Springs, Fla.) hit a liner into left field that junior Nick Carrillo made a sprawling catch on to close the frame.
Freshman James Vasquez (2-for-3) drew a leadoff walk in the third and was sacrificed to second by senior Travis Shreve. Crawford struck out junior Darnell Sweeney, issued a free pass to junior Ronnie Richardson and then had redshirt junior D.J. Hicks, the 2012 Preseason Conference USA Player of the Year, fly out to center field.
Freshman Eric Skoglund replaced Collins (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R) prior to the third and Pigott started the inning with a walk and Tucker followed with a double off the wall in left center. Soon after, Zunino’s grounder was misplayed by Sweeney at shortstop for an error that brought across Pigott for a 3-0 lead and a wild pitch from Skoglund brought in Tucker with the fourth run. Turgeon collected his second hit of the night with a two-out RBI single into right field that scored Zunino to expand the Gators’ lead to 5-0.
Junior Ryan Breen walked with one down in the fourth and Crawford induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play on a grounder by Carrillo. Crawford held the Knights without a hit until Vasquez legged out an infield single up the third-base line with one down in the fifth. The righty erased the runner at second base on a fielder’s choice by Shreve and Sweeney singled into left center field for runners on the corners and two out. Crawford kept UCF off the board by retiring Richardson on infield pop-up.
Florida plated two more runs in the fifth to build a 7-0 lead, highlighted by a leadoff homer by Tucker to right field that equaled Wilkerson’s RBI total. Zunino roped his second double of the contest to left field, went to third on a wild pitch by freshman Garrett Nuss and Johnson increased the Gators’ advantage to seven runs with an RBI single through the left side. Shafer loaded the bases with one down on his first career hit, a single into right field, and Nuss prevented further trouble by having a grounder by Dent force Johnson at home and Fontana fly out to leave the sacks full.
“It was just a fastball, down in the zone, but it cut hard to the plate so I got a pretty good swing on it,” Tucker said about his homer. “It barreled up and I hit it just about as hard as I could.”
Crawford departed after five scoreless innings in which he gave up two hits, with four strikeouts and three walks, and Gibson retired the Knights on five pitches in the sixth. In the home part of the frame, Pigott and Tucker drew consecutive walks and moved into scoring position on a grounder by Zunino. Junior Jimmy Reed replaced Nuss (1.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R) and permitted a two-out walk to Gushue that filled the bases. However, Turgeon grounded out to complete the stanza.
The Knights had a couple of runners aboard with one down in the seventh when Tucker made a highlight reel catch in the driving rain to rob Shreve of potential extra bases. Gibson ended the threat by having Sweeney line out to center field.
“At first, I didn’t think I was going to get to that ball, but it hung up there just enough where I realized that I could get to it,” Tucker said. “I don’t get a whole lot of diving plays out there.”
Freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) was hit by a pitch from Reed and Fontana reached on an error by Shreve for two Gators on with one out in the seventh. Pigott launched a double into the left-field corner that scored Tobias and Zunino drew a two-out walk to prompt another pitching change. Redshirt sophomore Gregg Cooke had junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) ground out to end the inning.
After Poyner threw a scoreless eighth, Harris made his collegiate debut in the ninth and walked the leadoff batter, Carrillo, before yielding a flare into left field by senior Alex Friedrich. Harris had Vasquez fly out and Shreve had a base-hit into right field to load the bases with one down. Harris preserved the shutout with back-to-back strikeouts of Sweeney and Richardson.
The Gators will host William & Mary (2-2) in a three-game series beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. The teams have not met since Florida swept two games during the 1966 season.
· All five of Florida’s games this year have been against teams that advanced to the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
· The Gators improved to 3-1 (.750) against ranked teams this year.
· Four different players contributed multiple hits for the Orange and Blue tonight.
· Tonight marked the Gators’ first shutout since a 5-0 victory over Vanderbilt to capture the SEC Tournament on May 29, 2011.
· This was the second game in a row where the Gators’ first score came from a solo homer.
· All seven of the Gators homers this season have been solo shots.
· The Gators scored first against UCF, and improved to 1-1 this season when recording the game’s first run.
· Junior Cody Dent collected his first RBI of the season by driving in freshman Taylor Gushue.
· The Gators left a season-high13 runners on base tonight, while the Knights stranded 11.
· Junior Mike Zunino has four-straight multiple-hit games and leads Florida with a .474 batting average.