It was trust that had to be earned, not given. The Razorbacks recorded 20 wins and 20 saves out of the bullpen in 2011. Two-thirds of Arkansas' SEC wins were recorded by a reliever and the Hogs had the school's lowest earned run average in 28 years.
During one stretch in the postseason, the Razorbacks' relievers - comprised almost entirely of freshmen - recorded 76 consecutive outs without allowing a run.
The newcomers were arguably the most impressive during the final month of the season.
Ryne Stanek recorded 6 1/3 innings in the first game of a doubleheader against Ole Miss on the final day of the regular season. He followed that up with a pair of wins as a starter in elimination games at the Southeastern Conference Tournament and NCAA Regionals.
Brandon Moore became a long-relief pitcher by logging 8 1/3 innings on the mound against Alabama in the SEC Tournament and 5 1/3 innings in the regionals against Charlotte.
Barrett Astin closed out both wins over Ole Miss to give Arkansas a division championship and went 7 2/3 innings without giving up a run in the postseason.
Even the little-used Colby Suggs came off the bench for 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the SEC Tournament against eventual College World Series participant Vanderbilt.
"Nobody wanted to be the first one to give up an out," said Ryne Stanek, a sophomore right-hander, "let alone a run.
A rarity in college baseball, Arkansas returns its entire active pitching staff from the end of last season. Because of its past success, high expectations rest on the should of the still young, but very experienced unit, which could go down as one of the nation's best in 2012.
"We've just got a plethora of pitchers that we have the ability to use at any time," said junior right-hander DJ Baxendale. "Whether it be our juniors, sophomores or freshmen, it almost looks like we're never going to run out of pitching. That's a good problem to have.
"It's almost the perfect staff. We have everything taken care of. Any guy we have on our roster, we're going to be able to trust to go in during a tough situation and get out of a jam."
Arkansas enters the season with at least a dozen serviceable pitchers heading into the season. Baxendale, Stanek, Astin, Moore, and junior left-handers Randall Fant and Cade Lynch all have starting experience in the SEC, while redshirt junior left-hander Trent Daniel turned down a 23rd-round offer by the Detroit Tigers over the summer.
"This year we've got 10 guys who have been in the program, and 11 guys if you add (outfielder) Jacob Morris, who will do some pitching for us," pitching coach Dave Jorn said. "They've all had some success. Year-in and year-out it's difficult to have much depth past your starters, so we're pretty fortunate to have so many guys with experience.
"I don't think they've peaked or came anywhere close to being able to maximize their ability. I don't know how much better their talent or velocity is going to get because they are pretty much physically developed, but they can all get better with pitch execution, experience and understanding of pitching in different situations."
Baxendale, a team captain, is the undeniable leader of the group. The Jacksonville native is coming off a great season, earning 10 wins in 12 starts and recording three saves. Baxendale lowered his ERA by two full points from his freshman season despite pitching 25 more innings.
As important as Baxendale is for the Razorbacks on the mound, his coaches label him equally as much so outside the lines.
"It's difficult to lead," Jorn said. "There are guys who are non-verbal, but they're dependable and lead by example every day by giving good effort. DJ does that, but he's also vocal. He has an understanding of how to communicate with the rest of the guys and get his points across.
"It takes some intangible stuff - make-up, character, aptitude, work-ethic and those type of things. When you have the kids with those type of intangibles, they're going to be pretty successful when they possess the type of talent he has."
Teammates also lauded Baxendale for his ability to substitute teach during coaching dead periods.
"I don't even call him DJ anymore; I just call him Coach Baxendale," Astin said. "He knows everything about pitching and defense. He's a great leader and was a unanimous vote for captain. He's a great team guy and knows what he's doing."
Baxendale, whose younger brother, Blake, signed with the Razorbacks in November, relishes in his off-field role.
"I just want everyone to see what I do on and off the field, and just know that's how a Razorback does it," Baxendale said. "This is my third year here and I've got to see what Razorback baseball is all about. That's what I try to convey to everyone else, that we're not only representing our team when we put on the jersey, but when we're walking to class or eating at restaurants in Fayetteville. That's where our brand is made."
Baxendale will also have a leading role on the mound, slated to be Arkansas' Friday night starter to begin the season. Stanek, who pitched alongside Baxendale for the USA Collegiate National Team last summer, Will Likely be Arkansas' second starter.
"I've learned a lot," said Stanek, who turned down a third-round offer from the Seattle Mariners out of high school. "Coming in I was a thrower. I had a good arm and tried to throw the ball by people, but now I try to know the sequences better, and what to throw and how to approach batters. I have a better focus on the mound, stay calm and don't get too amped up."
Because of the depth, the Razorbacks will have plenty of options in what could be a revolving door at No. 3, though Astin and Moore are the two most likely candidates for the position based on their performances during the back-end of last season.
"You kind of guard against complacency after having some success, but this isn't a group you've got to keep your eye on," Jorn said. "They are mature and focused, and hungry enough to get better. They aren't going to sit back and take things for granted.
"We had some success last year but we didn't go as far as we wanted to as a team. If the team is going to go farther, the individuals have to get a little bit better. I think they understand that and I've been real pleased with their effort and commitment."
In addition to those returning, Arkansas coaches expect to rely on some incoming in-state talent that could allow more rest for pitchers during the midweek. Right-handers Chris Oliver (Shiloh Christian) and Greg Milhorn (Texarkana/Arkansas High), and left-hander Mark Reyes (Jessieville) should all log innings on the mound this spring.
Another Arkansas native who attended high school in Memphis, left-hander Michael Gunn, could also see time on the mound. Gunn was considered a redshirt candidate in the fall but has seen a jump in his velocity in the preseason.
"We have a lot of big arms that can pound the strike zone," Stanek said. "And we probably have eight arms that throw low-90s and can really get it done."
Morris should compete for the starting job in center field in addition to his work in the bullpen. The Coppell, Texas native didn't pitch in his first year at Arkansas, but was a two-way player in high school.