Mario Hollands Has Been Gaining National Recognition

April 8, 2010

UCSB left-handed pitcher Mario Hollands, who was an All-American as a freshman, has been receiving plenty of well-deserved attention this season. The junior has been a two-time Big West Pitcher of the Week, has earned two National Pitcher of the Week awards and tied a school record with 16 strikeouts earlier this season.

Check out some of the articles written on Hollands below.

By MARK PATTON NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER

April 8, 2010

One bad comebacker last year has led to a better one this baseball season for UCSB junior Mario Hollands.

The Gauchos' lefthander might be pitching somewhere in the Minnesota Twins organization now if not for a ball that that struck one of his own in a very sensitive area during a game at UC Davis exactly a year ago this Saturday.

"At the time, I was on the fence about 50-50 on turning pro," Hollands said.

And then the Aggies' Ryan Scoma smacked the ball that sent Hollands to the hospital, putting his stellar sophomore season on a downward spiral - and bringing him down off that fence.

"No question, it was a big setback for him," UCSB coach Bob Brontsema said. "That's a substantial deal, especially the way it happened. I mean, he never even saw it. So yeah, it made him a little gun-shy.

"But he obviously has turned the page, as far as this year goes. I think it's one of the reasons he decided to come back."

Hollands, the Big West Conference Freshman Pitcher of Year in 2008, was headed for greater things before last year's injury. He had a 4-2 record and an earned-run average of 3.86 while working on a shutout at Davis before Scoma's fourth-inning hit.

"I remember that it was Easter weekend, right after the start of league play," he recalled. "It was a long bus trip back."

It was a long rest of the season, too, with his record and ERA faltering to 6-6 and 4.74.

But Hollands has put the mishap behind him, entering Friday night's Big West opener at Cal Poly with a 2-2 record, 3.00 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 42 innings.

"Well, I wear a cup now - that solves a lot of problems," he said. "On a hard-hit ball back to me, I still have a little flinch. I do that even when I'm not playing, and I see a ball come back to the pitcher.

"But now I wear my cup all the time, which I would recommend for every pitcher of any age. So it's really out of my head now."

The Twins, considering both the injury and Hollands' desire to get a college degree, selected him in only the 24th round of last year's MLB Draft. He said no to all their contract offers.

"I'm going to graduate this year, which was a goal of mine when I first signed my letter to come here a couple of years ago," said Hollands, who is majoring in sociology and minoring in history. "I'd take that degree over any money that would come my way this year, if I'm lucky enough.

"I have to be prepared after baseball is done."

The Twins sweetened the deal following a summer in the elite Cape Cod League in which he went 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, but Hollands still said no.

"So many guys have left here with offers that weren't as good as Mario received," Brontsema said. "It was an extremely wise decision for him to stay, and he knew that.

"He had some leverage. He's still young. Everything pointed to him coming back. He's taken that next step which I think is going to really pay off for him come draft day."

Hollands, who won't turn 22 until Aug. 26, used the offseason to bulk up his 6-foot-5 frame, and he has the strikeouts to prove it. He tied a school record by whiffing 16 batters on March 12 in an 8-1 win over Northern Illinois.

"His fast ball has picked up velocity," Brontsema said. "Last year, he was 87-to-89 mph. Now he's 90-to-93. You're going to pick up a few more strikeouts in that situation, especially with his ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes.

"You can't sit on anything. You have to start a little quicker with a guy who's throwing harder, and that makes his other stuff better."

But Hollands still adheres to the teachings of "Bull Durham" catcher Crash Davis, who told pitcher Nuke LaLoosh that strikeouts are "boring" and "fascist."

They're also taxing, Hollands said.

"You have to throw more pitches to get them," he said. "I'd rather get all ground balls and no strikeouts because I can last longer."

A week after his Northern Illinois gem, Hollands struck out 13 New Mexico State batters before watching the bullpen blow his big lead in the final three innings of a game that UCSB eventually won 10-9. He didn't second-guess the decision to remove him short of the record, however.

"I'd thrown a lot of pitches by the time I got the 13," he said. "When you're out there, you know when there's been a lot, but you're not counting. At least I'm not."

Hollands already has a lot of fond moments as a Gaucho, including his one-hit, one-walk, 10-strikeout shutout against Loyola Marymount a month before his injury. But his best memory has nothing to do with pitching.

"It was (Brian) Gump's grand slam to beat Cal Poly two years ago," he said. "That was just great, because they're our rival. That's one I'll never forget.

"Graduation will be up there, too, when it comes."

Brontsema has coached several major league pitchers including Barry Zito, Justin Lehr and Virgil Vasquez, and he believes that Hollands can graduate to that level, as well.

"He has all the makings of a star, but it goes beyond his talents," he said. "It's his personality, his sense of humor, his charisma. It lights up the room.

"He's great with youngsters, he's great with older people and his teammates love him. You could put him in any room or any setting and he'd be the guy who stood out."

Hollands doesn't even have bad thoughts about UC Davis' Ryan Scoma.

"It might just have been a blessing in disguise," he said. "I've been able to come back and finish out school and try to help the team win one more year."

Hollands, after all, can put a positive spin on a baseball, and just about anything else that comes his way.

