Keuchel Thrives In Relief

OMAHA, Neb. - Virginia runners kept finding their way on base Wednesday night, sending the blood pressure of Razorbacks fans skyrocketing.

But during Dallas Keuchel's four innings of scoreless relief in Arkansas' 4-3 victory, the junior left-hander reacted differently than those calling the Hogs. He stayed calm in keeping the Arkansas' College World Series run alive.

He gave up three hits and walked three batters. Those runners didn't faze Keuchel, though, and the result was a performance no Razorback coach or player will ever forget.

"Dallas came in there and was very composed and poised," Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said. "That's what you need in those situations. You need someone who will make the players around him confident. Dallas did that, and you saw guys making plays."

Keuchel, who improved to 9-3 this season, couldn't stop grinning after Wednesday's game in Rosenblatt Stadium. He anticipated he might have to throw against the Cavaliers, but Keuchel didn't expect to throw 66 pitches.

And he definitely didn't think he'd have to strand nine runners in four innings. Still, Keuchel thrived in his first relief appearance this season. He struck out five batters, matching his strikeout total from his previous three starts combined, which covered 16 innings.

"I just kept telling myself out there that this team has been through so much, and I wasn't going to let them go out like that," Keuchel said. "I just had to make one pitch at a time, and they were swinging. I had the slider going and got some swings and misses."

Senior outfielder Andrew Darr said the Hogs enjoyed every minute of Keuchel's gutsy performance, even if they "were living on the edge," as Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.

"That was probably one of the best displays of pitching that I've ever seen," Darr said. "In that kind of situation for sure, because Dallas isn't a reliever. He came in and kept getting us out of trouble. It goes to show you that experience really helps at this level."

Keuchel credited an improved slider for his dominant effort. Jorn said Keuchel has improved that pitch steadily throughout this season. Keuchel even said he joked with junior closer Stephen Richards — tonight's starter against LSU — that he "stole his slider."

The pitch helped him escape four different Virginia jams.

He battled back from a 3-0 count with the bases loaded in the ninth and induced a double play. He put runners on second and third with one out in the 10th but struck out two. He stranded the bases loaded in the 11th.

Keuchel, who deemed himself ready to pitch tonight if needed, then struck out the side in the 12th to seal the improbable win.

"He was just unbelievable," Van Horn said. "He really showed some heart and some guts and in so many tough situations, he just battled and wouldn't give in. He refused to lose and good things happened."

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