Head Of The Class When It Comes To Talent

FAYETTEVILLE -- By all accounts, Arkansas right fielder Chris Hollensworth came into his senior season with a fresh coat of confidence.

This country boy from southern Arkansas, who likes to hunt and fish in his spare time -- one of his proudest moments is catching an eight-pound bass in a farm pond in El Dorado -- is the ultimate outdoorsman.

He knows the difference between a smallmouth and largemouth bass without dental records, unlike some city folk.

Yet, Hollensworth, a 5-foot-10, 200 pounder, also has found a cathedral of comfort in Fayetteville where he's among the Southeastern Conference leaders in extra-base hits.

It could have been different if he'd decided to play small college football at Southern Arkansas University.

"I was looking at a roster of the team I signed with, SAU, a Division II team," Hollensworth said. "Even those guys were 6-4, 6-5 guys I'd be battling with.

"There's no way that was going to happen.

"So, I decided after my senior year of baseball, to try and pursue it.

"I'm glad I did."

Arkansas fans probably are glad, too.

Because he's hitting .322 with 2 home runs and 16 RBIs and a team-leading 17 doubles, the No. 10 Razorbacks (34-15 overall, 14-10 SEC) will need him when they meet No. 22 Ole Miss (31-18, 13-11) on the road, beginning at 6:30 p.m. today.

Arkansas is coming off a three-game sweep of Alabama in Baum Stadium with plenty of confidence.

And Hollensworth said his ballclub is equal to the task against another Top 25 team.

"We're feeling pretty good about ourselves after this past weekend," he said. "Still, we need to keep it rolling against Ole Miss this weekend. We have two conference series left (against Ole Miss and Auburn) and they are big, big-time conference series.

"We know we have to stay hooked up into the conference tournament and see where it carries us."

Welcome To Fayetteville
After two years at Texarkana Community College, Hollensworth showed up in a Razorbacks uniform last year and caught the attention of many with more-than tolerable statistics.

As a junior, Hollensworth started 23 games -- he played in 29, mostly as a designated hitter -- and hit .364 with 3 home runs, 9 RBIs and 3 doubles.

"Coming out of junior college, this is where I wanted to be," Hollensworth said. "I've always wanted to be here growing up and when the option came up, I wanted to take it.

"I came in here and wanted to get to work right away. Being a junior, I had to pick up what most people picked up when they are freshmen and sophomores.

"I tried to come in and put together two good years."

Again, by all accounts, it was mission accomplished.

This season, Hollensworth has started 39 of the 43 games he's played in with high praise from his outfield sidekicks, left fielder Jake Dugger and center fielder Craig Gentry.

"He's got a great arm," Dugger said. "His throws have gotten ... every throw he's made this year has been good, either been a one-hop or no hop.

"He's done a lot better this year from last year on getting good reads and tracking balls down.

"It took him a year to get the experience. He's a different player this year, covering a lot of ground, making his throws."

No where was that more evident than last Sunday in a 5-3 win against Alabama in Baum Stadium.

In the fifth inning, 'Bama right fielder Ryan Rhoden tried to score on a single, but Hollensworth threw him out at the plate.

Not a good idea.

"Hollywood is an amazing player," Gentry said. "He's solid in the outfield. He's got a great arm, he's fast.

"He knows situations, hitters and their tendencies. You have confidence in that guy.

"He's smart."

Making The Grade
Hollensworth graduated fourth in his class of 317 at El Dorado High, which is a pretty good barometer of what kind of student he was/is as he eventually enters an adult world.

He took his last final Wednesday -- one can bet his grade was way above C-level -- and he's only 18 hours shy of graduating from Arkansas with an accounting degree.

"Chris is a smart kid," said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn. "You don't have to worry about that."

How'd he get so smart?

"I don't know how much it is about being smart," Hollensworth said. "It's just about taking care of business and getting things done in school.

"It's like baseball, it's about putting in the work and being dedicated."

It's that dedication Van Horn liked so much that he had no problem giving Hollensworth custody of right field when this long season started.

"His career ... I think he's had a good career here, if you look at it statistically," Van Horn said. "Last year, he hit for a real high average then we platooned him, mostly against left-handed pitchers, which he's always hit well.

"This year, tremendous start. We didn't know if he'd be an everyday player but once we put him in the lineup, we couldn't get him out.

"I see him kicking it back into gear.

"He's struggled lately. He's had a really sore shin. He didn't have a great weekend this past week offensively, but he's still playing solid defense.

"Hopefully, he'll be 100 percent this weekend against Ole Miss and really, really finish strong, like he started."

Leaving one to believe his career may not end soon, either.

"Yeah," Van Horn said. "We've talked to (pro) scouts about him. He has a chance as a senior to go out and play and see how it goes.

"I really believe he'll have a chance to play pro ball."

That said, Hollensworth should have another coat of confidence for the future.

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