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Holt’s energy burst impacting Diamond Hogs down the stretch

BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

FAYETTEVILLE – There are many ways to describe Arkansas baseball player Peyton Holt with spark plug, ball of energy, human highlight reel or just flat out baller being a few of them.

Holt, a former Greenwood two-sport star, ascended to Razorbacks’ lead off batter on Friday and Sunday last weekend and responded by going 4 of 8 with a game-winning homer and three RBIs.

There was also the acrobatics in the outfield that Holt, who batted eighth in one game and was 5 of 11 overall in the last three games, has come to be known for the second half of this season.

“He might not be your typical leadoff that’s going to sit up there and waits until he gets the perfect pitch to hit,” Van Horn said. “It may be three pitches or five, if he gets something he likes, he’s going to take a swing at it and I’m good with that.”

Holt is likely to be at the top of the lineup once again this weekend as No. 2 Arkansas (42-10, 19-8) visits No. 5 Texas A&M (42-10, 17-10) for a three-games series beginning Thursday night at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.

A win on Thursday night with Arkansas southpaw ace Hagen Smith (9-0, 1.53) on the mound at Blue Bell Park will hand the Razorbacks the SEC Western Division title.

The Aggies, who will send out left hander Ryan Prager (8-1, 2.71) in the opener, must win Thursday, Friday night at 7 (SEC Network) and Saturday at 2 p.m. (SEC Network) to wrest away the championship from the Razorbacks.

Holt, who is batting .325 with four home runs and 18 RBIs, was not starting on a consistent basis until Van Horn decide to plug him into an outfield needing some offensive punch.

“Peyton has been very patient with us, didn’t get off to a great start,” Van Horn said. “Moving him around, he was a great teammate. When he got his shot, he didn’t give it up and we wouldn’t be where we are without him. Obviously we need him big time going forward, he’s very valuable.

He’s definitely been a spark plug the second half of the season. He was that guy we were looking for. Somebody that could come in and bring a little energy to the lineup and beat you with a swing, but also, he’s been beating people with his glove.”

The injection of Holt, a legendary prep quarterback at Greenwood, into the line up has had positive ramifications per Van Horn.

“He’s got some personality,” Van Horn said. “I made the comment to the team before the season, I didn’t know what our personality was. I wanted to see some personality, so I think Holt has brought that to our team.”

That personality was on full display Sunday when he arrived at second for a hustling double and did the Heisman Trophy pose.

While Holt did that some on the high school gridiron, it was his first time on the diamond and was spontaneous.

“Yeah, that was, I’ve never thought about doing that,” Holt said. “I caught my helmet and I was holding it like football and I was like I’m just gonna do the Heisman pose.”

Arkansas catcher Hudson White, who was 5 of 12 with two home runs and 6 RBIs last weekend, notes that he and his teammates love watching Holt in action.

“Yeah, we joke around about it in the locker room,” White said. “He’s like a walking highlight reel. It’s like everything he does ends up going viral but he’s a spark plug for sure. [He]  always brings good energy and I’m just glad to have him on our team.”

Not only does Holt provide a lead off spark, but also gives Van Horn a chance to push Peyton Stovall down from the top spot.

Stovall (.339, 9 HR, 37 RBIs) has been sizzling at the plate lately and Van Horn wanted to put him in position to bat with more runners on base.

“Yeah I like him up there,” Van Horn said. “We’ve been trying to figure out a way to get Stovall down in the order whether it’s two or three, drive in some runs. We just needed somebody to be on base. Nine-hole guy, one-hole guy, two-hole and it looks like Holt is going to be fine there.”

Both White and Holt are looking forward to the series at Texas A&M.

“I think it will be a really fun challenge for us playing a really good team on the road,” White said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about what we do. If we play the way we should, if we take care of our business, then we’ll count them up at the end.”

Photo courtesy of Razorbacks Communications

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