Prep Baseball & Softball

August 11, 2014

O'Fallon's Holba commits to East Carolina

Coming off a 6-0 junior season for O'Fallon High last spring that included a 1.28 earned-run average, right-hander Chris Holba managed to continuing enhancing his recruiting chances this summer with the St. Louis Pirates.

Showcasing a fastball that occasionally hit 90 mph and pitches with lots of natural movement, Holba received several attractive scholarship offers before deciding on East Carolina.

"I definitely wanted to make my decision early," said Holba, who credited his high school and travel team programs for aiding his development. "I had a lot of offers early in the summer, but I definitely wanted to make my decision before the school year."

Holba also had offers from Missouri State, St. Louis University, Morehead State, Xavier, Coastal Carolina and Elon (N.C.).

"I really liked East Carolina after my visit, but I really couldn't have gone wrong either way," Holba said. "I feel like East Carolina's going to be a team that's in Omaha in a few years (for the College World Series), so it was an easy decision."

Holba's father is in the Air Force and the family has lived in several states and countries. He attended Wando High in Charleston, S.C., as a freshman before the family moved to the metro-east for his sophomore year.

"Sophomore year college baseball didn't really seem like a reality," Holba said, "but I chipped away and kept working and this summer I just king of broke through."

Pirates coach Rick Strickland was impressed with Holba's progress and ability.

"There's not many of those guys that walk the earth," Strickland said, noting the big strides Holba made since last year. "When he goes out there and dominates and pitches like he did this summer, a lot of eyes are going to be on him."

O'Fallon High coach Jason Portz said Holba has grown four inches since last year.

"He's really emerged with his arm strength and the velocity he was able to perform with," Portz said. "He was a kid that started to touch 90 mph in the summer season and that's just exceptional. To consistently touch 84-86 on a regular basis, coupled with all of his movement, he just became an exceptional pitching prospect in our conference.

"We always knew that Chris had that potential, it was a matter of him putting his command together and putting everything together at once."

Holba said the summer was a continuation of the progress made during the high school season with O'Fallon pitching coach Nick Seibert.

"Velocity picked up toward the end of the summer as I finally got into the 90s, but it was definitely a confidence thing," Holba said. "Getting some opportunities late in the high school season was huge and it was nice to carry it on."

While his father was stationed in Germany at Rammstein Air Force Base, Holba played on a base team that eventually reached the 2009 Little League World Series.

Even though the team was 0-3 in pool play, Holba made the ESPN Top 10 list on the day he hit a grand-slam against Canada to give his team the lead.

Germany eventually lost, but Holba got his moment on television.

"It was unreal, hitting a grand slam to make the score 11-10," he said.

The new head coach at East Carolina is Cliff Godwin, a former Mississippi assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Godwin was a catcher at East Carolina from 1998 to 2001.

"This will be his first year and he just came from Ole Miss," Holba said. I got a really good feel for him."

There were other factors.

"Obviously I wanted to play in the south, but it was more important to my parents and me to try to find the best fit," said Holba, who has lived in Germany along with Hawaii and several other states. "I've moved eight or nine times now, so it won't be too bad going to college."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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