Turgeon Happy to Spend Freshman Year Playing

When Casey Turgeon takes the field on Friday night as Florida opens the NCAA Tournament as the top seed, his mind won't leave what is happening on the field. The freshman is level headed and focused on the game. However, an accident soon after he got on campus last fall put his future in doubt and raised questions about whether he would play for the Gators this season.

The accident came early in Turgeon's freshman year. At the intersection of Gale Lemerand Drive and Stadium Road in the heart of the Florida campus, Turgeon's scooter collided with a car and launched the second baseman off it.

His head split open and emergency assistance was immediately called. Concussion symptoms kept Turgeon from participating in one team practice during the fall. It's usually an important time period for freshmen to get accustomed to teammates and the program, but Turgeon was forced to watch from the dugout.

Despite that, there was never any doubt from Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan about his freshman.

"He's just a grinder," O'Sullivan said before Florida's practice on Thursday. "I remember getting asked a lot of questions about him in the fall and spring about what I expected from him, but I had seen him play so much before he got here, so I wasn't overly concerned about his lack of at-bats in the fall. I knew what he can and would do for us. What he has done is no surprise.

"I think he's got a chance to go down, as the years progress, as one of the best infielders that has played here. I truly believe that."

Turgeon is hitting .271 this season with three home runs, 24 RBI and 29 runs scored with eight stolen bases.

The statistics aren't eye-popping, but the freshman has produced big hits for Florida. Turgeon's two-run triple propelled the Gators to a comeback win over Florida State during the game played in Jacksonville.

He also hit .429 (6-14) with a pair of two-RBI games on his way to making the SEC All-Tournament Team last week.

"He's a grinder," O'Sullivan said. "He plays great defense and runs the bases well. He can hit, and he can hit lefties. He uses the entire field. That's the biggest thing that helped him his freshman year—he's starting to use the left side of the field better."

The bounce back from injury wouldn't have such a quick pace without the help of a teammate. All-American junior shortstop Nolan Fontana saw the importance of upperclassmen helping the younger players firsthand.

When he came to Gainesville, second baseman Josh Adams helped Fontana along to become one of the best shortstop in the country.

In the fall, Fontana reached out to Turgeon—and for an interesting reason.

"I saw a lot of myself in Casey, and that was a big part of making a connection with him," Fontana said. "Him playing up the middle with me, that's a big part of it as well. He's a great kid who works hard, and I love that.

"He grinds it out. He knows baseball is a game of failure, and that's a big part of how you become successful."

The chemistry between the two is important on the field for double play turns and communication on who is covering second base on steal attempts. The biggest part was to help Turgeon become more settled into the grind of a college baseball season.

"Nolan took me under his wing," Casey Turgeon said. "He knew that I played infield, and I guess he liked me. He wanted me to succeed."

Turgeon has fought through hamstring and groin injuries this season but "never complained once." O'Sullivan referred to him as "a throwback, one of those old school players."

Going into his first NCAA Tournament, Fontana is doing his best to calm Turgeon. Two years ago when the Gators opened the NCAA Tournament, Fontana learned on the fly about what the postseason was about.

"He's excited," Fontana said of Turgeon. "He's really excited. I just keep telling him that it's just another game. He has been doing that all year long, seeing it as just another game. He doesn't get caught up with what's going on off the field. That has been a big part in his success as an individual and helping us as a team."

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