Things looked different for the senior lefthander Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium. He gave the Hogs a great six innings, including the key play on a bunt in the fifth. It was just the kind of play No. 5 Ole Miss didn't make all day.
The Hogs (14-6, 1-1) rode Fant to a 10-1 victory to even the SEC's opening series with the Rebels (19-2, 1-1). The Rebels had won 12 straight, including 7-1 last night when UA coach Dave Van Horn thought the Hogs didn't respond.
"They got up on us in the third last night and it was like we forgot how to compete," Van Horn said. "(Bobby Wahl) got it going and he finished us off.
"I credit our players because they bounced back after a rough loss. We got it put to us last night and we hadn't had much success against (Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers). We brought energy today."
The Hogs put away Mayers with some small ball. They bunted four times. Jacob Mahan's sacrifice bunt went for a hit and Matt Vinson's fifth-inning bunt was thrown away by Mayer for a two-run error.
The game turned in the fifth. Fant escaped after giving up a pair of singles to start the inning. He fielded a bunt on the move to third and gloved and flipped to Brian Anderson for the force on the lead runner. He would end the threat with a nasty changeup to strike out Stuart Turner, flirting with .500 on the season.
"We kinda got lucky with Fant on that play," Van Horn said. "Fant's a really good athlete. He communicated well (for Anderson to stay at third) and he made a nice play. It could have turned into bases loaded with no outs, but Randall defended it well."
Fant shrugged it off.
"That's a play we work on every day with our bunt coverage drills," he said. "I knew it was just a force out and it was where we needed to go."
In reality, the lefty would have had a much more difficult wheel and throw to first.
Van Horn praised Fant's pitching, too. What was the difference between Fant this year and the one of past years.
"He's just better," Van Horn said. "He had a tremendous fall. He had the (hamstring) injury early and we got him 40 pitches in Arizona. Today, he gave us six good innings on just 70 pitches."
Mayer has been trouble for the Hogs, but Van Horn said his fast ball was up Saturday.
"He's still got good stuff, but he didn't locate today on the fast ball," Van Horn said. "It was up a little."
The Hogs got a pair of runs on hustle plays from Matt Vinson and Tyler Spoon. Both won races at first base on what could have been the third out with runners scoring.
Van Horn called them "bang-bang plays" at first, but noted it was good to get some calls because they didn't get those kinds of breaks in a four-game losing streak in Arizona.
"I think me and Tyler are pretty fast," Vinson quipped. "The pitcher missed the bag by about this much (six inches)."
Vinson got an assist in the first inning, gunning down Austin Anderson trying to move to take an extra base.
"To be honest, I was surprised," Vinson said. "He wasn't halfway when the ball got to me. So I just took my time to make a good throw."
Serrano led the 11-hit UA attack with three singles. Spoon had a two-run double, and another RBI when he beat out the double play throw.
"At the beginning of this series, (hitting coach Todd) Butler told us that who swings the bat will win the series," Serrano said. "They kicked our butts last night, we kicked their butts today."
The finale is set for 1:05 p.m. Sunday, if weather allows. The tarp was put on the field at game's end Saturday. The Hogs have Ryne Stanek ready to pitch and a rested bullpen.
"Colby Suggs pitched the final inning today and threw strikes," Van Horn said. "I told him to be ready to go again."
UA ullpen stalwarts Brandon Moore and Barrett Astin have not pitched on the weekend.
"We've got them ready to go," Van Horn said, "and they've got their guys ready, too."