Holliman having superb season for Smokies

PEARL - Say what you will, red and blue are two colors that work well for Mark Holliman.

The Germantown, Tenn., product reached All-SEC status while throwing three years for Ole Miss and is now suiting up in the same color scheme as an All-Star for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. Holliman has come a long way already, but the work is not complete, not until he witnesses the ivy firsthand as a Chicago Cub – and yes, they are red and blue too.

Holliman returned to the state where he played college baseball on Monday for the Southern League All-Star game and signs that he was walking amid allies were evident from everywhere.

Most players not affiliated with the hometown Mississippi Braves had an easy time of going unnoticed as they walked down the leftfield line before warm-ups, but not so for Holliman. The young right-hander was stopped multiple times by supporters for both congratulations on his solid season and to simply say hello.

This was before introductions, but those too signaled that Holliman wasn't far from his former homefield. His ovation was second only to the record-nine Braves players involved.

"It's awesome the way it's worked out," Holliman said. "You can tell there are a few fans (in Pearl) from Ole Miss when we were here and that definitely adds to it. It makes it a little more exciting to be able to play around home."

Holliman followed the applause with a seven-pitch inning where he retired the South All-Stars in order. He allowed a bloop single before coaxing a double play and a groundout to third base. The radar gun signaled 88 for the velocity on Holliman's fastball, but that isn't what makes him dangerous.

"He throws four pitches for strikes so that is what makes him tough," said Matt Craig, who is a teammate of Holliman and a fellow All-Star. "I think it's rare," Craig said. "I think you probably see more of it in Triple-A. I haven't been to Triple-A, but I think it's definitely rare here. You can tell he has a knack for pitching. That's the best way I can describe it."

That knack has led to a superb resume-building season for Holliman. The Smokies standout has twice been named the Southern League Pitcher of the week with one of those coming after his no-hitter against the Huntsville Stars.

"It was one of those things where I just went out there and pitched," Holliman said. "Then the fifth or the sixth inning rolled around and I thought I had something going and I was able to finish it up. That was real exciting. It is just anther thing you can look back on, and it goes on your resume."

Holliman noted that a complete lineup and depth are the two major differences between college and professional baseball.

"There aren't easy outs anymore," Holliman said. "You have to work for every one, and that is what makes it so important to throw multiple pitches for strikes."

Holliman noted that his no-hitter was the first since "before high school," and that it rivals one particular outing he had as a Rebel.

"My favorite memory would have to be against Arkansas in 2004," Holliman said. "It was the last home weekend, and I faced only the minimum, 27."

The masterful performance he spoke of was a 1-0 win where he allowed three hits in a complete game effort. The Razorbacks were able to get only three balls out of the infield.

Holliman does his best to talk to former Rebel teammates, but free time isn't easy to come by. He did speak with Will Kline soon after Kline was drafted this past June.

Holliman is currently sporting a 2.82 ERA as he continues his climb toward Major League Baseball. The next step up would be the Iowa Cubs in Triple-A or possibly even straight to Chicago.

Either would be a lighter shade of blue, but why not, every assortment of the colors have worked well so far.

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