Jonathon Crawford throws no-hitter

Updated: June 2, 2012, 2:23 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jonathon Crawford wasn't a good enough pitcher to be on Florida's College World Series roster last season.

It would be hard for anyone to be any better than he was Friday night at McKethan Stadium.

The sophomore right-hander threw a no-hitter to lead the top-seeded Gators past Bethune-Cookman 4-0 in an opening-round game of the Gainesville Regional. Crawford gave up just one walk, stuck out five and threw only 98 pitches in the eighth no-hitter in school history and the first by one pitcher since 1991.

"Crawford did an unbelievable job pitching," Bethune-Cookman coach Jason Beverlin said. "Probably an understatement."

Crawford faced 27 batters. His only blemish was a one-out walk to designated hitter John Welch in the third inning. But that got erased when catcher Mike Zunino threw out Welch trying to steal second base while catcher Carlos Delgado was batting. Crawford struck out Delgado to end the inning.

"I guess the stars aligned for me," Crawford said.

It was the first complete-game no-hitter by a Florida pitcher since John Burke did it against Furman in a first-round game in the NCAA East Regional in Gainesville on May 23, 1991. Crawford is the fifth starter to throw a no-hitter for the Gators, who also have three combined no-hitters.

Florida's Casey Turgeon drove in four runs on three hits, including a three-run home run, to help send the Gators (43-18) into a winners-bracket matchup with Georgia Tech (37-24) on Saturday night at 7. Bethune-Cookman (34-26) will play College of Charleston (37-21) in a losers-bracket game at 1 p.m.

Crawford has been an integral part of the Gators pitching staff all season. When injuries kept starters Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson on the bench, Crawford filled in capably at all spots in the weekend rotation and went 4-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 11 starts during the regular season.

He started the Southeastern Conference tournament opener and Friday night's regional opener, which shows how far he's come since he was left off the Gators' CWS roster last season.

"It was a very tough decision, but it was one that we felt like needed to be made," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He went off to the Northwoods League, never complained, got his 50 innings in, came back (and) was much improved this fall. (He) was very open-minded to some changes and has worked extremely hard. I've been hard on him, and on top of that now we've asked him to have multiple roles this year -- Friday night starter, Saturday starter, Sunday starter, reliever.

"Now we're 12 months later, and he's starting the first game of the regional and he throws a no-hitter."

Crawford said being home and watching the Gators reach the CWS final gave him plenty of motivation for his sophomore season.

"It's not a good feeling being left behind while your team's going to Omaha, so I just wanted to go out this summer and work really hard and contribute to the team and help them get to Omaha again," he said.

But even he didn't expect to throw a no-hitter -- although pitching coach Brad Weitzel did. Weitzel was so impressed with Crawford's bullpen session before Friday's game he told O'Sullivan that the right-hander wasn't going to give up a hit.

"He said the 'pen was the best he's thrown this year and he might throw a no-hitter," O'Sullivan said. "He's brutally honest [about how a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen]. If it's bad, it's bad, and if it's good, it's good. I usually know before the first pitch is thrown what we might be in for one way or another."

But nobody really expected this.

"This is a night he will never forget, and one I'll never forget," O'Sullivan said. "This is a night that doesn't come around very often."

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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