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February 14, 2012

Colby right at Holmes as third starter

Colby Holmes is happy playing second fiddle on the South Carolina pitching staff.

Wait, make that third fiddle.

But when the two starters in front in the weekend rotation are named Michael Roth and Matt Price, one takes what one can get.

So, if that means Holmes is asked to become the third starter behind two of the finest pitchers in all of college baseball, he'll embrace that role.

"That's what I'm hoping for," Holmes said recently. "Just following those guys makes me strive to be even better. We have two great guys going on Friday and Saturday. I don't want to be a liability going on Sunday. I want people to say we have three guys who are pretty good. If we're all on, it can be pretty tough."

The 5-foot-11 junior from Conway compiled a 7-3 record with a 3.69 ERA in 18 appearances last season, with 77 strikeouts and 21 walks in 85 1-3 innings.

"I think I've done well enough and have enough experience from last season that I could possibly be the guy," he said. "Everything is feeling great. The body is healthy. I'm in good shape and the arm is feeling great."

Along the way, he started the biggest game of his career in the College World Series against Virginia. Holmes allowed just one run on four hits in 4 1-3 innings with seven strikeouts against the Cavaliers, sparking a 7-1 victory.

"I'm taking all the experience I can from last year and rolling it over to this year," Holmes said. "Hopefully, it will make me a better pitcher this year."

Holmes throws four pitches for strikes - fastball, curveball, slider and changeup.

"I really only started throwing my changeup last year," Holmes said. "I didn't really have that great of a changeup my freshman year. I haven't necessarily mastered it, but I got a good feel for it last year when I could throw it for strikes."

By fanning seven UVa batters, Holmes matched his career-high set earlier in the season against Tennessee, when he yielded just three hits in seven innings at Knoxville.

Holmes started three games in the 2011 NCAA tournament - Stetson (June 4), Connecticut (June 12) and Virginia (June 21), solidifying his status as a key component of the USC pitching staff.

Pitching coach Jerry Meyers confirmed Tuesday that Holmes will be the Sunday starter for the Gamecocks in the season-opening series against VMI.

"I've liked Colby Holmes for a long time," Meyers said on 107.5 FM The Game. "He has a great presence on the mound. Colby has been through the wars a little bit. He was on the mound the day we clinched the SEC regular-season title at Alabama.

"We couldn't have more confidence in Colby. He has to be consistent and there is competition just like there is throughout the rest of the staff. But I've always liked Colby and what he brings to the table. I think he will really compete for us."

Ray Tanner said recently that he wants to see double-digit wins from Holmes in 2012.

"He has to give us an opportunity as often as possible," Meyers said. "Can he do that? Is that possible? He won seven games last year and didn't start in SEC play until the third or fourth weekend. He is very capable of that (winning 10-plus games), but a lot of things have to happen and we have to be consistent in other parts of the game to make that happen. Our bullpen has to be solid."

In the first five weeks of the 2011 season, Holmes worked mainly out of the bullpen, making three appearances before starting a game against College of Charleston on March 22.

His ascent of the pitching ladder jump-started five days later, when he came out of the bullpen to hurl three scoreless innings at top-ranked Florida, a key stretch in USC's 4-3 victory in the rubber game. Holmes gave up just one hit with three walks and two strikeouts.

"Things really started clicking in my outing at Florida," Holmes said. "Everything went great for me from that point on. I went out there thinking that this was the number-one team, so if I could show the coaches I could do this, maybe they would have faith in me to be the guy to start on the weekend. I showed them I could pitch against top competition."

His freshman season in 2010 took the same path. He started out as a reliever before he became USC's top midweek starter over the course of six weeks as he compiled a record of 2-0 with a 5.33 ERA in 27 innings.

"I knew coming in that they wanted me in the bullpen," Holmes said. "But I had no idea that it would change from the pen to weekday starter that quick. The change made me want the weekend starting role even more. But I'm here to do whatever the team needs me to do. I'm not really seeking any specific role, just what the team needs me to do."

After that, the next six appearances for Holmes were starts against SEC opponents. He closed out the regular season with impressive outings against Arkansas (8 2-3 innings, six hits, one run, seven Ks) and Alabama (6 2-3 innings, four hits, one run).

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D. McCallum

South Carolina NEWS


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