Fant's long outing lifts White in Game 3
Posted: October 14, 2012 at 5:05 p.m.
FAYETTEVILLE Randall Fant pitched eight scoreless innings, leading his White squad to a 3-0 win in Game 3 of Arkansas' fall baseball series on Sunday at Baum Stadium.
The senior left-hander allowed only four hits while striking out two in one of his best outings of the fall season. After excelling for the better part of three years with his change-up, Fant has added a slider this off-season as a complementary pitch to go along with a mid-to-upper 80s fastball.
"Randall has had a really good fall," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We didn't think we'd have him back for his senior year, but he's come in with a great attitude and has made a jump as far as his pitch-ability and mentally the way he approaches the game. Of all the returning pitchers we have in here, he might have had the best fall of them all.
"It's not like he just had a good outing today. He's done it all fall."
After high pitch counts and early-inning struggles led to short outings last season, Fant's command has improved in his final year with the Razorbacks. He threw 86 pitches on Sunday on a pitch count of 90 and walked only one batter.
"We've let him go three and four innings, and I'm not sure he's thrown more than 40 pitches," Van Horn said. "We've had to increase his bullpen to get him to the point where he can throw more in this series."
Fant has three years worth of starting experience in the Southeastern Conference for Arkansas, with a career earned run average of 3.79. He returned to the Razorbacks for his senior season when he failed to sign after being selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 29th round of last summer's MLB Draft.
Van Horn said Fant should factor into the starting rotation for an experienced Arkansas pitching staff in 2013, though it's too early to say whether the Texarkana, Texas native will take the mound on the weekend or in the midweek.
"There's a little bit of motivation, trying to get better," Fant said. "I got drafted last year but wasn't able to sign, so that had a little something to do with it. This is my fourth year and I've got a little experience, but I'm trying to get better every day.
"I'm getting guys out early in the counts and not having to go deep into the counts. I'm throwing about three or four pitches per batter, so that helps."
Fant one-upped a nice showing from fellow southpaw Jalen Beeks, who struck out nine batters in 4 2/3 innings for the Cardinal squad. Beeks, a sophomore transfer from Crowder Community College and former Prairie Grove High School standout, allowed seven hits and walked one.
The White squad took a 1-0 lead when junior shortstop Brett McAfee led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. McAfee, who transferred to Arkansas over the summer from Panola Junior College, finished Sunday's exhibition 3-for-4 at the plate.
"I struggled a little bit yesterday, so today I was trying to go in with a good mindset and I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it," McAfee said of his home run.
"This has been a real good and real productive fall. I feel like I've learned a lot of new things being here in this program."
McAfee scored for the second time in the third inning, reaching on a single and scoring on a Beeks balk. Jacob Mahan, who reached on a double, later scored on a throwing error by catcher Jean Ramirez to give the White team a 3-0 lead.
Colby Suggs pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief for the Cardinal team, striking out four batters and allowing one hit. Ryne Stanek earned a save by striking out two and working around a walk in the ninth.
"Stanek, he'll tell you, he didn't spot his fastball," Van Horn said. "I think Tyler (Spoon) might have swung at ball four in the first at-bat, but when a guy throws 95 miles per hour, you've got to make a decision a lot quicker and you're going to get some of those borderline pitches swung at."
The White team leads the best-of-seven fall series 2-1 with Sunday's win, having recorded back-to-back shutouts. Game 4 will be played Wednesday at 3 p.m.