GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Jonathan Crawford was nearly perfect for Florida.
Turned out the Gators right-hander was plenty good enough to make some college baseball history.
Crawford threw the seventh no-hitter ever in the NCAA tournament, shutting down Bethune-Cookman in a 4-0 victory in the opener of the Gainesville Regional on Friday night.
"When I came out for the eighth, I got really nervous and excited and that's when it hit me that I could get a no-hitter," Crawford said. "I was pumped. It was crazy, but a lot of fun. I guess it's a pretty big deal."
No doubt about it.
Crawford, a sophomore who wasn't even part of the Gators' three-man weekend rotation this season, faced the minimum 27 batters. The only player to reach base was Bethune-Cookman's Jake Welch on a walk in the third inning, and Florida catcher Mike Zunino threw him out trying to steal.
Crawford (6-2) struck out five and walked one for the Gators' first no-hitter since 1991, by John Burke - also the last one thrown in the NCAA tournament - in a 2-0 win over Furman. Crawford needed just 98 pitches, throwing 70 for strikes, for Florida (43-18).
It was the fifth no-hitter by a single pitcher in program history; Florida also has had three combined no-hitters.
"Unbelievable," Bethune-Cookman coach Jason Beverlin said. "It was a pretty unbelievable game. Crawford did an unbelievable job pitching, probably an understatement."
Crawford completed his no-hitter less than an hour before the New York Mets' Johan Santana threw the first no-no in the team's history, beating St. Louis 8-0.
The Wildcats managed to hit just six balls out of the infield, but nearly broke through in their final at-bat when Carlos Delgado ripped a line drive to the right side. Florida second baseman Casey Turgeon leaped to make the catch and secure the no-hitter.
When Turgeon came down with the ball, the crowd roared and Crawford's teammates swarmed him on the field.
"I jumped as high as I could," Turgeon said, "and luckily I got it."
Crawford had first-pitch strikes against 21 of the hitters he faced, and his fastball reached 97 mph in the ninth inning.
"The last batter," Crawford said, "I was just throwing as hard as I could."
His brilliant pitching pushed Florida, the top overall seed in the country, to a matchup with Georgia Tech on Saturday. Bethune-Cookman (34-26) will face the College of Charleston in an elimination game.
The Gators took an early 1-0 lead and piled on three more runs on Turgeon's homer in the bottom of the fifth inning. Turgeon went 3 for 4 and drove in all of Florida's runs.
Crawford, 20, is a soft-spoken guy from Okeechobee, Fla., a town of almost 6,000. Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said Crawford's level personality helped him finish out the game while the crowd was in a frenzy.
"You see a lot of innocence with Jonathan," O'Sullivan said. "His calmness helps and Mike Zunino helps a lot with that. They worked outstanding together all night and Mike deserves a lot of credit for that."
The no-hitter was a milestone for Crawford, who threw a total of 3 2/3 innings as a freshman last season.
When Florida went to the College World Series a year ago, O'Sullivan chose to leave Crawford off the roster in favor of more experienced pitchers.
"Twelve months later, he's starting the first game of a regional and he throws a no-hitter," O'Sullivan said. "To me, this is what coaching is all about. This is a night he will never forget and I will never forget."
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