Arkansas 2, Florida 1

Arkansas pitcher Dallas Keuchel tosses a gem and Jeff Nutt's late blast breaks a deadlock and lifts the Razorbacks to a 2-1 win at Florida on Friday night.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Arkansas third baseman Logan Forsythe has watched teammate Dallas Keuchel start a game remarkably well, give up some big hits and never recover.

He's also watched the pitcher struggle mightily in the early innings, find enough grit to recover, then finish with a solid outing.

But Forsythe knew Keuchel had enough talent in his left arm to turn in a complete performance on the mound. He and the Razorbacks finally saw it when, arguably, they needed it most.

Keuchel pitched Arkansas to a 2-1 win at No. 25 Florida on Friday, allowing one run on six hits in a career-best, 8 1/3 innings. Designated hitter Jeff Nutt delivered the big hit when he blasted a solo home run over the right-center field wall to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning, but the sophomore's steady work on the mound garnered heaping helpings of praise after the game.

"If he trusts himself like he did and has confidence and swagger, that's what he does," Forsythe said. "That's what kind of pitcher he can be."

Keuchel (3-1) was making his first Friday night start for the Razorbacks (18-14, 4-8 in SEC), replacing sophomore Cliff Springston in the rotation. He showed plenty of command on his pitches, managing to stay ahead of Florida's hitters throughout the game.

His only blemish came in the third inning when Florida (23-11, 8-5) tied the game 1-1 with Jon Townsend's RBI single. It was part of a three-hit inning, but Keuchel allowed just two hits from there.

"Getting ahead (in the count) is a big plus for any pitcher," Keuchel said. "At the early stage of the game I was getting them to chase my pitch instead of having to throw a good pitch for them to hit."

Keuchel didn't walk a batter until the seventh inning, but the hard work began to wear him down.

He walked two batters in the eighth, but managed to get out of the jam. He also gave up a leadoff double to Florida's Josh Adams in the ninth - the only extra-base hit he allowed. Keuchel struck out the next batter, Dustin Bamberg, before Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn went to his bullpen.

"We just said, 'We'll give him a shot. It's his game,'" Van Horn said. "He got us where we were."

Said Keuchel: "(Pitching coach Dave) Jorn asked me at the end of the eighth, 'You got anything left in the tank. I lied to him and said, 'Yeah.'"

It didn't result in another blown lead in the late inning. Instead, reliever Steven Richards closed the game by retiring the final two batters.

Of course, Arkansas helped the pitchers along the way with solid defense and timely hitting Friday.

The Razorbacks turned three double plays against the Gators, who had grounded into only 10 all season. A new lineup - which featured Forsythe in the leadoff spot - got nine hits off four Florida pitchers, including starter Billy Bullock.

Nutt's homer in the eighth came off reliever Josh Edmondson (3-2).

"He worked the count," Van Horn said. "He corked it. He smoked it. That was a no-doubter."

But the biggest accolades belonged to Keuchel, whose effort handed Arkansas a series-opening win for the first time since beating Georgia on March 14. As a result, the Razorbacks have a chance to win their first SEC series of the season when the teams play game two today at 3 p.m.

"Dallas pitched really well," Nutt said. "He pitched probably the best he's ever thrown. The best I've ever seen him throw. That was huge for us."


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