Crawford Dominates in Florida Win

Wednesday was exactly what Jonathon Crawford needed. After giving up four runs in one-third of an inning of relief on Sunday, the sophomore right-hander bounced back with five shutout innings and allowed three runners to make it into scoring position. Crawford dominated while No. 1 Florida's offense scored in four of the first five innings and cruised to 8-0 win over No. 19 UCF.

"I just tried to throw strikes, keep the ball low and get ahead of hitters," said Jonathon Crawford, who threw just 3.2 innings last season. "It gives me a lot of confidence to go into my next outing.

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan stressed after Sunday's game that Crawford wasn't hit as hard as his line in the box score showed. O'Sullivan said that it was multiple weakly hit ground balls that snuck through the infield, and that the sophomore would be fine.

It showed on Wednesday.

Despite how balls not being hit hard, Crawford came into Wednesday night with an ERA of 108.00. He can struggle with his control, and he did at times while walking three UCF hitters, but he allowed only two hits and got out of a bases loaded jam in his fifth and final inning to preserve his outing with no runs. Crawford threw 49 of his 76 pitches for strikes, pouring his mid-90s fastball into the zone.

"We expect big things out of him," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said. "He's got some of the best stuff I've ever seen. We didn't expect anything less than that. He did a great job of getting ahead of hitters and getting outs when he needed to. Hopefully he can continue to produce like that down the road."

It all changed with a simple adjustment. O'Sullivan moved Crawford's arm slot down to three-quarters in the offseason. It creates more movement on his fastball and allows him to command the strike zone better with all three of his pitches.

"(He's) totally different," O'Sullivan said. "He's a strike-thrower now for the first time in his career, dating back past high school, that he has been able to throw consistent strikes. It's not an easy adjustment to make.

"He's got too good of an arm and is too talented. I've seen it enough in practice to be believe and know it's going to show up."

It was Florida's first shutout of UCF since 1977.

Daniel Gibson, Bobby Poyner and Ryan Harris came in relief to close the game. The four pitchers totaled 14 innings on the mound last season for the Gators.

"They battled, and they'll get better as they go along," O'Sullivan said.

The Florida offense did most of its damage in the first five innings. Daniel Pigott and Tucker both hit solo home runs in the first five innings, giving the Gators a total of seven home runs all season. They've all been solo.

Tucker's solo home run tied Brad Wilkerson for the school record for career RBIs at 214. Tucker is 9-20 (.450) with three home runs and six RBIs this season.

"He's got a presence," O'Sullivan said. "He's got a belief that he can hit, and that's half the battle in this game. He hates to give away at-bats, even when the game is in hand. That's what makes really good hitters into great hitters. He's one of those guys."

The Gators added three runs in the third inning when Mike Zunino reached on an error to score one, a wild pitch scored another and Casey Turgeon used an RBI single to score the third. Turgeon, a freshman, now has one hit in all five games this season.

Pigott added an RBI double in the seventh inning to give the Gators some cushion.

Florida returns to action this weekend when it hosts William & Mary. The series begins Friday at 7 p.m.

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