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Saturday June 2, 2012Crawford and Turgeon Linked Together Forever after Memorable Night at Ballpark

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. On any other night, Gators freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon would have owned the headlines.

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Friday night was not just any night at the ballpark.

"I want them to enjoy this night,'' Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "This is a night that doesn't come around very often. What a way to start regional play."

The Gators can thank sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford for their night to remember. Turgeon's three hits and four RBIs were huge, but Crawford made "SportsCenter" in one of the clutch performances in Florida baseball history.

Making his first career postseason start, Crawford's night ended with him getting smacked in the face with a shaving cream pie by catcher Mike Zunino.

That's what happens when you throw a no-hitter in the NCAA Tournament opener. Crawford made history on Friday night by cruising up and down Bethune-Cookman's lineup, facing the minimum 27 batters in Florida's 4-0 win.

The only blemish was a one-out walk to Wildcats designated hitter Jake Welch in the third inning. That stain was quickly erased when Zunino threw Welch out trying to steal and Crawford stuck out Carlos Delgado to end the inning.

It was 18 up, 18 down from there on.

Crawford's gem was punctuated by that guy named Turgeon, who made a leaping catch on Delgado's line drive headed to right field with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Instead of the no-hitter ending in heartbreaking fashion, the 5-foot-9 Turgeon seemed to grow a couple of inches to rob Delgado and solidify Crawford's place in history.

"I was kind of scared there for a second,'' Crawford said. "Casey jumped up and got it."

Crawford's no-hitter is just the seventh no-no in NCAA Tournament history and first since 1991. The last no-hitter in the NCAA Tournament prior to Friday belonged to another Gators sophomore right-hander.

On May 23, 1991, former UF pitcher John Burke struck out 14 Furman hitters in a 2-0 win. Only a walk and his own fielding error prevented Burke from a perfect game.

Crawford came even closer, facing the minimum 27 batters.

Burke first got word of Crawford's historic outing Friday night when he saw it on ESPN while out for dinner with his family in Colorado.

A big smile broke out on his face.

"Great stuff,'' Burke said. "I'm always pulling for Florida. I knew it was eventually going to happen, that somebody was going to throw one."

While Burke waited on history to be made one day, Gators assistant coach Brad Weitzel actually predicted it prior to Friday's game.

Weitzel is known for his fondness of "power statements" according to O'Sullivan. Still, after watching Crawford warm up in the bullpen Friday, Weitzel told others that Crawford had no-hitter stuff whether they took him serious or not.

The Gators might want to ask Weitzel for lottery numbers on Saturday.

"I've never been a part of a no-hitter in my life,'' said senior outfielder Preston Tucker said. "That was something special."

It's also a pretty cool story.

Crawford didn't even make the postseason roster a year ago as a hard-throwing freshman from Okeechobee. O'Sullivan urged him to work on refining his pitches and develop a better approach on the mound.

While the Gators were in Omaha at the College World Series, Crawford was pitching in something called the Northwoods League.

Fast forward to Friday night.

A year later Crawford got mobbed on the mound for throwing Florida's first no-hitter in 19 years. That one was a combined effort by Doug Brennan and Chris Nelson during the 1993 regular season.

Crawford was determined to finish what he started.

"You can just tell when a guy's in a groove,'' O'Sullivan said. "His fastball was crisp. It was at the knees. There were no misfires. You can usually tell when a guy is throwing his warm-up pitches how locked in he is."

Crawford, his hat still caked with shaving cream at the postgame press conference, said he had never thrown a no-hitter, not even in Little League.

"It feels great,'' he said. "The stars aligned. I was really pumped up [in the ninth] at the thought I could possibly get a no-hitter."

The tension started to build after the eighth inning.

"When I came in after the eighth, it kind of hit me,'' Crawford said "I got really nervous and excited at the same time."

He quickly retired the Wildcats in order in the eighth and then in the ninth, Crawford retired Nick Johnson on a ground ball to first, and then pinch-hitter Jordan Taylor bounced out to short.

That set the stage for Turgeon to make his final contribution of the game his leaping catch.

Turgeon had already opened eyes with an opposite-field three-run homer in the fifth inning.

"That's as good as he is going to hit a ball there's no doubt,'' said a surprised B-CU coach Jason Beverlin.

"Usually when I hit a ball good people get surprised,'' Turgeon quipped later. "It's no big deal."

Neither was Turgeon's catch if you listen to him talk about it. The freshman from Dunedin High was just doing his job.

When he was finished, and with the ball safely in his glove and Crawford's place in history preserved, Turgeon handed the baseball to O'Sullivan for safe keeps.

"He'll find a good place for it,'' Turgeon said.

The College Baseball Hall of Fame is already interested acquiring Crawford's hat. Yep, it was that kind of night at McKethan Stadium on Friday.

 

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