Confident Holmes staying loose
One day before his biggest start of the season, South Carolina right-hander Colby Holmes was at the Gamecocks' practice at Creighton University -- riding around on what can best be described as a tricycle from the circus. Needless to say, Holmes -- best described as the now-cliched "bulldog" on the mound, with his long glare towards home and stocky frame -- is loose. Holmes has been here before. Often overshadowed by staff ace Michael Roth and closer Matt Price, for much of the last two seasons, Holmes has been the guy head coach Ray Tanner has turned to, to start the third game of three-game SEC series -- and close them out with the Gamecocks on top. The bigger the moment, the better Holmes seems to be. Holmes rides the tricycle at the Gamecocks' practice. Photo courtesy CollegeBaseball360.com via Twitter @CB360updates. "He's comfortable now that he's one of our top guys on the mound and he's been around a little bit," Tanner says. "He's gotten a little bit older. He goes out and gives it his best effort. He competes. He's very comfortable as you saw here today. He's very relaxed. He's going to go out and give it all he's got and that's all you can ask for." Holmes admits he wasn't as loose last year when he made the first College World Series start of his career -- also the Gamecocks' second game in Omaha. In that game, against Virginia, Holmes gave up just an earned run and four hits in 4.1 innings of work before giving way to John Taylor in a 7-1 South Carolina win. While the short outing didn't allow him to pick up a win, he did put his team in a position to win. "Last year, coming in, playing in the big environment, it was kind of nerve-racking at first," Holmes said. "Then I settled in and it was just a normal game after that." After struggling in his lone start at the SEC Tournament, Holmes has been near perfect in the NCAA Tournament. Given the honor of starting the Columbia Regional opener, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and would have likely thrown a complete game had a lightning delay not cut his outing short after he completed eight scoreless inning and struck out a career-high nine batters. In the Super Regional against Oklahoma, Holmes pitched five scoreless innings and again surrendered just a lone hit before a rain delay ended his night. Combined in the tournament, Holmes has pitched 13 scoreless innings and has given up just two hits while striking out 12 and walking two batters. "I have a lot of confidence. My last two starts my stuff has been working," he says. "Fastball's been down for strikes. Slider's been working. I've been using my change-up a good bit. I know if I just keep things rolling the right way, everything's going to work out." The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Holmes admits he expected to get drafted in the MLB Draft earlier this month, but he just looks at it as another chance to prove the experts wrong in a program that has built it's foundation on pitchers who aren't "special" or "6-foot-5" as Holmes says. "It's a good feeling. I like to fly under the radar and then come out big. Just flying under the radar all year, then getting to come out and throw the second game and show them what I can do, is something I've been wanting to do." Like most of the players in Tanner's program, Holmes has learned that there's a time to have fun in order to stay loose and also a time to get serious. "I saw (the tricycle) last year in the little garage, so I decided just to hop on it and have some fun, then Coach Meyers told me to stop messing around -- so I hopped off real quick." Holmes is loose, but tonight against Arkansas, it will be time to get serious again.