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SMITH COLUMN: MSU's Holder does good job as a freshman

May 22, 2012


Nothing seems to rattle Mississippi State freshman pitcher Jonathan Holder.

Not even the big stage of the Southeastern Conference Tournament shook him up on Tuesday.

Holder entered the game with one runner on and one out in the eighth inning of the game between the Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

After issuing a walk, Holder recorded five-straight outs to preserve MSU's 9-1 victory over Arkansas.

It was a continued run of excellence out of the bullpen for Holder, who has yet to give up a run in 20 appearances.

Holder is doing a good job of holding leads.

"It's just so impressive for him as a freshman to shove those pitches into the strike zone with power," MSU coach John Cohen said. "I'm just so amazed what he's doing for us right now. We thought he might be a good pitcher for us in the fall, but the spring has been really magical for him."

The Bulldogs were up 3-1 when Holder got into the game and he sat in the dugout as his teammates scored six more times in the ninth to increase the margin. That enabled Holder to get an easy save, his seventh of the season.

Cohen was a little concerned about Holder going back out to work the ninth after sitting for a long amount of time, but with a 1-2-3 inning, those worries quickly disappeared.

"I'm proud of him," Cohen said. "Sometimes it's a negative when you have to put a freshman back out there after (scoring so many runs), but as time elapsed, he was set to go again."

Holder took care of the back end of a freshman starter-closer pair as Brandon Woodruff threw a two-hit, shutout for five innings. Another freshman Ross Mitchell did not give up a run in the 1 2/3 innings he worked.

Wes Rea, a redshirt freshman, hit a three-run home run to give MSU a 3-0 lead and Demarcus Henderson, another redshirt freshman, had two hits for the Bulldogs.

MSU's future appears to be in good hands.

Even though the contributions of the freshmen are a welcomed sight, Cohen warns that the things that happen in the postseason are still new to them.

"You would like to think that when you are deep in the year, those freshmen become sophomores, but you really have to finish the year," Cohen said. "They are freshmen still experiencing things for the first time."

The Bulldogs experienced a win in the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2005. They won the tournament with a 4-1 victory against rival Ole Miss.

Does MSU have another run in it this season? The prospects of that look pretty good with Chris Stratton and Kendall Graveman yet to pitch this week.

It's going to be a tough challenge today against top-seeded LSU, but the Bulldogs have already proven they can have success against a ranked team during this four-game winning streak by sweeping Kentucky.

As the days count down to the end of May and the postseason heats up, don't count out anything as far as MSU is concerned.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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