'That one was for Mama': Hollan lifts injured mother's spirits

Arkansas pitcher Hunter Hollan (left) and his mother Kimberly pose after a 2023 game in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Kimberly Hollan watched her son pitch a complete game in the rubber match of a top-10 SEC series Sunday, just not from the seat she imagined. 

She is in the first of at least 12 weeks bound to a wheelchair after she broke her leg in a freak accident at her home in Hallsville, Texas, on Monday. It required surgery that night and a two-day hospitalization in nearby Longview. 

She was on the mind of her son, Hunter, as he pitched arguably the best game of his life on Mother’s Day. The left-hander set season highs in innings, strikeouts (10) and pitches (113) to lead third-ranked Arkansas to a 5-1 victory that clinched its series over seventh-ranked South Carolina.

Hollan retired 19 consecutive hitters at one point. He gave up 5 hits and 1 walk, and pitched the first 9-inning complete game by a Razorback against an SEC team since Dominic Taccolini's 10-inning start at Kentucky in 2016.

“That one was for Mama,” Hunter Hollan told SEC Network after the game. 

Later, he said his parents would have been in their seats in Section 105 at Baum-Walker Stadium if not for the accident. It occurred when his mother was run over by his dog, a yellow labrador retriever named Bella who lives at his family’s home.

According to Kimberly's account, she stepped outside to tell the dog to stop barking and to offer a piece of cheese as a treat. When she did, 90-pound Bella was running from their other dog, a 65-pound husky, and hit her going full speed. 

“I was on a hill in the yard and when they hit me I got the blunt force of those two dogs to the knee,” Kimberly said. “It snapped my leg on impact. When I fell, it snapped my arm.”

She had to crawl inside her house to call for help. In the 45 minutes between the injury and when help arrived, she said she passed out twice. 

“I pulled myself up on my car and when I looked down I kept trying to put my foot on the ground and it wouldn’t work,” she said. “My leg was flopping and I realized my leg was shattered, so I fell back down and passed out.”

She said she broke her tibia in her left leg and her humerus in right arm. Hunter said the surgery required eight screws to be inserted in her shoulder. 

“The doctor who happened to be on call was the chief of orthopedics, which was a good thing,” Kimberly said. 

Hunter has been dealing with his own leg injury in recent weeks, which made his outing against South Carolina more noteworthy. He struggled the previous two weeks against Texas A&M and Mississippi State with a combined 7 2/3 innings in games the Razorbacks won. 

While frustrating at the time, he said the shorter outings in those starts might have been beneficial as he threw so many pitches against the Gamecocks. 

“It definitely played a huge part in it,” he said. “As much as I’d rather have done a little bit better at Mississippi State, it was probably good that they did take me out just to rest. We did a ton of treatment this week and it feels great.”

His injury has been said to cause symptoms like shin splints. He provided more detail after the game when he said a nerve is causing numbness below the kneecap on his plant leg. 

“I’ve just had to learn how to pitch a little differently,” Hunter said. “I lift my leg up and ride the mound. I can’t feel myself really pushing off, but it’s something that is getting better. We keep putting fluid in it trying to get the nerve back where it needs to be.” 

His mother said she was proud of his outing, knowing what he has battled. 

“It was super special,” she said. “It’s been a rough week. Not being there was really hard. Not to see him pitch like he did, especially battling a leg injury, it was just a big moment for him and all of us.”

Kimberly said her son is good at ignoring external factors. When he is on mound, she said all of his focus is on his catcher, Parker Rowland. 

“He’s really good at blocking everything out and just pitching,” she said, and added, “Hunter is only as good as his catcher. I don’t know if a lot of people know, but Parker calls that game. Parker called an unbelievable game for our son. I think he should get just as much credit.”

Given the setting — Arkansas’ win preserved the team’s one-game lead over Florida in the SEC with three games to play — and the opponent, the outing was maybe the best of Hunter’s career. Other games that stand out in his mother’s mind are a 17-strikeout performance as a freshman and a perfect game as a sophomore while pitching for San Jacinto (Texas) College. 

Before every start, Hunter’s mother, father and sister send him text messages that offer support, encouragement and words of motivation. He doesn’t interact much on those days, he and his mother said, but he reached out to Kimberly before his start Sunday. 

“He sent me the sweetest text this morning really early that said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you and I wish you could be here,’” she said.

“I wish they were here so she could hug my neck,” Hunter said afterward.

The consolation was watching the game broadcast, which was supplemented by text messages she received from several of the parents who were there. 

“My phone has been blowing up,” she said. “They have been sending me pictures. They all videoed Hunter finishing the game.

“We were all yelling and cheering at the TV, and crying. I was so glad they let him come out and finish the game.

“It was icing on the cake for that to happen on Mother’s Day.”