Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. He and his wife live in Fayetteville.
Fant to start, Ficociello likely in Arizona
Left-hander Randall Fant will start Sunday for Arkansas against Pacific.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will get a pair of upperclassmen back for its trip to the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz. this weekend.
Left-handed pitcher Randall Fant and second baseman Dominic Ficociello are both likely to play in the four-game road trip. Neither has played this season for the No. 2 Razorbacks (7-1) because of injury.
Fant (hamstring) will start Arkansas' game against Pacific on Sunday, Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said, while Ficociello (oblique strain) is likely to start in the field Thursday against No. 25 Arizona State.
Probable Weekend Rotation
Thursday: RHP Ryne Stanek (1-0, 3.86 ERA) vs. Arizona State, 5 p.m.
Friday: RHP Barrett Astin (1-0, 0.82 ERA) vs. Gonzaga, 5 p.m.
Saturday: RHP Trey Killian (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Arizona State, 5 p.m.
Sunday: LHP Randall Fant (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Pacific, 11 a.m.
"Fant will be on a pitch count," Van Horn said. "We were going to bring him out of the pen this weekend but we changed our mind. We are going to let him go through the whole starting routine. Our plan is to start him on Sunday his pitch count will be about 40 to 45 if all goes well. Hopefully he gives us three innings and then we will go with whoever we have left.
"Ficociello is going to swing today left-handed. He is fine right-handed. He will be in the lineup against the lefties and maybe the whole weekend kind of depending on how he feels today. We'll see how it is tomorrow and make a decision on Thursday. He has been taking ground-balls. He has been fine."
Ficociello would add another bat to the top of Arkansas' order, which has had success early this season. Four of the top five batters in the Razorbacks' lineup are hitting .353 or higher, led by Brian Anderson's .429 average.
Ficociello led the team in batting average two years ago before struggling with a .290 average while starting every game last season. The junior would likely bat clean-up for Arkansas, a position manned the first two weeks by first baseman Eric Fisher and Anderson, the third baseman.
"I could go Ficociello four or five depending on how it’s going," Van Horn said. "Brian’s swinging the bat so well. He’s hitting over .400 and he’s driven in some runs. We’ll make that decision. But you’ll see those guys at either four or five, flip-flop, and see how that goes.
"I am very pleased with the top of our batting order, and I think the bottom will slowly start picking up."