Jonathan Holder, MSU’s force out of the bullpen

(Stomp)

(Clap)

(Stomp)

(Clap)

You can run on for a long time

Run on for a long time

Run on for a long time

Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Standing 6’2” and weighing in at 230 pounds with a mane of curly, dark hair trailing onto his shoulders, Jonathan Holder is an intimidating sight on the mound.

QEYBBTWUIJLLEWF.20130420033555Just a sophomore, Mississippi State’s All-American closer is John Cohen’s near-guaranteed game-saver. Starting with his first appearance as a freshman and stretching all the way into his second season, Holder went his first 27-straight innings without giving up a single run. The 18-year-old was a star not just in the regular season, but in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional, after just finishing his first year of college.

Holder has no fear on the mound.

Striding out of the bullpen late in the game, Johnny Cash’s slow, deliberate tune ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ rings over Dudy Noble Field as Holder approaches his workshop 60 feet from home plate.

Go tell that long tongue liar

Go and tell that midnight rider

Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

“Jonathan Holder is like an artist at work,” Cohen said. “It’s just fun to watch. A club has so much confidence late in a ball game when Jonathan Holder is on the mound for you. You feel like he’s just gonna keep the other team from scoring.”

How Holder keeps the other team from scoring, how he cuts them down from pitch-to-pitch, is a surprise to everyone watching, often including the batter himself.

One pitch may be a 94 MPH fastball down the middle, the next an 75 MPH curveball starting in the sky and finishing in the dirt.

“It’s tough,” junior outfielder CT Bradford said of Holder’s curve. “I can see it from center, I’ve got a perfect view. It starts around their eyes and ends around their ankles. It’s a really good pitch.”

Good enough, at least, that a batter for Alabama struck out swinging in the 11th inning last weekend.

And he was trying to bunt.

“He really understands how to pitch off of his fastball and his curveball,” Cohen said, “and the two are so dissimilar that if you guess on one, you’re going to get destroyed by the other. When you get as many strikeouts as he’s getting on called third strikes, then you have somebody who is commanding the baseball, and he has two separate dominant pitches.”

Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news

My head’s been wet with the midnight dew

I’ve been down on bended knee talkin’ to the man from Galilee

He spoke to me in the voice so sweet

I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet

He called my name and my heart stood still

When he said, “John, go do My will!”

Holder’s game is more effective than most once he takes the mound, but it starts long before then.

His hair hasn’t been cut in over a year, adding to his already intimidating physical presence.

photoIn the bullpen, Holder looks more like an American Gladiator than a sophomore closer. Some guys pitch, some stretch, some wind their arms to get loose in the pen. Holder instead walks to the catchers’ end of the bullpen, clearing the area of any who could be in harm’s way.

A big smile on his face, he crouches down, grabs a medicine ball, then bursts upward and throws the ball as high over his head as he can, a watchful teammate standing 30 feet behind to secure the ball on its return to ground.

“That’s just a routine I’ve gotten into that I enjoy,” Holder said. “It gets you explosive and it gets you pushing off the ground.”

Go tell that long tongue liar

Go and tell that midnight rider

Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

Cash’s song rumbles through Polk-Dement Stadium, fans rise to their feet behind the outfield fence, scouts, reporters and opposing batters look to the bullpen gate, knowing who will walk out.

You can run on for a long time

Run on for a long time

Run on for a long time

Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

“I was trying to get something intimidating,” Holder said. “I know last year, I didn’t even hear my walk-out song I was so zoned in. This year, I can enjoy it a little bit while I run to the mound. That’s the way I try to work. It keeps me focused and it keeps me in the zone in everything that I do.”

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand

Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man

But as sure as God made black and white

What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light

Holder went on a stretch of just over 25 scoreless innings at one point this season, starting after SEC play began. Through 39 total innings in 2013, he has 70 strikeouts, nearly two Ks per inning pitched. On 29 of those strikeouts, the batter went down looking. Couldn’t even get a swing across.

“Any time in college baseball,” Cohen said, “you see a guy strike out almost two guys an inning, that’s a phenomenon. That’s incredible, especially within the Southeastern Conference, where he’s faced some very, very good hitters. What he’s doing is amazing. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this type of performance.”

Setting a single-season MSU record, Holder has 14 saves this year. The next closest person on the team has one. He’s even made long enough closing appearances to register two wins to go along with his 1.15 ERA.

You can run on for a long time

Run on for a long time

Run on for a long time

Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Sooner or later God’ll cut you downZTHHXZEAXWHNATT.20130216235302

“I’ve seen Roy Oswalt throw bullpens here in Starkville,” Cohen said, “and Roy of course at his best is one of the best in the big leagues, and watching his curveball, which at times can be 20 mph off of his fastball, it’s kind of a similar thing. That’s why he can really freeze guys. Jonathan has the ability to add and subtract with his fastball. You might see him throw an 89-mph fastball to one part of the strike zone, then throw a 93-mph fastball to another part of the strike zone. And then the same with his breaking ball. That’s what makes him special.”

Go tell that long tongue liar

Go and tell that midnight rider

Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down

Underneath the hair, the goatee and the jersey, Holder has two tattoos, one on the inside of each bicep. On the right arm, “In God’s Time.” On the left, “Fear No Evil.”

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down

On the mound, staring down batters, Holder fears nothing, and it shows.

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down

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3 Responses to Jonathan Holder, MSU’s force out of the bullpen

  1. 3rdand57 says:

    Reblogged this on 3rdand57 and commented:
    More great stuff from HailState Beat. This one is on Johnathon Holder who has been down right nasty this year. MSU definitely needs a big weekend from Holder and the entire pitching staff this weekend versus South Carolina to continue hosting aspirations.

  2. Jim Bob says:

    Good article. The only thing I would critique is that Holder actually gave up a run last year – in his last appearance in the Regional in Tallahassee. You could fix it by saying “regular season” innings.

  3. Pingback: Year in Review: The Best Moments of 2013 in Mississippi State Athletics | HailStateBEAT

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