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Michael Holdsworth '19 Switches Commitment to Pitt

By Joe Ginley '12 , 06/13/19, 4:15PM EDT


The last couple of weeks have been wild for Michael Holdsworth.

The senior guided the Wildcats past the Regional Semifinal and Regional Final on May 30 and May 31. Holdsworth played a major part in helping the Wildcats to the State Semifinal for the first time since 2013.

Then Holdsworth saw a curveball on Monday, June 3. Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad stepped away from coaching, vowing to spend more time with his family, after a colleague told him he wished he could have been there more often to see his children grow up.

A few days later, Holdsworth played an instrumental role in guiding the Wildcats to a thrilling State Semifinal win and a dramatic State Championship on Sunday, the second in the program's history. 

And on Wednesday, Holdsworth decided to become a University of Pittsburgh Panther.

Holdsworth's college journey began way back in August 2017. Holdsworth committed after an excellent sophomore season and before the start of his junior year at Saint Ignatius. One of the best baseball programs in the country, Nebraska seemed like a natural fit for one of the Wildcats' best. 

Holdsworth remained committed to the Cornhuskers, and excited about playing for Nebraska. Then the news about Erstad broke on June 3.

"When I heard about Coach Erstad, I was shocked and nervous," Holdsworth said. "It's logical for anyone who's committed to a school to be nervous when the coach leaves. It was especially tough timing, the last thing I needed before States. But I thought, 'Everything happens for a reason. There has to be a reason.' Just 30 minutes later, my dad called me and told me that Pitt showed interest." 

Nebraska's coaching staff released Holdsworth from his commitment as a result of the news, allowing him to talk with other schools. Pitt's coaches told Holdsworth that they would be in attendance to watch him play in the State Semifinal on June 7 at Akron's Canal Park. 

For some players, that would be nervewracking. But Holdsworth didn't allow it to distract him.

"For me, it was about not focusing on one thing and realizing that this was a bad thing, but actually an amazing opportunity," Holdsworth said. "Number one, I have the chance to play for a state title for the first time. Number two, I have a college already interested. I saw myself in a blessed situation. I knew if I sat and worried about pleasing coaches instead of having fun, I wouldn't enjoy it as much. I knew I was a lucky situation with an amazing opportunity. I just wanted to have fun playing baseball."

Wildcats fans sweated plenty over the two-game, 23-inning stretch, but Holdsworth had plenty of fun.

The senior showed why he's one of the best. On Friday, hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in the top of the 13th, drew two walks, and tabbed a hard-hit ball to center. The Pitt coach saw a good portion of the game, but had to leave before Holdsworth's heroic RBI sac fly. 

After the game, a Pitt assistant coach called him and offered him a scholarship, as long as Holdsworth enjoyed the campus and the school during a visit. 

On Sunday, Holdsworth completed his Saint Ignatius career on the highest of notes with a state title. Holdsworth hit 2-for-4, doubling in the winning run in Michael McNamara in the top of the 10th. Holdsworth also scored later in the inning and applied the game-ending tag at third base. 

A few days later, still enjoying the emotional high of a state championship, Holdsworth visited Pitt. He immediately fell in love. 

"For me, it's all about people," Holdsworth said. "Pitt's coaching staff is upfront, and they told me the truth. I got a good feel for the coaching staff and the people. They were very welcoming and made me feel like part of the family. On top of that, it's an amazing campus. It didn't take me long to determine that's where I wanted to be. I felt at home, it wasn't a tough decision." 

An added bonus is that Holdsworth will have a chance to compete and play right away. 

"I'm very happy that he's going to a school where he's happy, comfortable, and wanted," said Wildcats' coach Brad Ganor. "He'll be in a position to prove himself and not have to sit behind anybody. He'll compete for a starting job right away. From talking to him, he wanted to compete for a starting position. What I've told Michael, Derek Dietrich, and anyone who's played at a high level in college is that if you swing the bat, they'll find a way to get you in the lineup. He's a great hitter, so if he hits well, he'll play somewhere. Be it third base or first or the outfield or designated hitter, he'll be in the lineup."

Another big plus is the closeness of the school to home.

The University of Nebraska is a 13-hour drive from Cleveland. Pitt is just a 2-hour jaunt down I-80 and I-76. 

"It's nice knowing that my family can come to see me play," Holdsworth said. "At Nebraska, it would be more difficult for my family to see me play. They would make it work, but it would be tough. At Pitt, friends and family can come visit me and watch. I've had a number of people say they'll come to watch me play at Pitt, but wouldn't have been able to at Pitt. I'll have the opportunity to have people come to watch and maintain those important relationships."

Count Ganor as among those who will travel to see him play. 

Ganor loved coaching the graduated senior. 

"Michael is one of the best kids. I'll miss him tremendously," Ganor said. "Beyond his leadership qualities, we've had some great one-on-one conversations that I'll cherish forever. He's a great kid and he'll be great at Pitt."

Holdsworth will also miss Saint Ignatius, especially his friends, teammates, and coaches.

"It's amazing that we won states, and there's no better feeling. Entering the season, it was a different feeling – we were a family," Holdsworth said. "Regardless of the outcome, the memories from this family will last a lifetime. The coaches were amazing. Honestly, it's most fun I've ever had playing baseball. I can't thank everyone enough."

Good luck at Pitt, Michael! Maybe we'll see you at Peterson Sports Complex in the spring!