Freshmen Lead Gators to Win in Hoover

The leadership and experience of the Gators has carried the teams at times this season, but on Tuesday, the freshmen took over. Two freshmen—Justin Shafer and Casey Turgeon—drove in five of the six Florida runs as the No. 3 Gators secured a 6-1 win over Auburn and earned an off day on Wednesday.

The Florida offense got off to a good start in the second inning. After Brian Johnson and reigning SEC Tournament MVP Daniel Pigott started the inning with back-to-back singles, the Gator elected to bunt the runners over. Vickash Ramjit struck out, but freshman Justin Shafer followed with a two-out, two-run single to give the Gators an early lead.

"That was really great to see that," Florida assistant coach Brad Weitzel said on post-game radio. "At the beginning, I was really hopeful and things looked good, then through the middle innings there, we had to make some adjustments. We had to get a huddle there in the dugout—huddles work in baseball too sometimes."

The offense got going again in the sixth inning when freshman Casey Turgeon drove a two-run double into the right-center field gap. The double forced Auburn pitcher Jon Luke Jacobs out of the game and earned the senior pitcher his second loss against the Gators in five days.

After Ramjit grounded out, Shafer dropped a single into right field to score Turgeon and give the Gators a 5-1 lead after six innings.

It was the fourth straight game that the Florida offense totaled double-digit hits. The focus has been on shortening the swings. Playing in a big field like Regions Park in Hoover or TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., can eliminate the home run ball that has become a big part of the Florida offense.

"Everything is getting ready for Hoover and moving on because the parks become bigger," Weitzel said. "You've got to hit line drives and high velocity ground balls. It's a graveyard if you hit the ball in the air. I don't care how hard you hit it, it's going to be in the park and the outfielders are going to run it down.

"We made that mistake the first couple years coming here, and we're trying like crazy to do the right things and get the hitters ready."

The Gators didn't need many runs with the way right-hander Jonathon Crawford was throwing. The sophomore tossed 5.2 innings, allowing two hits, four walks and one unearned runs. Crawford struck out a career-high nine hitters on 85 pitches against the Tigers while running his fastball up in the mid-90s all night.

"That's an unbelievable arm to bring in here on Tuesday of a tournament," Weitzel said. "It's a special arm that you don't get to see too much, even though I've scouted a long time. Those arms like that are hard to find, and he's putting it together.

"He walks a little bit too many, but he's getting better each outing. He's getting more confidence. We really need him, and he stepped up today."

The win earned an off day for the Gators on Wednesday. Florida will play again on Thursday at an undecided time, and Weitzel noted that he expects junior ace Hudson Randall to get the ball.

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