Dallas Keuchel got a call early this morning from his parents. Early in the conversation, his mother informed him, "The wind is blowing out pretty good today." Keuchel's response as he was thinking about what that meant on a day he was to face the SEC's leading home run team: "That's cool."
Keuchel, sophomore lefty, was cool all day. He befuddled the Gamecocks with three speeds -- slow, slower, slowest. He pitched his best game as a Razorback in a 4-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep.
The Hogs kept their post-season hopes alive, moving to 13-13 in the SEC and 31-20 overall. South Carolina, a top 20 team all season, slipped to 34-18 and 13-14 overall. There are three games left in the SEC season with the Hogs set to play at Mississippi State next weekend.
Keuchel had a shutout going into the ninth and extied after Justin Smoak smashed a leadoff single. Mike Bolsinger, who went three innings plus for the Hogs on Saturday, gave up a two-run homer to James Darnell on a three-two pitch to his first batter, but then retired the next three in order.
"This was a big weekend," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I told our team we've still got a lot of baseball left (to get into postseason), but to keep doing what we've been doing."
Did he see the Hogs' first sweep coming?
"Well, I told our team that South Carolina has been really good lately, but we've kinda had their number," Van Horn said. "I hoped that picked them up a little."
They also got an inspirational speech on Thursday from Brady Toops. It was a grand slam homer by Toops in 2002 against Wichita State that launched them on the way to a College World Series appearance. Jacob House hit a walk-off grand slam Friday night to help the Hogs to a 12-11 victory. House's hit, Van Horn said, is the biggest hit by a Razorback since Toops.
"I think Brady did a nice job of setting the stage for the weekend," Van Horn said. "He talked to our team Thursday about how no one saw the run that '02 team made and how things just fell in place for them. He told them it could be just like that for them."
Logan Forsythe said it was an exciting speech.
"If you are a Razorback, and I'm Razorback through and through, you loved that speedy from Brady," Forsythe said. "I think a lot of guys took it to heart. I sure did."
Still, Van Horn didn't figure Sunday's game would turn out to be a pitching duel. He figured South Carolina's big hitters, tops in the SEC with 92 homers coming into the game, would like the conditions with a 25 mph wind zipping out to center.
"I thought both teams might get to double digits, but Dallas really pitched a great game," Van Horn said. "He hadn't been going great of late, but he has pitched some good games this year. He was at his best today.
"I think he really had their lineup off balance. They are dead pull hitters and they love the fast ball. Dallas just kept going to that changeup. He got ahead of them with first-pitch strikes and then they had to try to hit that changeup. They really frustrated them. I've been in a dugout when a pitcher gets that off-speed stuff going and it's tough. I think they left here pretty frustrated."
Keuchel, with 10 strikeouts, said he didn't really tire, but knew his time was up when pitching coach Dave Jorn came to the mound.
"I tried to get him to go back to the dugout, but that wasn't happening," Keuchel said. "We had Bolsinger and (Stephen) Richards ready and he was making the move.
"I'd guess 50 percent of what I threw was the changeup today. I'd throw it for a strike on the outside edge and they'd take it. Then, I'd just move it a little off the outside edge and they were swinging and not getting it. I just kept moving it a little further and further out and they never really stopped swinging at it. But the key was to get the first one over."
Richards has been the closer of late, but Jorn said he didn't like the lefty against all of the power hitting righthanders stacked against him in the Carolina lineup.
"Bolsinger might not have been as fresh as Richards, but Richards throws that down-and-in slider on the righthanders and it wasn't what we needed," Jorn said. "Those Carolina righthanders are all dead pull hitters and I could see them liking that pitch. Then, Bolsinger gives up the two-run jack and I was thinking, maybe we should have got the fresh one. It turned out alright."
The Hogs didn't do much against Carolina righthander Blake Cooper. They mustered just six hits on the day, but they were all timely.
Aaron Murphree, starting on senior day, delivered an RBI ground single to left in the second inning. Then, after the Gamecocks gave Forsythe an intentional pass, freshman Andy Wilkins drilled a three-two pitch to the wall in right center to give the Hogs a 3-0 lead in the third. The Hogs added their final run in the eighth on Casey Coon's single up the middle against a drawn-in infield.
"We have another game tomorrow (against Mississippi Valley State), but we treated this as senior day," Van Horn said. "A couple of years ago we were in a tight race and we didn't go with seniors, lost, and I was mad at myself for about two weeks. I was going to play (the seniors) today and they delivered."
Game time Monday, in a makeup game from earlier this season, is 2 p.m. Any unused tickets from the season will be good for admission.
Then, it's on to Mississippi State where longtime coach Ron Polk will be honored before he retires. Van Horn has long been a fan of Polk.
"For guys like me who have been coaching college baseball for awhile, you think about what a college coach is and you think of Ron Polk," Van Horn said. "I've talked to him some since I've been in the league. When I came in, he was at Georgia and we talked about the league a little then. But I can remember getting notes from him before I really knew him. We won a championship at Northwestern (La.) and he sent me a card of congratulations. He's got an old typewriter and he goes to at night and types out these little notes all the time.
"You just have a lot of respect for a guy like Ron Polk. He's really meant a lot to the game. He's really something. I think a few years ago he figured out when my birthday was and I started getting birthday cards."
Keuchel beffudles Gamecocks
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