BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
A few days after his mom Kimberly suffered some injuries when bowled over by the family dog, Arkansas pitcher Hunter Hollan offered up quite a Mother Day’s present to her and other Razorback moms.
Holland fired a complete-game, six-hitter while throwing 113 pitches and fanning 10 as the No. 3 Razorbacks downed No. 6 South Carolina 4-1 on Sunday.
“That was for mom,” Hollan told the SEC Network after his win.
The series-clinching victory pushed Arkansas (38-13, 19-8) a game ahead of Florida (40-12, 18-9) in the SEC’s overall race and 1 1/2 games in the Western Division race ahead of LSU.
“Really the story of the day obviously was Hunter Hollan,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “He was amazing. He gave up a home run, too, I think, the 8-hole hitter, and he was lights out after that honestly.”
Hollan (7-2) retired 19 South Carolina hitters at one point before giving up a two-out single in the ninth.
It was Arkansas’ first complete game against an SEC team since Dominic Taccolini’s 10-inning complete game shutout against Kentucky in 2016.
“I know he went probably five innings toward the end of the game where he didn’t work out fo the stretch,” Van Horn said. “They finally got a hit off him there in the ninth. We thought about taking him out … Going into the eighth we thought, ‘This will be his last inning.’ Then he goes out and works a great inning, quick.
“He’s in the 90s, but there was no way we could take him out. … The number of pitches, they do matter, but not as much as how stressful were they? How many tough innings did he have to fight out of.
“He really only had one, I feel like. Great job by him on Mother’s Day to get us a big series win against a really good team.”
Hollan noted it was his first nine-inning complete game in his college career after throwing seven- and eight-inning ones at San Jacinto Community College.
“Really I had no idea where my pitch count was,” Hollan said. “And I think it was in the sixth inning I looked up and I was like at 70-something pitches or 60-something pitches and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m probably going nine today.’”
Hollan got a visit in the middle of the eighth inning from Razorback pitching coach Matt Hobbs.
“Hobbs came to me after the eighth and he was like ‘Well?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I want it!’ So that was cool,” Hollan said. “ I threw 113, that’s the most I’ve ever thrown. But yeah it was good.
“…‘I’m glad he let me.’ It was cool. It’s unreal to throw nine innings, and I’m going to pay for it tomorrow when I wake up tomorrow.”
Hollan gave up a third-inning homer to Will Tippett to go down 1-0, but wriggled out of of it from that point by stranding two South Carolina baserunners.
South Carolina missed its shot there according to head coach Mark Kingston.
“It was just one of those kinds of games where you have to give him credit,” Kingston said. “We had him on the ropes early and he wiggled out of it and then he settled.
“Lefties are known to do that in our game. If you don’t get them early when they are on the ropes, they tend to settle in. And he settled in today. I just think it is more about him.”
Coming off an extended rest to help shin splints heal, Hollan pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed 4 runs, 4 hits, fanned 3, walked 3 and threw 68 pitches in an 11-6 win at Mississippi State.
“I felt really similar to last week,” Hollan said. “Just executed pitches a little better today. Really once I started landing fastballs in and then my cutter and slider were really good today. And so once I was hitting fastball inside really good that set up for me to be successful.
Kingston felt like Hollan kept his hitters guessing.
“A lot of off speed pitches and I thought that, at times, we were just not doing a good enough job letting the ball get deep, making sure we saw it up and using the opposite field,” Kingston said. “The one guy that did that for us today, Cole Messina, he had a had great day.
“We just didn’t have enough guys that were committed to really using the whole field. That’s what I told them after the game. We need to be the kind of offense that uses the whole field. I think we were just a little bit pull happy the whole day and took advantage of that.”
South Carolina got an impressive start from Matthew Becker, who pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing 4 runs on six hits, fanning 7 and not walking anyone.
“Becker gave us a really good outing,” Kingston said. “The weekend starters for us this weekend gave us just what we needed.
“I told the team afterwards that I didn’t think we were pitching, playing defense or hitting at the level that it needs to be done to get to where we want to go at the end of the season. But this weekend, I thought our pitching and defense was at the level that it needed to be. Now we just have to get our hitting going.”
Arkansas, who had 10 hits, tied it 1-1 in the both of third when John Bolton doubled home Peyton Holt, who had singled.
The bottom of the Razorback batting order came up big again in the fifth when Caleb Cali singled, Holt doubled and Parker Rowland singled them both home for a 3-1 edge.
Cali’s RBI single in the sixth and Ben McLaughlin’s eighth-inning homer capped the scoring. Cali and Holt both had three hits each in an impressive showing for the bottom four hitters in the Arkansas order as they had 8 of the Razorbacks’ 10 hits.
“Yeah, that’s what I said out there,” Van Horn said. “After I congratulated Hunter, I said something like, ‘How about the 7, 8, 9-hole hitters today?’ And the team kind of erupted.
“They did a great job. And Cali was hitting sixth today, I think. He also ended up with three hits. But the end of the order did it for us today.
“That’s what you’ve got to have. A lot of time…The big boys up top, they can’t do it all the time. You’ve got to get some help, and our lineup seemed a little longer today than it had been in the last few days.”
Arkansas, who visits Vanderbilt Thursday through Saturday to close out regular season, is 30-4 at home this campaign.
“It doesn’t matter where you play, you have got to have a good team,” Kingston said. “They play really good defense and they take good at bats. So that is number one. And then they have 10,000 people here behind them and I think they feed off the crowd.”
Becker agreed with his coach.
This fan base definitely cares a lot about baseball and it is really apparent,” Becker said. “I would say that it is pretty tough, very fun and love to do it every weekend.”
Photo by John D. James