No. 1 Florida Evens Series With No. 7 LSU

No. 1 Florida Evens Series With No. 7 LSU

The mistakes from Thursday night could have derailed Florida. Instead of letting that happen, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan met with the team before batting practice on Friday. The message was short and to the point. He wanted the team to forget it. The Gators did that and cruised to a 7-0 win over No. 7 LSU to even the series and set up the rubber game on Saturday.

With the pressure ratcheted up after No. 1 Florida lost four of its last five games, sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford gave the Gators what they needed. He matched LSU ace and projected first-round pick Kevin Gausman pitch-for-pitch.

Crawford was even a little better.

"It was huge," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said after his team's second shutout of the year and only second shutout of LSU in school history. "You're talking about a guy who pitched three innings last year. I've got to believe he grew up an awful lot tonight."

The sophomore threw a career-high six shutout innings, giving up three hits, two walks and two hits batters while striking out four. He threw 51 of his 82 total pitches for strikes.

Crawford sat in the mid 90s with his fastball and used his slider for the knockout pitch. He got the call this weekend because Florida right-hander Hudson Randall won't throw with "a tired arm." Crawford just found out at game time on Thursday that he would make the start in game two.

"I was excited to get on the mound again and give my team the best chance to win," Crawford said. "I knew I had to come out and be ready good because (Gausman) is supposed to be a high draft pick and is really good. I had to come out and battle for my team."

With Crawford throwing zeros up on the scoreboard, the Florida offense gave him some breathing room. The biggest hit of the night, and "one of the biggest hits of the year" for Florida according to O'Sullivan, was a two-out, two-run double by Mike Zunino in the third inning.

It started out harmlessly with a ground out and a foul out. After a single from Daniel Pigott and a walk to Casey Turgeon, Gausman made a mistake. He left an 0-2 fastball to Zunino over the heart of the plate, and he short-hopped the wall in right-center field with it to give Florida an early lead.

"Mike clutched up when we needed it," Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana said. "That was huge in the third inning against a great arm. That was big time."

LSU center fielder Jared Foster look like he might have a play on the ball originally, but a slight wind to right field kept the ball drifting towards the base of the fence.

"It kind of alleviated the—I don't know if it's pressure, but it kind of loosened everybody up," O'Sullivan said. "We've had a tough stretch of it the last couple weeks. This only counts as one in the win column, but it was a big win for us."

The scored stayed 2-0 until the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Brian Johnson hit a fly ball that was dropped by LSU left fielder Raph Rhymes to score one run. Fontana followed with a two-run single, and Taylor Gushue ended the scoring for the inning with an RBI double.

Zunino's one-out double in the eighth inning gave the Gators a 7-0 lead they would hold.

Austin Maddox, Steven Rodriguez and Justin Shafer combined to end the game with three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out six hitters. The Florida pitching staff allowed a season-low four hits on the night.

The rubber match will be at 4 p.m. on Saturday between Florida right-hander Karsten Whitson (1-0, 4.05) against LSU sophomore right-hander Ryan Eades (4-1, 1.91).

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