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College Baseball: UAFS hires new baseball coach

UAFS director of athletics Dr. Dustin Smith announced Thursday that Cameron University coach Todd Holland has been hired as the new Lions head baseball coach.

Holland, who is a native of Crystal, Minn., succeeds former Lions baseball coach Dale Harpenau, who resigned in May to pursue other career opportunities after 16 seasons as head coach of the Lions.

“Todd will be a great addition to the baseball program at UAFS. He has been an NCAA Division II coach for 11 years and will bring that level of expertise with him to campus,” Smith said. “I expect Todd to build upon the great baseball tradition we have here at UAFS. Todd is a guy that will make UAFS proud, and he and his family will be heavily involved in our campus and the community.”

Holland becomes the fifth head coach in the history of the program – Shelby Breedlove (1963-64), Lawrence “Squeaky” Smith (1965), Bill Crowder (1966-1998), Dale Harpenau (1999-2014).

“He has huge shoes to fill, and he knows that. We have had two head baseball coaches in the past 49 years. I know this process was a little lengthy, but we had to find the right baseball guy. I believe we did,” Smith said. “I have absolutely no doubt that Todd will continue the great legacy that coach Crowder and coach Harpenau have started. It is an exciting day for UAFS Lions baseball.”

This will be the second head coaching position for Holland, who compiled an overall record of 304-251 during 11 seasons at Cameron. Cameron competes in the NCAA Division II’s Lone Star Conference.

“I’m excited about the opportunity” Holland said. “When my wife and I came to Fort Smith, we were up in the air a little bit, but once we stepped foot on campus, it was great. The campus is beautiful and the people are nice. It’s an excellent place to recruit to. I’m excited because a lot of good things can happen here and have happened here.”

The 38-year-old coach inherits a program that will begin its sixth season of NCAA Division II competition – fourth as an active member. Since becoming active members of Division II, the Lions appeared in three consecutive Heartland Conference Tournaments, finishing as high as runner-up in their first season of eligibility in 2012.

This past spring, UAFS finished 25-26 overall and 14-16 in the Heartland Conference. As the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, the Lions lost consecutive games to eventual tournament champion and No. 1 seed St. Edward’s and No. 3 seed Newman.

“Coach Harpenau did a good job with the program,” Holland said. “This is a place where you can go to the next level. We’re going to invest time and effort.”

Over the past 11 seasons, Holland turned Cameron into one of the premier and most-respected programs in the South Central Region. In 2011, Aggie Chase Larsson was named the Rawlings National Player of the Year after belting 29 homers in 49 games in an Aggie uniform.

In the 2010 season, Holland led the Aggies to a 29-19 mark and an upset over No. 18 ranked Angelo State. He also coached Thomas Dicker and Alex Lyons to an Academic All-Conference honor. Lyons and Logan Grimes captured All-Conference honors, while Nate Valdez and Lyons were named All-Region.

“Todd is a very high energy guy. He has a motor that just goes constantly all day long. His energy is contagious, and he is very eager to get to Fort Smith and get invested in the baseball program, the university and the Fort Smith community,” Smith said.

“Todd is a tireless recruiter and has worked hard to develop those players. He has coached the NCAA Division II National Player of the Year and has had multiple players drafted during his time at Cameron. The most important thing to Todd is not just wins and losses, but that his players graduate and take care of business in the classroom.”

Holland was selected to succeed longtime Aggie head coach Ron Ihler in the summer of 2003 after spending the previous season as Ihler’s assistant coach. He served the 2004 season as interim head coach and was officially named the head coach of the Cameron baseball team following a 2004 season, which produced the Aggies’ first winning season in more than a decade.

Holland followed that successful debut with another winning season in 2005, earning Co-Lone Star Conference North Division Coach of the Year honors in the process. In his first two years at the helm of the Aggie program, Holland directed several individuals who have received postseason recognition, including 2005 All-America honorees Derrick Mihecoby and Greg Patton.

Holland rejoined the Aggie program in 2003 after spending time in uniform as a player and assistant at Cameron from 1997-99. A career .400 hitter in two seasons with the Aggies, Holland currently owns Cameron single-season school records for total hits (80) and doubles (25). As a senior with the Aggies in 1998, he hit .428 and had a slugging percentage of .743, earning second team All-South Region and first team All-Lone Star Conference honors.

In his first season as the Aggies’ head coach in 2004, Holland guided Cameron to its first winning season in more than a decade, finishing with a 26-19 record while competing in the extremely competitive Lone Star Conference North Division. Five Cameron players earned all-conference honors that season, including first team All-LSC North selections Steve Clark and Allen Mitchell.

“I’m a high energy guy,” Holland said. “I want the players to stay involved. My motto is ‘one pitch at a time’. I’m not a rah-rah guy, but I want players to be involved in every step of the game.”

Holland and his wife Jennifer, who served as Cameron’s Vice President of Student Services, have two daughters, Rylie and Carsyn, and a son, Cooper.

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