Rosenthal: Alex Keudell’s honor is well-deserved

Oregon pitcher Alex Keudell was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, making him the first to receive this honor in Oregon Baseball history. (Michael Ciaglo/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Do you see my cap? No? That’s because I’m tipping it to Alex Keudell.

Excuse me, I spelled that wrong. It should have read “Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year award-winner Alex Keudell.” Much better. @@[email protected]@

The senior right-hander gave up the chance to make an early entrance into minor-league baseball in order to return for his senior season on George Horton’s squad. Keudell’s senior campaign would eventually become arguably the best single-season performance in the history of Duck baseball.

He became the first 10-game winner in Oregon history with a win over Seattle on May 18. When he takes the mound this weekend in the Eugene Regional — Horton has yet to say whether he’ll stick with his normal rotation of Keudell, Jake Reed and Jeff Gold, or instead save his best arm for a potential Saturday matchup with Cal State Fullerton — Keudell will do so looking for the 22nd win of his career. @@[email protected]@ @@[email protected]@

For a while there, it looked like Keudell had the award in the bag. He stumbled out of the gate, losing the season opener to Hawaii and the Ducks’ conference opener to Washington. After that outing at Husky Ballpark though, Keudell found his stuff, taking home decision after decision from the Pac-12’s (and therefore the nation’s) best pitching prospects. Whether it was shutting down Arizona in what then looked like it would be the series when the Ducks all but clinched the Pac-12, or out-dueling Stanford’s Mark Appel in an extra inning win that saw the starting pitchers each go the distance, Keudell was masterful.

Yet Horton said Wednesday he was a little worried Keudell would lose out on the award based on a lackluster Civil War performance, not to say that would have been fair. The pitcher of the week award — which Keudell won in back-to-back weeks earlier in the year — is an entirely different award. To punish Keudell by giving the honor to somebody else just because they had a stronger finish would frankly be an embarrassment.

Keudell’s 2.12 ERA was the third-lowest mark in the conference, but the righty’s numbers from March 16 to May 25 are just downright ridiculous: nine starts, nine wins and an ERA over that stretch far south of 2.00. Others have better numbers in a few individual statistical categories, but the senior right-hander was simply the class of the Pac-12, and is arguably one of the most dangerous pitching weapons in the country. @@[email protected]@

If you haven’t seen the man pitch, do yourself a favor and get out to PK Park for this weekend’s Eugene Regional (you should probably do this anyway). Oregon opens play on Friday night against Austin Peay and Keudell will be ready to go at 6 p.m., but he might have to wait another day to pitch.

Horton says in previous postseason trips he’s saved his typical Friday night starter for the second day of regional play — which would hypothetically set up a pitcher’s duel between Keudell and Cal State Fullerton’s ace Dylan Floro — but he doesn’t always rely on this. Oregon’s head coach said he’ll likely officially name a starter during the coaches meeting Thursday afternoon, but for the time being he’s telling all three of his starters to prepare for a Friday start. Though he is as much a creature of habit as any starting pitcher, Keudell has twice pitched on days other than Friday this year, beating UCLA on just six days rest and beating USC in a rare Saturday start.

If the Ducks don’t win their regional, Keudell’s start this weekend will be the last time he takes the mound as a Duck, and that means you’re running out of chances to see one of the greatest pitchers in Oregon history. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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