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Holub turns in amazing season for Tigers

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

At Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, Maddie Holub was a four-time all-state player and set a bevy of Kansas records, including career marks for hits (164), RBIs (127) and earned-run average (0.26). Her senior year, she broke single season state records for batting average (.695), hits (164) and threw 74 consecutive no-hit innings, also considered a state record.

However, Holub wasn't sure she could be a standout player at the collegiate level, too.

"Honestly, I didn't know that I had the capability," she said.

Erin Kinberger, in her first year as Fort Hays State University's head coach and the Tigers' former assistant, quickly interjected.

"She is delirious," Kinberger said. "I knew it from the day she tried out."

Kinberger was right.

Holub's strong bat speed and pitching arsenal that includes her famous devastating rise ball have made her one of best in NCAA Division II -- and arguably the top all-around player in FHSU history. Holub has the chance to join catcher Jessika Anastos (2008) as the only All-Americans since the Tiger softball program resumed in 1999.

"Now that I am there, I want to keep working up the ladder," she said. "It's a great feeling. I feel like a lot of hard work has been put in place."

This season, Holub paced the Tigers to a 31-19 record and third-place finish in the MIAA. Fort Hays ended its season at the MIAA conference tournament Friday.

It ties the best finish by a Tiger softball squad in their six-year MIAA history and is the second-best winning percentage by the softball program since 1999.

Kinberger called the right-handed Holub "absolutely hands-down" the MIAA's best pitcher and one of the nation's top all-around players. Holub did lose out the MIAA Pitcher of the Year award to Missouri Western State University's Jackie Bishop, but earned first team all-MIAA honors as a pitcher.

She ranks in the top-five in the country in strikeouts, hits allowed per seven innings and saves and finished the season with a 19-9 record, 1.62 ERA, four saves, 306 strikeouts against 60 walks and a .161 opponents' batting average in 195 innings.

The strikeout total is a Tiger school record -- the previous mark was 190 by Kayla Rupa -- while the saves and win total also set a school single season mark. While most teams had a consistent No. 2 pitcher, Holub had to carry FHSU's pitching staff. Junior Kaitlyn Shattleroe and freshman Abby Morrison finished a combined 12-10 with a 5.93 ERA.

"I get kind of jealous because she is a ball-hog sometimes," senior second baseman Taylor Nelson said with a smile. "It's nice. The energy and the presence that she brings - she is spreading it on to our other pitchers and they are getting it. It's a good feeling."

As well, Holub led the team in virtually every offensive category, including average (.361), on-base percentage (.408), slugging percentage (.589), homers (10), RBIs (31), hits (57) and second in runs (36).

For her career, Holub carries a .354 average with 27 homers and 104 RBIs. She is 48-27 with a 2.39 earned-run average and 629 strikeouts. Holub holds several career school records, including homers and strikeouts -- and will likely break multiple others in 2013.

"I didn't know coming in how I was going to compete at this level and being at the top has been a lot more than I ever expected," Holub said.

At TMP, Holub played for Alan Billinger, known for his intense style and coaching acumen that produced two state softball titles and one in basketball. Holub said Billinger "made her skin a lot tougher." That has helped her thrive under Kinberger, known for her strong-willed demeanor, too.

In her first two seasons, Holub often dominated, but had lapses when she gave up big innings. As a freshman, Holub had eight appearances where she allowed four earned runs or more. As a sophomore, Holub had four seven-inning contests where she permitted four earned runs or more.

This year, Holub had three non-conference outings before March 4 where permitted seven earned runs apiece. After that, Holub had one outing the rest of the year where she allowed more than two earned runs -- that came when she permitted three earned runs against Missouri Western on March 30.

"I have the capability of bringing my 'A' game every time," she said. "If I lack anything, it's a little bit of mental focus, lapses every now and then, but throughout my three years being here, those lapses have decreased a lot. I have improved a lot mentally and gotten a lot mentally tougher this year than the last few seasons. It's just something with more experience that you just work your way through."

In conference play, Holub was especially dominating with a 7-3 record, 1.12 ERA and .128 batting average against. She pitched a no-hitter versus Northwest Missouri State University on April 17, part of a stretch of seven outings where she allowed one earned run. Holub collected National Pitcher of the Week honors for the week of April 16 to 22.

"I feel like throughout the year I have been pretty consistent," Holub said. "These last couple games, I think I have come out, just brought my 'A' game and where at the beginning of the year, there were a couple games here and there that I felt a little short, wasn't completely on the top of my game. I have felt a little bit more focused these last couple of games, knowing, preparing, getting into conference, and I think it showed."