Some may choose left field, right field, second base or even catcher. Holberton, a junior from Charlotte, N.C., has played all of those positions since arriving at North Carolina.
In fact, Holberton has started in three different positions already this season. He has started in left field 21 times, in right field twice and at catcher once. Holberton also started over 20 games in both of his first two seasons as the designated hitter for the Tar Heels.
“I’ve pretty much done it my whole life growing up,” Holberton said following UNC’s 7-5 win over Liberty on Wednesday night. “I always wanted to play and I guess anywhere they’ll put me I’ll play.”
Holberton mostly switches between left and right field during games yet one position change that stood out for him was in the Monday night game against Clemson on Apr. 1. He was given the task of catching RHP Mason McCullough, who is known for slinging heat.
This was no April Fool’s joke from Mike Fox and the UNC coaching staff. They expected Holberton to handle it and he did just that even though he couldn’t resist finding a bit of humor in the whole situation.
“It’s funny, I came out of the game and I looked at (Michael) Russell and I was like, ‘I feel like he’s throwing the ball 100’,” Holberton said. “And Russell goes, ‘It hit 98.’ So he was literally throwing it 100 mph.”
Holberton’s duties took another turn when UNC leadoff man and starting centerfielder Chaz Frank was injured in the final game of the Clemson series. With the leadoff spot open, Holberton was tabbed as the guy to fill that integral role.
“Holby was kind of the obvious choice for us to plug in up there,” Fox said. “He looks at the ball really good. He’ll take his walks and doesn’t strike out a whole lot.”
Holberton’s versatility once again paid dividends.
“[I’m] ust trying to fill his shoes right now, so it comes back to taking a little different approach,” said Holberton. “Trying to get on base more and trying to hit the ball and see a few more pitches.”
Holberton showed why he is such an ideal fit in Wednesday’s contest against Liberty by hitting a solo shot in the third inning to knot things up at 1-1. He drove in another run to stretch the lead to 6-1 in the sixth with a line drive RBI single into right field.
Holberton is hitting .323 on the season and is currently third on the UNC roster with five home runs. He is behind All-American Colin Moran, who has eight dingers, and Skye Bolt, who has sent six sailing deep. Not bad company for the Charlotte, N.C. native.
Holberton’s efforts have earned praise from his head coach.
“I don’t know what he’s hitting since we put him up there about four games ago, but his on-base percentage is really good,” Fox said. “I’ll have a decision to make when Chaz comes back.”
Holberton’s versatility will next be on display this weekend as UNC travels to Blacksburg for a Coastal Division series with Virginia Tech.