Friday Night Delight

FAYETTEVILLE -- Dallas Keuchel doesn't consider himself to be any different. No matter if it's him or somebody else on the pitching mound for Arkansas, Keuchel likes the Razorbacks' chances against anyone they face. But while the hard-throwing junior doesn't see himself as any more important, the truth is he might be.

After two seasons of toiling in and out of the Arkansas weekend rotation, Keuchel entered 2009 as the clear-cut pick as Razorbacks' No. 1 starter this spring. It's a role Keuchel accepts, although he doesn't like to think of his assignment in that way. "I don't look at it so much as (being) No. 1 because we've got a lot of guys that are capable of going out there on a Friday night," Keuchel said. "But I just like to go out there and set the tone for the weekend, and this past fall I proved to myself I could get it done. So basically for me I just want to set the tone for the weekend and get us off to a good start." So far this season, Keuchel has done his part. In four starts, the 6-foot-3 lefthander from Tulsa is 2-0 with a 3.24 earned run average. Leading the team with 25 innings pitched and 26 strikeouts, Keuchel has displayed tremendous control with just three walks. More importantly he's given Arkansas (13-4, 3-0 in SEC) a chance to win in each of his outings. That's exactly what a team wants out of an SEC Friday night starter, and it's what the Hogs hope to get out of Keuchel again today when they open another three-game conference set at Auburn (15-5, 2-1). "It's very important (to have that No. 1 guy)," Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said. "It's nice to know you're going to have a guy that's going to be poised. He's been in a couple of situations this year where a guy with less experience might have folded. But he's just hung in there and continued to make pitches." Keuchel credits his time spent in the Cape Cod League over the last two summers as a big reason for his development. Facing some of the top college players in the country, Keuchel proved to his coaches and himself that he was ready to step into the top spot in the Arkansas rotation. "I went out this summer to the Cape and went back to my long arm instead of shortening up my delivery," Keuchel said. "So I've just been more smooth and not been trying to over do stuff and it's worked out for me. "It was tremendous (playing in the Cape Cod). There's so much talent out there. You can judge your talent to other guys, and I played against a couple of first-round hitters. So it was definitely a good place to see where your talent is." Right now, Keuchel's talent appears to be among the best in the SEC. With a low-90s fastball and a nasty changeup in his arsenal, Keuchel is doing what he and his coaches expected him to do all along. And as the Razorbacks' Friday night arm, he's making sure not to disappoint. "(Dallas) was one of our top pitching recruits that year we got him," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We thought he would be a conference Sunday starter that year probably as a freshman. From there it would evolve into Saturday or Friday, and finally it has happened."

WEEKEND TICKET

NO. 16 ARKANSAS AT AUBURN WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday WHERE: Plainsman Park, Auburn, Ala. ON THE AIR: KFAY-AM 1030; KURM-AM 790, FM-100.3; KHGG-AM 1580, FM-103.1; KXIO-FM 106.9 RECORDS: Arkansas 13-4, 3-0; Auburn 15-5, 2-1 SERIES RECORD: Auburn leads, 33-26 LAST MEETING: Tigers won, 12-10 on Apr. 26, 2008 in Fayetteville TODAY'S PROBABLE PITCHERS: Arkansas, LHP Dallas Keuchel (2-0, 3.24 ERA); Auburn, LHP Grant Dayton (2-1, 2.45 ERA)

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