Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

June 14, 2013

GC BASEBALL: Corsicana pitcher, Grounds, named All-Golden Circle MVP

Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — He got his first name from a soap opera and his middle name from a rodeo cowboy who rode bucking bulls, but there’s nothing overly dramatic or rollicking about Holden Lane Grounds, a baseball-first kid who is an ace on and off the mound.

Grounds comes right at hitters with a repertoire that includes a biting fastball, bending curve improving changeup and a ton of humility — and he throws all of them for strikes.

He’s a coach’s dream.

“He’s one of the best kids I know,’’ Corsicana High baseball coach Heath Autrey said. “I’m proud of him more as a person.’’

But Grounds is quite the player.

If you played against him this season the odds are you struck out — at least once. And he probably beat your team.

That’s Grounds, a four-year starter at Corsicana who capped off a brilliant career with another dazzling season, a season that earned him The Daily Sun’s All-Golden Circle MVP in baseball.

You like numbers?

Grounds has ’em.

He went 11-1 this season with a 0.93 ERA and his strikeouts-to-innings-pitched ratio was mind-boggling. He struck out 109 batters in just 68 innings while giving up only 27 walks. He pitched seven complete games, hurled four shutouts and took the ball in every big game for the Tigers.

He also hit .463 with a homer and 20 RBIs and he scored 25 runs.

He had similar numbers as a junior and went 20-3 over his last two years at Corsicana, striking out 212 batters.

“He just dominates,’’ Autrey said. “He gets ahead in the count with strike one and after that, he just has them eating out of his hand.’’

Aaron Cantu, a senior who played left field for the Tigers this season, said he was just glad he didn’t have to face Grounds.

“I would be scared if I was going against him,’’ Cantu said. “He has guys moving out of the way of his curveball. Most of the time he’s unhittable.’’

 Grounds was named to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4-A first-team all-state team this week. Grounds made the third team last year .

“That was one of my goals, to make the first-team,’’ said Grounds, who was a slam-dunk choice to make it. He has already decided to pitch for Navarro College next season, but has aspirations to pitch for a major Division I program. He turned down a scholarship offer from Texas State.

“He wants the opportunity to pitch for a Big 12 or SEC team,’’ Autrey said. “I think he’ll have that opportunity.’’

Well, the SEC team would be Texas A&M. That’s where Holden’s older brother, Hayden, went to college. Hayden is the biggest reason Holden fell in love with baseball.

Holden started playing T-Ball when he was 5 and never wanted to leave the diamond.

“I started playing catch with my brother in the backyard,’’ Grounds said. “He played baseball so I wanted to play baseball. Hayden played second base for some real good teams at Corsicana. I wanted to be like him.’’

It was love at first strike for Holden.

“I’ve always loved baseball. It’s what I started with and it’s all I play now. I play year-round and don’t worry about any other sports,’’ said Grounds, who plays on a traveling team and is on the diamond most of the year. He made that choice when he was 13.

He was playing for the Waco Buzz traveling team when the Houston Bandidos picked him up to play in a tournament at Disney World. The trip to Florida sealed the deal.

“That’s when I realized this is what I want to do,’’ Grounds said. “That’s when I started thinking about playing in college.’’

He suffered a shin injury his freshman year, but did get to pitch for the Tigers that season. He has been rising since.

“He dominated when he was a sophomore,’’ Cantu said. “He’s an athlete and a hard worker. He pretty much lived in the weight room.’’

That was Grounds’ M.O. — pound the weights and pound the strike zone.

“He’s got a great work ethic,’’ Autrey said. “He put in hours and hours and hours in the weight room to get bigger and stronger and to build his shoulder up. I’m really proud of the way he has grown up and matured.’’

Grounds came to grips with his own reality at a young age and devoted himself to getting better.

“My sophomore year I decided that I wouldn’t be able to pitch on just my God-given ability and that I would have to put in the extra work to get where I wanted to be,’’ he said.

Everyone who has followed his career saw the difference in Grounds as he kept climbing the ladder and mowing down batters.

“His fastball is at 87 to 90, and he has a plus breaking ball,’’ Autrey said. “And he saw a lot of improvement in his changeup this year. He used to throw it only to left-handers, but now he can throw it in any count. There’s no question about it, he’s the best pitcher in the area. He’s a high-character kid. I couldn’t be prouder of him.’’

If you want to know the kind of kid Grounds is, just look at a couple of games he pitched over his career at Corsicana. Everyone in the program remembers his no-hitter against Waxahachie in the playoffs last year, and Autrey will never forget his gutsy and courageous outing against Hallsville in the playoffs.

Grounds gave up three runs early, and Corsicana was in trouble, down 3-0 when the rains came. There was a two and a half hour rain delay and it looked like the Tigers would have to go to the bullpen. But Grounds defied logic and told Autrey he could pitch.

He did, slamming the door on Hallsville and not allowing another run as Corsicana came back to win the game.

“I just felt I had to do it for my team,’’ Grounds said. “I didn’t have the best outing, and felt like I had to get back out there and pitch the way I usually pitch.’’

Grounds’ out pitch is his humility. It’s genuine, and it helped carry him his entire career.

“I never wanted to come off cocky,’’ he said. “I know you have to be confident, but I just feel like you should be judged on what you do on the field and not what you’re talking about.’’

He smiles when talking about the origin of his name.

“My mother named me for some guy in a soap opera, and my middle name comes from Lane Frost, the bullrider from the movie ‘8 Seconds,’” Grounds said.

He admits in the back of his mind there is that dream of pitching in the big league, but Grounds is wise enough to throw one pitch at a time and not get ahead of himself. The goal now is to have success at Navarro. Grounds takes a strong arm and a 3.8 GPA from Corsicana, where he cherished every minute of his high school career.

“I look at it as a blessing,’’ Grounds said. “I loved it. I had a great career and I had two great coaches, Billy Harlan and Heath Autrey, and I learned a lot from both of them as well as assistant coach Brian Nolen. I learned a lot and I feel they helped me mature over the last four years.’’

 That’s the way Grounds walks off the mound at Corscicana, mixing pride with humility as easily as he mixes his pitches.

“He’s leaving here as one of the best pitchers to ever pitch here, and we’ve had some good ones,’’ Autrey said. “We have good kids. We have good players and we have good students. He’s all three. He’s a guy who left his mark on this program.”