Actually Holder only swung once; on the first pitch offered. He made good contact and grounded smartly to shortstop. "Anybody get a time on Holder running to first base?" Coach John Cohen asked. "I told him not to run full speed, he said Coach I only know one speed."
This was obviously untrue. Holder had already shown two speeds with his pitching. Entering with two outs in the top of the eighth and bases full of Grambling State runners, the sophomore blew two fastballs past the batter, another out of the zone, the next fouled-off…then came with a slow curveball that left Tiger Brandon Kiser flailing.
Holder returned to strike out the ninth-inning side as well and preserve Mississippi State's 2-0 victory over the visiting Tigers. The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 while Grambling left 0-4 after giving the home team almost all they could handle.
"They were a good team, put together well," said Holder. "The defense did well tonight and the offense scored a few runs." And of course the pitching notched a second-straight shutout with six MSU moundsmen having a hand. Holder, having struck out all four he faced in 1.1 innings, earned a second save on the young season. And, got that first college at-bat. Which was more fun?
"Probably getting a save! But it was really cool getting to swing."
Getting a victory was at least as cool to starter Brandon Woodruff. The sophomore righty had worked through a tough preseason after late-fall work on his elbow. So Tuesday was a key test of how fully Woodruff has recovered, and how soon he can become the expected factor in Bulldog rotation plans.
"It was great," he reported. "It was I think the third time I've seen hitters since beginning of fall. And this is one that counted." Woodruff made the opportunity count by matching his freshman-longest stint with 6.0 innings. He was touched for five hits and a walk but struck out eight Tigers, including all three in the fifth frame.
"It was important for Brandon to have a quality start and I thought he did that," Cohen said. "I thought it took him about 25 pitches to get in attack-mode, in the bottom of the zone. He did a great job with that."
Woodruff's results were a bit mixed initially. He had a strikeout each of the first three innings but was also hit a couple of times. Good defense helped avoid hard, especially a fine catch by RF Hunter Renfroe in the late afternoon sunshine. And Woodruff helped his own cause in the fourth after a leadoff scratch-single, by picking the Tiger off first base.
"I was getting a lot of swing-and-misses on my changeup," Woodruff said. "So that was definitely the pitch for me tonight."
Grambling starter Brock Baker was no slouch himself, limiting the Bulldogs to the two runs on just four hits over 5.1 innings. If not for two timely base knocks this could have turned into a really intense evening at Dudy Noble Field.
Fortunately State got a second-inning run as 1B Alex Detz walked and was bunted-over by 2B Brett Pirtle. With two outs LF Demarcus Henderson singled in the runner. The other tally came in similar fifth-inning fashion. 3B Daryl Norris singled his way on and this time Henderson had the successful sacrifice. With two outs, CF C.T. Bradford singled into centerfield for the 2-0 margin that would hold up.
"He wasn't overpowering, it was something we hadn't seen," said Henderson of Baker. "He was a slow guy and a lot of guys were out-front not staying back. But it was something we needed to see."
Woodruff had to strand a pair of Tigers in his fourth. In the sixth he plunked one and was hit by another for runners on corners. Elias Todman made contact but 2B Brad Pirtle got over for the snare and flipped with his glove to SS Adam Frazier to start the double-play.
Baker was out of gas by the sixth so righthander Derrick Murray (no relation this side of Scotland) took over and ran-out the rest of the game with a hit, two walks, and two strikeouts.
State made its own move for the top of the seventh, giving Myles Gentry got the ball and the 2-0 lead. He nailed his first batter though, and a successful sacrifice had Grambling putting a lefthanded batter up in the RBI situation. So State called Bradford in for the left-on-left match…and the Tigers changed again with righthander Korey Hall.
Bradford still struck him out, then returned to centerfield so Preston Brown could ground-out the bottom of Grambling's order. Brown got an out into the eighth by fielding a bunt-hit attempt, but a walk and single of the two-three batters had Tigers on corners again. Lefthander Ross Mitchell got the call.
He also got off the mound quickly as Longoria dumped the bunt in front of the plate with Juan Bueno already running. Mitchell gloved-flipped to Slauter as the runner arrived. "We're screaming in the dugout one-one-one because we don't care if that guy scores, we want the second out," Cohen said. "Ross' momentum is taking him to the plate so we took that."
Ump Terrance Mobley hesitated before signaling out to understandable Tiger disbelief. They still had a chance to make something of the inning as a walk loaded the bases. Holder foiled it. "Preston set me up, so it was a good situation. It could have been less baserunners but you've got to come and get them anyway."
Because Bradford had made that back-and-forth move, it meant when DH's slot was up an out into the eighth pitcher Holder was allowed to bat so he could keep on pitching. He might have grabbed a bat even before the leadoff man that inning.
"I was kind of laughing," Henderson admitted. "But then most people were oh, Holder hit in the fall. He always wanted to bat."
Cohen wanted his regular batters to do it better than they did this day. "Runs were at a premium. I didn't think we had really good at-bats. But for the most part we got hits when we had to. Demarcus had a big hit, C.T. had a big hit. And we made some plays."
The Bulldogs will have to make a lot more plays in the weekend ahead. State is hosting the Diamond Classic sponsored by Polks Meats, with Samford and Purdue participating. The guests meet at 2:30 Friday before MSU takes on Purdue at 6:00.
Saturday brings a 3:00 rematch with Samford, the squad which beat the Bulldogs twice last June in the Tallahassee Regional. State plays Purdue again at 6:00, then ends the weekend at 2:00 Sunday with another Samford matchup.