Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Razorback Baseball Notebook: Heads-up Holt, 2 Hogs match Todd
Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt (24) celebrates after successfully faking a 6-4-3 double play and instead throwing out LSU designated hitter Hayden Travinski (not picutred) at third base, Thursday, May 25, 2023, during the sixth inning of the Razorbacks’ 5-4 win over the Tigers at the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex in Hoover, Ala.
HOOVER, Ala. — The University of Arkansas’ new middle infield combination of second baseman Peyton Holt and shortstop Harold Coll — starting because of injuries to Peyton Stovall and John Bolton — teamed with third baseman Caleb Cali for an unconventional double play to snuff out an LSU rally in the Razorbacks’ 5-4 victory on Thursday night at the SEC Tournament.
With Arkansas leading 5-2, the Tigers got singles from Hayden Travinski and Tre’ Morgan to start the sixth inning, but they didn’t cut into their deficit.
Jordan Thompson hit a ground ball to Coll, who fielded the ball and flipped to Holt at second base for an out.
Rather than to first base, Holt threw to Cali at third base behind Morgan. Cali tagged out Morgan when he took too big of a turn toward home plate.
“We’ve never actually worked on that play,” Holt said. “It’s just one of those things you keep in your back pocket, especially as a second baseman.
“You know you’re not going to get the guy at first, and [getting the out at third base] was just something that I knew that I could do. I did it, and it worked out. It was really big for us.”
Holt, a redshirt junior from Greenwood, has started the past 11 games in place of Stovall, who is out with a season-ending shoulder injury.
“I thought that Peyton Holt made a super smart ,heads-up play on the double-play ball,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “He knew he couldn’t get that double play at first, ball was hit in the hole a little bit, and he spun and made a perfect throw.
“Heads-up play by Cali being there at the bag waiting, and I think that really slowed [LSU] down.”
Coll is starting at shortstop because Bolton is recovering from an ankle he suffered at Vanderbilt last week. Bolton may be able to return for an NCAA regional next weekend.
Arkansas’ 17 strikeouts against LSU — 9 by Hagen Smith and 8 by Hunter Hollan — tied the team record for an SEC Tournament game.
Jess Todd struck out 17 on May 24, 2007, during a 6-0 victory over South Carolina in Hoover.
“To me, the story was our two pitchers,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said of Smith and Hollan on Thursday night. “I thought they did a great job.
“Between the two of them, we didn’t have to field a lot of balls. They struck out 17 guys and we fielded all the other ones.”
Smith threw 49 strikes on 76 pitches and Hollan threw 56 strikes on 86 pitches.
“Getting strike one is probably the biggest thing, and I think that’s something that me and Hagen both did pretty good,” Hollan said. “Once you get strike one, it kind of opens up to where you can pitch a little bit — and you have to against a lineup like that.
“You can’t get behind often because they’re not going to miss.”
The Razorbacks’ record for strikeouts in a game is 18, which has been set six times, most recently in 2021 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Arkansas has never had more than 17 strikeouts against an SEC opponent.
Tough to beat LSU
Arkansas had lost its past six SEC Tournament games against LSU before beating the Tigers on Thursday night.
The Razorbacks beat the Tigers in Hoover for the first time since a 4-1 victory in 2013.
“I had no idea,” Arkansas Coach Dave Horn said. “It’s nice to win the game.”
As usual at the SEC Tournament, LSU fans dominated the crowd.
“There were a lot of LSU people here,” Van Horn said. “We saw it when we drove up. They were standing out there with a lot of purple. We’re used to it.
“Yeah, it’s great to win the game. To me, it’s not all about all the other stuff. It’s about playing good today and let’s try to win today and advance.
“That’s the way I coach our team. I don’t like to rah-rah a whole lot. I want our guys to have fun, but I don’t want it over the top because you’ve got to play again shortly, and there’s a good opportunity to play them again.”
Arkansas will be off today, then plays at noon Saturday against the winner of today’s LSU-Texas A&M game.
“Looking forward to playing on Saturday, whoever it is,” Van Horn said.
Arkansas is 41-77 all-time against LSU, including 3-8 in SEC Tournament games and 3-7 in Hoover.
