No. 4 Florida Wins Series Opener in Knoxville

In a rotation that started the year with three preseason All-Americans, it has been the fourth starter that has been the stabilizer. Sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford gave Florida another strong outing on Friday in Knoxville to give the No. 4 Gators a 3-1 win in the opening game of the series.

Jonathon Crawford allowed six hits and three walks in 5+ innings while striking out five hitters and allowing just one run. It's not the perfect line, but the sophomore made big pitches when he needed to make them.

It was even more important for Florida with its injury situation. Hudson Randall isn't pitching this weekend because of a dead arm and Karsten Whitson is trying to get back into form after he also missed time with a dead arm. Whitson will get the ball on Saturday.

With the uncertainty around the pitching staff, it was important for Crawford to be strong on Friday. He gave the Gators exactly what they needed.

"We got a solid start from Jonathon," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said on his post game radio show. "He did a real nice job. Anytime you get 5+ (innings) from your starting pitcher and one run or less, you've got to be very pleased. He threw the ball very well."

Nolan Fontana made the Florida offense go on Friday. He was demoted two weeks ago to the sixth spot in the order after struggling as the leadoff hitter. He hit a towering home run on Tuesday at Florida State and has shown signs of breaking out of the slump.

He confirmed it on Friday.

Fontana ended the game 4-4 with an RBI and one run scored. He got the Gators on the board in the fourth inning when he scored on an RBI single by Brian Johnson and gave the Gators some insurance when he added an RBI double in the fifth inning.

"He was awesome," O'Sullivan said. "He put some really good swings on the ball and squared up all of them. There wasn't a cheap hit in the bunch. He had four great at-bats tonight."

Since freshman third baseman Josh Tobias fractured his hamate bone, Cody Dent has been forced into action. The offensive numbers aren't pretty, but his defense has been solid. Without his glove on Friday, the game might have been in jeopardy.

With runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth inning, Dent dove in the hole between third base and shortstop to field a ground ball that Zach Osbourne hit. Dent popped to his feet and threw to first to end the inning and keep the Florida advantage at 3-1.

"The offensive part is one piece to it, but there are so many other things—defense, base running and having quality at-bats, even though the end result may not be as much as you want," O'Sullivan said.

"He saved the game for us. If he doesn't make that play, we're probably still playing because they score two."

The Gators will send sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson to the mound on Saturday. He threw just 1+ inning last Saturday against LSU, and there is a sense of excitement around the team to get him back on the mound.

"I'm really looking forward to Karsten getting out there. I know he's excited to get out there again."

First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

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