Bases loaded, with the game on the line and big-time implications at stake. That is what sophomore closer Jonathan Holder has become quite accustomed to. The young flame thrower from Gulfport, Miss., has taken the responsibilities in stride. One season removed from becoming one of the most successful freshman relief pitchers in the country, Holder says that the physical tools aren’t what are most important to his and the staff’s success. "Coach (Butch) Thompson really works on our mental side of our game and what to do in those situations," Holder says. "We’re ready to pitch physically, but he really preaches mentality and what we do on the mound."
Put the physical and mental skills together and you get a consensus freshman All-American pitcher. He began his MSU career in the first series of the season against Washington State by retiring both batters he faced. From there, nothing would change as he would continue to dominate the opposing lineup and eventually work himself into the closing role on the team moving pre-season All-American closer Caleb Reed to the setup position.
"Caleb Reed sat there all through the fall and into the spring teaching Jonathan how to get into a routine," Coach Butch Thompson says. "Any closer in America, Jonathan Holder would have beaten out last season. His work ethic and his routine are more solid than anyone we’ve got and the other pitchers are just trying to keep up."
Holder would go on to be the most efficient closer in school history breaking the MSU record for consecutive innings without an earned run (27.1) only to see it snapped in the final game of the season giving up just one earned run in his 28.1 innings (0.32 ERA) striking out 30 batters in that span.
But what was most impressive about his season numbers is that the freshman did his best mound work in conference games against some of the best competition in the country. Holder was seventh in the SEC in saves (9) with five of those coming in conference play. And a late-season push by the strong-yet-young bullpen pushed the Bulldogs towards a remarkable five wins in six days in Hoover, Ala., and an SEC Tournament Championship.
Holder relieved Bulldog pitchers in four of MSU’s tourney games earning three saves and an SEC-All Tournament Team berth. So with a strong group of returners that are a year older, what does Holder think of this year’s hurlers?
"We’ve got a bunch of good guys," Holder says. "A bunch of guys that can throw hard, some guys that can manipulate the ball and put it where they want it, we’ve got just about anything that we can ask for and now we’ve just got to put it all together."
Hard work and a will to win runs through the blood of Holder and the rest of his Bulldog brethren, and just the taste of success isn’t enough to quench their thirst. If things do indeed begin to be brought together, the Bulldogs are in for a special 2013 slate.