FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Dallas Keuchel was brilliant on the mound and got good help from the Razorback lineup as the 18th-ranked Arkansas baseball team won its Southeastern Conference opener with the Florida Gators, 11-4, at Baum Stadium on Friday night.
The Razorbacks’ (10-3, 1-0 SEC) 11 runs match a school record for runs in a SEC opener matching the 1998 team’s 11 that it scored on South Carolina. Florida (9-4, 0-1) made a rally late as it scored three times in the ninth, but could not overcome the sizeable Razorback advantage.
“It was a solid game for us and it all starts on the mound and with guys making plays,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We swung the bats well and we’re going to have to go out here and do it again tomorrow.”
As good as the Razorbacks were offensively, it was Keuchel’s poise on the mound that was most impressive. Picking up where he left off a year ago against Florida (8.1 innings, 1 run), Keuchel pitched a season best seven innings and allowed just one run on four hits and a struck out a season best nine batters for his second win. The Tulsa, Okla., native was so dominating that the Gators did not have a base runner until Keuchel walked a man in the fifth with two outs and did not get their first hit until the sixth.
Florida did threaten to do damage against Arkansas’ Friday night starter in the sixth as it loaded the bases with no outs. Keuchel however battled back and got the next batter to hit a sacrifice fly to left, Florida’s only run against him, and then struck out the next two hitters to end the inning.
“Keuchel threw a lot of strikes,” Van Horn said. “He had a lot of movement on his fastball. He was throwing a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer and the 2-seamer was darting and diving. We got a lot of groundballs early. We got through a few innings with a minimum amount of pitches and we put together a couple of big innings. We just played well. We pitched well, ran the bases well, fielded well and it was just a good ballgame for us.”
The Razorbacks broke through in the third inning on a leadoff double to left field by freshman Zack Cox, who coincidentally had his best game as a Razorback at the plate going 3-4. He would score two batters later when a Ryan Cisterna suicide squeeze was thrown away by the Florida pitcher. The error opened the door for Arkansas to score three more runs when Ben Tschepikow took a 0-1 pitch into the Florida bullpen for his fifth home run of the season, making it a 4-0 Arkansas lead.
The Hogs would add two more runs in the fourth on a solo home run by Andy Wilkins and a RBI single by Cisterna, chasing the Florida starter from the game.
The Razorbacks did equally as well on the Gator relievers as they pounded out four more runs in the fifth on three hits with the big shot coming off the bat of Cox who crushed his first home run of the season off the scoreboard in right-center field for Arkansas’ second grand slam in three games.
As a team the Razorbacks posted a season best 14 hits led by Cox and Wilkins who each had three. Seven Razorbacks picked up at least one hit with five of those getting two or more. Tschepikow, Wilkins and Cox connected for Arkansas’ first three home run game of the season as each drove in multiple runs.The Razorbacks and Gators continue their series on Saturday with a 2:05 p.m. first pitch. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.