By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
He’s been the talk of every Little League field the Knox County All-Stars have participated at this summer.
And after 11 games, leading his team to a 10-1 record along with the Area 2, District 4 and state championships, Knox County’s Tucker Holland continues to have a summer that he’ll never forget.
During Knox County’s impressive run to the Great Lakes Region Tournament, which begins Saturday, Holland leads his team with five home runs, 18 RBIs, a .520 batting average and 13 runs scored. On the mound, he’s been just as dominating, striking out 30 batters in 14 innings of work, while allowing only four hits and one earned run. Not to mention, he has a microscopic 0.41 ERA.
“He’s a gamechanger,” Knox County coach Scott Payne said. “Every ballpark around here knows who Tucker Holland is. He’s also a unique kid, a big, strong kid. You know, you see kids that are built like him, but he can move — he’s very fast.
“He’s the whole package,” he added. “He’s a very good baseball player. He’s a very good hitter and he’s a very good pitcher.”
One of the biggest things Payne sees out of Holland is how competitive he is.
“He’s one of the most competitive kids I have seen,” he said. “He wants to win so bad. All of these kids do. When Tucker steps out there, he wants to compete and do his job.”
So far, Holland has done a fantastic job hitting and fielding for Knox County.
He has 13 hits in only 24 at-bats and he’s also been walked nine times in 11 All-Star games this summer, which gives him an impressive .647 batting average. His 1.320 slugging percentage is unheard of.
“Tucker is just bigger, stronger and faster than most kids at this level,” Payne said. “He had a heck of a state tournament for us and when you play us, you’ve got to prepare for him.
“When he’s on top of his game, he’s very, very dangerous,” Payne added. “He just hits the ball so hard that even if it’s a routine grounder, it can end up as a hit. I’ve seen a routine grounder turn into a gap shot. He just has a presence about him at the plate.”
And, he’s just as dominant on the mound.
“He throws in the low 70s and he’s just hard to hit,” Payne said. “We saw it in the North Oldham game when we brought him in after they hit the (three-run) home run. He comes in and strikes out the kid and we’ve got the momentum back. That’s just what he does.”
Holland has garnered a 2-0 record with two saves during Knox County’s All-Star run and most of the games he’s pitched in haven’t come in starts, but there is a reason for that.
“I know a lot of people probably question me for that, but like I said, when he gets in, he gets the job done,” Payne said. “The momentum swung when we put him in against North Oldham. People also don’t realize the longer period he throws, the more he can wear down.”
There is also another thing Holland does well — he knows how to handle the attention he receives.
Even though he gets most of the publicity with his team’s success, Payne said he takes it in stride.
“The kids know the situation — he gets most of the hype, but they also realize what he has done,” Payne said. “He is a great teammate and he handles the attention well. He doesn’t put himself on a pedestal. This is a special team and he’ll be the first to say everything that we have accomplished is because of each player on this team.”