Friday April 6, 2012No. 1 UF Baseball Blanks No. 7 LSU, 7-0, To Even Series
Sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) tossed a career-high six scoreless innings and junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was 3-for-5 with three RBI and a pair of doubles to lead No. 1 Florida (25-6/7-4 SEC) to a 7-0 shutout of No. 7 LSU (24-7/7-4 SEC) in front of 5,793 fans at McKethan Stadium on Friday night. The crowd was the second-highest attendance this season for the hosts and the third-biggest in school history. The victory evened the three-game series, with UF sophomore righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (1-0, 4.05) set to start tomorrow’s series finale at 4 p.m. against LSU sophomore right Ryan Eades (4-1, 1.91).
“You could tell in the first inning that he [Jonathon Crawford] had his fastball,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was a challenge and he met the challenge, it’s as simple as that. He didn’t have a great start last weekend against Ole Miss and he took it upon himself to have a better start this week. In my opinion, that was the best start he’s had since he’s been here. It was a very, very important game for us. We needed to get back on the winning side of things and we were facing arguably the best pitcher in the country. He [Kevin Gausman] was outstanding tonight as well. [Jonathon] Crawford needed to match him pitch-for-pitch. With the importance of the game, with who he was pitching against, I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
After Crawford (3-1) pitched brilliantly and out-dueled LSU sophomore starter Kevin Gausman (5-1), he was followed to the mound by junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.), who registered three strikeouts and retired all six batters he faced over two innings. Junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) recorded the first two outs of the ninth and freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) had a game-ending strikeout to secure Florida’s second shutout of the season and just its second over the Tigers in the series history. Led by multiple-hit efforts by Zunino, junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4, two RBI), senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (2-for-4), the Gators enjoyed an 11-4 advantage in hits. UF used a two-run double by Zunino on the third and sent nine batters to the plate during a four-run seventh that put the game out of reach.
Senior Tyler Hanover drew a leadoff walk in the third inning and Crawford had junior Alex Edward line out to first baseman Gushue for a double play. Freshman Jared Foster had a single into center field for LSU’s first hit before sophomore JaCoby Jones flew out to center field.
Zunino opened the scoring in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, two-run double off Gausman. Pigott extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-out single and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (1-for-3, three runs) followed with a walk. Zunino roped his team-leading 10th two-bagger to right center on a 0-2 pitch to clear the bases and the Tigers elected to walk senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) intentionally. The move paid off when Gausman struck out junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) to complete the inning.
Senior Austin Nola began the fifth with a double into left center field and junior third baseman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) made a nice play to retire sophomore Ty Ross for the first out. Crawford had Hanover ground out to Dent and uncorked a wild pitch that moved Nola to third with two down before having Edward fly out to center field.
Freshman Jared Foster was plunked to start the sixth but Crawford had Jones hit into 1-6-3 double play, the season-high third turned by the Gators on the night. Although senior Grant Dozar punched a two-out single into left field and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Crawford caught junior Mason Katz looking on strikes to end the inning.
Junior Raph Rhymes was hit by Crawford to open the seventh and Maddox was summoned from the bullpen. Over a career-high six innings, Crawford gave up three hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. Maddox fielded a grounder by Nola and threw out the lead runner at second base, had Ross pop up to second base and struck out Hanover to keep the Gators ahead by a 2-0 count.
“I was excited to get on the mound again,” Crawford said. “I tried my best to keep my team in it. I knew I had to come out and be really good because he’s [Kevin Gausman] is supposed to be a high draft pick, so I had to come out and battle for my team and give them the best chance to win.”
The Gators broke open the game with four runs in the bottom of the stanza to build a 6-0 lead. Pigott had a leadoff single and Turgeon followed with a base-hit into left field. A wild pitch by Gausman enabled both runners to move into scoring position and the righty responded with a strikeout of Zunino. Tucker was walked intentionally to load the bases with one down and Rhymes misplayed a fly ball by Johnson into left field that allowed Pigott to come home. Fontana followed with a two-run single into right field to prompt a pitching change. Junior Joey Bourgeois took over for Gausman (6.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 8 K, 4 BB) and yielded an RBI double to Gushue down the right-field line that brought across senior pinch runner Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.). Bourgeois struck out junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) and Dent.
Zunino finalized the scoring with an RBI double in the eighth that scored Turgeon, who had walked and stole second base for his first career theft.
“I’m just trying to grind out at-bats, foul off some good pitches and hopefully get something that I can handle,” Zunino said. “Baseball is a game where you can go through some struggles, I was just trying to keep a clear mind and battle as much as I could.”
· Tonight’s attendance of 5,793 was the second-best of the year at McKethan Stadium, behind the school record of 6,005 against No. 6 Florida State on March 13.
· Florida notched its second shutout of the season, also defeating No. 19 UCF, 8-0, on Feb. 22.
· The Gators are now 12-5 against ranked teams this season.
· UF’s pitching staff yielded a season-low four hits, after allowing five hits on six different occasions.
· Tonight was UF’s second shutout of LSU in the series, as the Gators posted a 1-0 win on March 19, 2011, in Baton Rouge.
· Freshman Casey Turgeon set a career high by scoring three runs.
· Senior Preston Tucker raised his hitting streak to five games with a leadoff single in the second for UF’s initial hit.
· Junior Mike Zunino had a double in the third, a single in the fifth and a double in the eighth for his 11th multiple-hit game of the season.
· The Gators did not commit any errors tonight and are 12-2 with zero miscues.