NORTH LITTLE ROCK - Who needs a starting rotation, anyway? That may not be the truth, but it may be the way Arkansas plays for a bit. That's the way coach Dave Van Horn called it after a 7-2 victory over Memphis before a record crowd of 10,062 at Dickey Stephens Park on Tuesday night.
The crowd topped last year's 9,426 at Dickey-Stephens last year and pumped up both Van Horn and the Hogs.
"It was a festive atmosphere, just great," Van Horn said. "Our players really enjoyed it."
But he was probably just as pumped with the Arkansas pitching.
DJ Baxendale has been the Hogs lead pitcher on the weekend of late, but he closed Tuesday night for the final two outs after the Hogs broke the tie with five runs in the eighth inning.
"We don't really know who our starters are right now," Van Horn said. "So we are just going to go down the list and let guys get two, three, four innings for a few games. We'll just see how it sorts itself out."
Freshman Barrett Astin pitched the first four against the Tigers. He allowed two runs on five hits. Sophomore lefty Randall Fant got the next four in almost perfect fashion, perhaps the highlight of the night for the Hogs. Fant allowed just one hit and faced just 13 batters, one above the minimum.
Catcher James McCann, who slugged a solo home run to tie the score in the seventh, wanted to talk more about Fant than his big blow.
"They have the (radar gun) number in left and I saw it a few times on Fant," McCann said. "I saw 92, 93 and a few 95s. That's pretty good, probably as good as I can remember. Might be the best he's pitched for us. He was good last year at Mississippi State, but this might have been better.
"What made this different was that he had two off-speed pitches, change-up and slider. And his fast ball was hitting my mitt, in and out. He kept moving it where I asked for it. He pitched well."
Van Horn didn't mind talking about McCann's shot.
"We had lost two straight and we needed something to relax us and that did it," Van Horn said. "It takes something to get it out of this park. There had been some good ones, maybe two, just die out there in the outfield. That was a shot. After that, it was like, 'Hey, we are going to win this one.' We put together a pretty good inning in the eighth, a good solid inning."
The big blow was a pinch-hit single by Tim Carver. Hitting just .185, Carver was asked to bunt, but got the green light after fouling off a couple of attempts.
"I thought they might have the wheel play going (opening the middle of the infield) so I gave him the slug bunt sign," Van Horn said. "He squared and sure enough, they had the infield moving and he put it in play right where they left. That got us starting and it all went pretty good in that inning."
Freshman Dominic Ficociello followed with an RBI double down the line in left. Bo Bigham plated a run with a grounder to third with Carver knocking the ball loose from the catcher. Jacob Rice added an RBI single.
Carver said it was just a matter of having some fun in front of the big crowd.
"This is a great atmosphere and a fun place for us," Carver said. "Hey, it's neat to make things happen in front of a big crowd like this. On the play at the plate, I was going and just knocked it loose."
Back to the starting pitching, Van Horn said not to read too much into it for a few games.
"We just have four names on a list for tomorrow night in Memphis," he said. "But this was good tonight."
The first on the list for Wednesday night is Ryne Stanek.
"It doesn't matter right now," Van Horn said. "We just needed to win. We'd lost two in a row and if we had not won tonight, maybe we start pressing. This helps. Now I'm going to give some guys a rest, change catchers and mix it up a little. I probably would have done that anyway, but this makes it easier."
Van Horn isn't sure who will start Friday night against Vanderbilt ace Sonny Gray, but it won't be Baxendale.
"That much I know," he said. "I don't know who it's going to be, but it's not him. We'll just see how it goes."
McCann said, "I don't think it matters to DJ. He was just getting work tonight. He was good. Really, all three of them did their jobs. It went the right way with all three."