Coach Discusses Cubs' Third Pick

The Ole Miss Rebels' aspirations of reaching the College World Series for the first time since 1972 fell short earlier this week, but it wasn't because of junior right-handed starter Mark Holliman. The Cubs' third overall pick in this year's draft recently spoke to Inside The Ivy; now we hear from his head coach at Mississippi, Mike Bianco. (Free preview of premium content.)

Holliman pitched four innings last Saturday night and picked up a no-decision as rain halted play in game one of Mississippi's best-of-three Super Regional with Texas. The Rebels went on to win a completed game one the following day, but fell in both games two and three to end their season.

Holliman, a native of Germantown, Tenn., finished his junior season at Mississippi with 120 strikeouts to become the school's all-time single season strikeout leader. For his career, he fell just one strikeout shy of the school's all-time record of 282.

"He was our ace all year," said Bianco, who concluded his fifth season as Ole Miss head coach on Monday.

"It's amazing, even as a freshman and sophomore, how many Friday night's and big games he pitched for us. He won a state championship out of high school (in 2001), so he has always been a winner. As a competitor, he's got a good pro mentality. He's not real emotional. It's hard to know if he's winning, or losing, 5-0."

In Holliman's repertoire you'll find a four- and two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. He typically averages 90 mph, at times reaching 95-96, with the fastball and has the usual command of off-speed pitches to compliment it. That arsenal helped lead Holliman to a career 21-14 record at Ole Miss in three seasons.

"His stuff is just explosive," Bianco said. "As a pitcher, it's tough to average 90 mph or better. A lot of pitchers will say they throw 90, but it's tough to get a guy to average that all throughout the course of a game the way Mark has. He's going to throw a good curve in the mid 70's, a hard slider in the low 80's and a good changeup. He's got four true pitches."

In addition to his Tennessee state high school championship and the university's all-time season strikeout record, Holliman's other accolades and recognitions include first team all-conference in 2004, and 2005 third team preseason All-America by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

"He's built differently," Bianco added. "You'll see him playing catch a day after throwing 120 pitches. He works better on short rest. This year, he threw 101 pitches on a Friday (vs. Arkansas, May 20) and came back on four days rest to pitch a great game against a good Alabama team. Physically, he can do things like that, whereas some guys can't. He's got a very live arm and is very athletic. He can also run and hold runners well."

Defensively, Holliman reminds Bianco of Cubs starter Greg Maddux, a 14-time Gold Glove winner.

"The way he fields his position and moves around is similar in comparison," said Bianco. "Mark is different in the sense that he'll throw harder, but he's built very much the same. He's not overly imposing out there, but when you look at him and compare him to some of the other, bigger right-handers, there's not much difference."

Asked to name one weakness or an area where Holliman could improve, Bianco said:

"It would be tough right off-hand. Like everybody, there's times when his mechanics get away from him. But he was voted by SEC coaches going into this year as the pitcher with the best control. It's tough at our level to be too critical.

"He's been super dominant here, and I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Read more Q&A's and player interviews with draft picks and Cub prospects by clicking HERE.

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