Mark Patton's column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. E-mail: mpatton@newspress.com


Tuesday, March 23, 2010 By John Zant, Santa Barbara Independent

In his last 15 innings on the mound, Mario Hollands has decorated the scorebooks with a certain symbol. To wit: KKK-KK-KK-K-K-K-KK-KK-KK and K-KKK-KKK-KK-KK-KK.

UCSB's junior left-hander amassed a school-record 16 strikeouts in a complete game against Northern Illinois, an 8-1 Gaucho victory, and he struck out 13 batters in six innings of work last Saturday against New Mexico State. The Gauchos were leading 7-1 when Hollands came out of the latter game. They ended up winning 10-9 after the bullpen almost blew it.

Although the numbers make Hollands look like the second coming of Sandy Koufax, that is not his intention. "I'd rather get groundouts because it saves my arm," he said, "but I'll take the outs whatever way they come." It is telling that his favorite pitcher is Tom Glavine, a 300-game winner who lasted for 22 seasons in the majors. Burnout is not in his game plan. "We have to take care of his arm," said Gaucho pitching coach Tom Myers.

Hollands' next outing will be Friday, March 26, when UCSB begins a three-game series against the visiting University of San Francisco. His starts have brought professional scouts, armed with radar guns, to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. "His fastball has been hitting 90 to 92 mph," Myers said. "It's deceptive. It's jumping out of the strike zone."

Hollands was chosen in the 24th round of the major league draft by Minnesota last June. He chose not to sign and spent the summer pitching in the Cape Cod League. "There are no easy outs there," he said. "Every team has about five first-rounders."

He entered his junior baseball year with more bulk on his 6′5″ frame. He now puts about 220 pounds of force behind his pitches. "Also, his delivery is more in sync," Myers said. "He's made subtle adjustments that have allowed him to have better command of his fastball. He used to throw hard early and lose it. Now his last pitch is as hard as his first."

After Hollands handcuffed New Mexico State's heavy-hitting lineup, the extent of his mastery became evident. Against 10 subsequent UCSB pitchers, the Aggies racked up 32 runs in 21 innings. The visitors posted a couple dozen runs to win the last two games of the series, 12-7 and 12-5. Head coach Bob Brontsema and Myers have two weeks to whip the pitching staff into shape before the Gauchos slam into the brutal Big West Conference.

The rest of the staff gets no criticism from their ace. Myers describes Hollands, who hails from the Northern California East Bay town of El Cerrito, as "kind of a laid-back guy. He's got no ego. His teammates love him. You get sometimes those No. 1 starters who can't be with their teammates. They ostracize themselves because of their attitude. That's not Mario. Mario's well liked, well respected. He's a complete kid. He's a great kid. He's become a man."


By Aaron Fitt, Baseball America
March 25, 2010

Under The Radar

Mario Hollands, lhp, UC Santa Barbara

Hollands has shown flashes of his significant potential over the last two years, going 13-9, 4.25 with 110 strikeouts and 63 walks in 172 innings, but inconsistent command and underdeveloped secondary stuff caused him to slip to the 24th round as a draft-eligible sophomore last June. But the junior has turned a corner in 2010, going 2-0, 1.93 with 36 strikeouts and 11 walks in 28 innings through his first four starts.

Hollands was utterly dominant two weeks ago against Northern Illinois, tying a school record with 16 strikeouts in a complete game victory, while allowing just one run on five hits and two walks. Then last week against New Mexico State, the nation's highest-scoring team, Hollands struck out 13 over six strong innings, allowing just a run on four hits and three walks. As soon as Hollands left the game, the Aggies rallied for eight runs over the final three innings, but the Gauchos pulled out a 10-9 victory.

"The last two weeks at home he's been 90-93, sitting at 90, and he threw a nine-inning game against Northern Illinois and pitch No. 130 was 91," UCSB pitching coach Tom Myers said. "His slider has been 84-85, there's late life on the ball and it's jumping out of the strike zone. He has a changeup, and he uses it, but because his velocity is up--the one thing he does very, very well is he pitches extremely well in on righthanded hitters. He keeps righthanded hitters very honest. He can put his slider on the back foot, and it's usually an out pitch to lefties.

"Before his big velocity increase, he pitched a lot with his changeup the last couple of years. I foresee that being a great equalizer as we get into Big West competition."

Improved secondary stuff is a big reason for Hollands' early success this year, but he also has worked hard to get stronger and improve his stamina. In the past, Hollands lacked physicality and struggled to hold his velocity. But he is beginning to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame; though he's still listed at 205 pounds, Myers says he now weighs 220. Some mechanical adjustments also helped.

"He's worked hard in the weight room," Myers said. "His experience in the Cape Cod League the past two summers--he didn't flash the same velocity up there, but he showed the ability to pitch. He was pitching anywhere from 85-88, but I think he learned mentality-wise that he was as good as anybody out there when he located his stuff.

"He's come back and ironed out some things in his delivery--he's shortened his arm stroke. Scouts in our area were always concerned because he had a wrap in the back, and the wrap is for the most part no longer there now, and I think it's quickened up his arm. The strength, mentality and minor mechanical adjustments, now you're seeing a kid who's hitting his stride as a college pitcher."

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