ATHENS, Ga. – Junior Dallas Keuchel was on top of his game on Friday night at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., as the southpaw tossed seven innings but a ninth-inning rally by the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs led to a 4-3 loss for the No. 5 Arkansas Razorback baseball team.
Arkansas (25-10, 10-5 SEC) was never able to put together a big inning offensively in the game, scoring one run on three separate occasions while Georgia (30-7, 12-4 SEC) used a first-inning home run and ninth-inning rally to dispatch the Razorbacks.
“We played well tonight, just not good enough to win,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We walked a guy in the ninth and you get into trouble when you do that. They got a couple of big hits.”
Ben Tschepikow got things started right for the Razorbacks in the first when he smoked a 3-1 pitch with two outs in the top of the first to dead center field over the 400-foot sign and off the batter’s eye three-quarters of the way up. Tschepikow’s home run was the first time since March 31st that the Razorbacks took the lead in a game.
Arkansas’ advantage was short lived however as a pair of walks came back to hurt Arkansas starter Dallas Keuchel in the bottom half of the inning as Bryce Massanari hit a deep fly over the left-field wall for a three-run home run to make it a 3-1 Georgia game.
After the fireworks of the first inning, both starters settled in and put nothing but zeros on the scoreboard. Keuchel would walk another batter and give up three soft base hits through the fifth while Georgia starter Trevor Holder retired nine straight batters after the first inning.
Arkansas would get another run in the fifth and may have gotten more had it not been for a tremendous play by Georgia’s center fielder, Matt Cerione. Zack Cox led off by getting hit with a pitch and moved to second on a fantastic bunt single by Collin Kuhn. With two runners on redshirt Freshman Tim Carver hit a long fly to right-center field that Cerione made a diving catch on. The sacrifice fly did score Cox from third base but had the ball found the ground, Kuhn may have scored from first base to tie the game, instead the contest progressed into the sixth with Georgia leading, 3-2.
The Razorbacks got some much needed production from the bottom half of the order in the top of the seventh to tie the game at three. Andy Wilkins led off with a walk and Holder would retire the next two batters before Kuhn singled to left field. Kuhn would be the last batter that Georgia’s ace would face as the Bulldogs brought in Will Harvil to face Carver who greeted the Georgia reliever with a 1-0 single through the right side of the infield to score Wilkins and knot the game.
Arkansas had a chance to score in the top of the ninth, but a heads up play by Georgia ended the threat. With two outs Cox singled to center field and was replaced on the base paths by freshman Jarrod McKinney. Two pitches later, McKinney was on second with a stolen base and Kuhn at the plate. Kuhn would hit a hot shot to shortstop which was bobbled, McKinney, running on the pitch, tried to score but Levi Hyams picked up the ball and threw a strike to home plate to just get McKinney and end the inning.
The momentum of the play at the plate carried over to the bottom of the ninth as the leadoff man and pinch hitter Jonathan Taylor reached base on a 3-2 walk. A stolen base was followed by a strike out and with the nine-hole hitter at the plate relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger walked a second batter to put two runners on base and the leadoff man at the plate. The Razorbacks would go to the bullpen for Stephen Richards, but his 0-1 pitch was stroked to the left-center field gap by Cerione scoring Taylor and ending the well-played contest.
Defense was at a premium in the game for both teams despite the three errors that were made. Highlight reel catches and dives were seen throughout the 2:50 contest. Arkansas shortstop Scott Lyons made a brilliant play up the middle where the senior dove to his glove-hand side to reach a ball, stood up and threw a strike to first to get a would-be baserunner.
For the Razorbacks, Kuhn led the team with a pair of hits while Carver plated a pair of runs on a single and sacrifice fly. Other Razorback hits came off the bats of Tschepikow, Wilkins, Brett Eibner and Cox.
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs continue their series on Saturday with a noon central start. Saturday’s game is slated for TV by Fox Sports. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.