Keuchel KO's South Carolina

FAYETTEVILLE — Dallas Keuchel saved his best for when his team needed it the most.

With Arkansas attempting to make a late-season push toward the Southeastern Conference Tournament and NCAA Regional play, Keuchel pitched shutout baseball for eight innings and kept South Carolina batters in check all day long. And thanks mostly to the sophomore's valiant effort, the Razorbacks completed a much-needed three-game sweep of the No. 17 Gamecocks with a 4-2 win Sunday in front of an impressive Mother's Day crowd of 5,067 in Baum Stadium.

"(Dallas) did a great job of getting ahead of them," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "This was kind of a scary day against a scary lineup with the wind blowing out like that. I'm sure South Carolina probably felt like they had an advantage having hit 91 or 92 home runs going into the day. During batting practice, we just told our guys don't worry about hitting the ball out of the park. Just play the game normal and if you hit one you hit one.

"You know, I am surprised there was only one home run hit today but Dallas did a great job. And even when he got behind a little bit, he threw the strike when he needed to and kept them off balance. They were really frustrated in that dugout and you could see it."

Keuchel hadn't been all that impressive in the past couple of weekends, leading to rotation switch against South Carolina (34-18, 13-14). After pitching the opening Friday game for much of the conference season, Van Horn elected to move the sophomore left-hander to Sunday this week.

In fact, Keuchel wasn't even a sure bet to start against the Gamecocks when the series began, as both he and Mike Bolsinger were listed as possible Sunday candidates. But once he took the hill in the series finale, the Tulsa native was at his best.

Striking out a career-high 10 batters, Keuchel held South Carolina to just four hits — three singles and a double — through the first eight innings before giving up his only run of the game in the ninth.

"Just coming off the last two Fridays, I really let the team down kind of getting behind and not throwing as many strikes as I normally do," Keuchel said. "And I was wanting to come out today and get the chance to get ahead of guys and keep the ball down. You know, just really regain my form like I had (in my start) at Florida.

"I had a lot of confidence going in there and we were able to keep the ball down, able to get ahead of guys and it was successful."

Arkansas (31-20, 13-13) claimed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second as senior Aaron Murphree took advantage of a Senior Day start with a two-out RBI single which scored Andy Wilkins. The very next inning, it was Wilkins doing the damage with a two-run double to put the Razorbacks ahead, 3-0.

For the rest of the afternoon, it was a back-and-forth pitcher's duel between Keuchel and South Carolina starter Blake Cooper. But thanks to the early runs, it was a duel Keuchel won.

"Probably the best I've ever seen him when I've been catching him," senior Jeff Nutt said. "His changeup was working today, he had the two-seam running real well. He had them off balance with the slider here and there and we were pretty much on the same page all day.

"I was calling the game, he was right there with me and it was just awesome. By about the third or fourth inning we got in a groove and man, we were just rolling."

And now, the Razorbacks are rolling as well. Winners of four consecutive SEC games, Arkansas has finally broken through into the top eight of the conference standings heading into the final week of the regular season.

"It's like I just told them, just stay focused and stay dedicated," Van Horn said. "We still have a lot of work to do. It was a great weekend, but you'll get what you deserve.

"And if you deserve it, you'll be in (the tournament) next week."

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