Holliman Does it All

PEARL, Miss. – Cubs pitching prospect Mark Holliman couldn't have scripted his return to the Magnolia State any better.

A right-hander that spent his college career just up the road at Ole Miss, Holliman tossed eight strong innings on the bump Saturday evening for Double-A Tennessee at Mississippi's Trustmark Park. He allowed only a walk and two hits, striking out five in his eighth start this season.

"He was executing the same things he had thrown in the seven other starts," said Tennessee manager Pat Listach.

For Holliman (6-1), that means fastball, curve, slider, change.

Holliman, who leads both the Cubs' farm system and the Southern League with a 1.17 ERA, felt he had his best all-around outing of the season.

"It probably was," Holliman said after Saturday's game. "My stuff tonight was really working. The main thing was that I was able to throw all of my pitches for strikes, and that's always my main goal in between starts."

Holliman carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning before yielding a slow-rolling one-out single up the middle to Braves reliever Francisley Bueno.

Through his first five innings, Holliman had thrown only 46 pitches.

He topped out at 89 mph and was consistently 84-86 mph with his fastball throughout the night. Holliman also had his off-speed pitches working.

Such was the case in the sixth when he used his 12-6 curveball to get Braves shortstop Brent Lillibridge swinging for his third strikeout of the night. He also used an effective changeup to keep hitters off-balance.

Solid pitching wasn't all that Holliman provided, either.

In the second inning, he sent a 1-2 pitch from Braves starter Lance Cormier out to deep left field to cap off a four-run Tennessee inning. Cormier was making a rehab start for Atlanta's Double-A affiliate.

The rest was all business for the 23-year-old Holliman, who had retired 16 consecutive hitters until Bueno's fluke single.

"He had good command of his pitches and was able to throw them wherever he wanted to," catcher Chris Robinson said. "As a catcher, it's pretty easy to call a game and keep guys off balance on nights like these."

It's been a storybook first half thus far for Holliman, a native of Germantown, Tenn. Prior to his first loss of the season on Monday, he had won five consecutive starts and had posted a 0.44 ERA through his first 41 innings.

Holliman doesn't plan to slow down any time soon.

"It's inevitable that you're going to lose a game," Holliman said following his only loss this season. "But you put it behind you and move on."

Tennessee (21-20) won Saturday, 6-1. They trail first-place Huntsville (21-19) by a half-game in the Southern League's Northern Division.

NOTES: Casey McGehee stretched his hit streak to four games Saturday with his second two-hit showing of the season. Since coming down from Triple-A Iowa, he's recorded a hit in nine of 13 appearances between catcher and third base ... Jake Fox cooled off slightly with a 0-for-4 performance at the plate Saturday. Entering the night, Fox had 16 hits over his last 24 at-bats to raise his average to .367 ... First baseman Brian Dopirak was sent to Class A Daytona on Thursday to get more at-bats, Listach said. Dopirak was batting .218 in 21 games with Tennessee, and was recently plagued by a sprained thumb.

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