Wednesday’s outcome gave Arkansas its 22nd victory that is classified as a Quad 1 win in the Ratings Performance Index, according to WarrenNolan.com.
No other college baseball team has as many Quad 1 victories. Vanderbilt ranks second with 21.
For a win to be considered Quad 1, it must be at home over a team ranked 1-30 in the RPI; at a neutral site against a team ranked 1-50; or on the road against a team ranked 1-75.
Arkansas moved to second, behind Wake Forest, in the RPI with Thursday’s victory, according to the website. RPI is a key metric considered by the NCAA Tournament selection committee for seeding.
Make it a dozen
Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens had a single in the fourth inning Thursday as part of a five-run rally, extending his hitting streak to 12 games, and finished 1 for 4. Slavens is 19 for 49 (.388) during his streak and has raised his batting average from .269 to .299.
Tigers by the tail
In two games against LSU, Arkansas pitchers Hunter Hollan and Hagen Smith have combined to allow 7 runs and strike out 32 in 19 innings.
That equates to 3.3 runs and 15.2 strikeouts per 9 innings.
According to the Twitter account @FridayStarters, LSU has averaged 9.6 runs and 8 strikeouts per 9 innings against all other pitchers.
Johnson on Arkansas
Second-year LSU Coach Jay Johnson heaped praise on Arkansas’ program during an interview with the SEC Network prior to Thursday’s game.
“When I came over to LSU, I viewed Arkansas as one of the teams we had to catch back up to,” Johnson said. “Nobody has recruited better in college baseball than Arkansas, and that’s very reflective in their roster.”
Johnson had history with the Razorbacks before taking the LSU job. He faced Arkansas twice as Arizona’s coach — a 3-0 victory over the Razorbacks at the 2017 Frisco (Texas) College Classic, and a 1-0 loss to Arkansas in San Diego in 2018.
Johnson has a 2-5 record against the Razorbacks since taking over at LSU.
Turning 40 again
Arkansas picked up its 40th victory of the season when the Razorbacks beat Texas A&M 6-5 in 11 innings Wednesday.
It was the 26th time since 1979 Arkansas has won at least 40 or more games, and the 14th time in the 20 full seasons the Razorbacks have played under Coach Dave Van Horn.
Arkansas was 11-5 in 2020 before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Razorbacks’ high for victories is 51, achieved three times under Norm DeBriyn in 1985 (51-15), 1987 (51-16-1) and 1989 (51-16).
Arkansas’ most victories under Van Horn were in 2021 when the Razorbacks finished 50-13.
Texas A&M’s pitching staff threw its second 1-hitter in three SEC Tournament games when the Aggies beat South Carolina 5-0 in an elimination game in Thursday’s opener.
Aggies starter Justin Lamkin, who went seven innings, combined on the 1-hitter with Chris Cortez and Matt Dillard.
The Gamecocks’ only hit came on an infield single by Will Tippett in the fifth single.
Texas A&M pitchers Troy Wansing and Evan Aschenbeck also combined on a 1-hitter when the Aggies beat Tennessee 3-0 on Tuesday.
Wansing had a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings before Christian Scott hit a single to right field.
Arkansas had eight hits — including a grand slam by Jared Wegner and game-winning home run by Kendall Diggs — in beating Texas A&M 6-5 in 11 innings on Wednesday.
Back in 1987
Arkansas was still five years away from playing its first SEC baseball season the last time there were back-to-back walk-off victories in the SEC Tournament prior to Wednesday.
On May 14, 1987, Auburn scored two runs in the ninth inning to beat LSU 9-8 and Mississippi State scored four in the ninth to beat Georgia 6-5.
Arkansas beat Texas A&M 6-5 and Florida beat Alabama 7-6 on Wednesday with both games going 11 innings. Kendall Diggs hit a game-winning home run for the Razorbacks and BT Riopelle hit a game-winner for the Gators.
Florida catcher BT Riopelle homered twice during the Gators' 6-3 victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday to bring his total to three home runs at the SEC Tournament.
Riopelle hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to give Florida a 2-1 lead, then hit a grand slam in the seventh to give the Gators a 6-2 lead.
Riopelle had 10 home runs in 52 games prior to the tournament.
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