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Mitchell Holcomb started 28 out of his 31 appearances during his time at Penn. Credit: Chase Sutton

Leaving "unfinished business" is never easy.

Having already cemented a grand legacy at Penn, graduated senior pitcher Mitchell Holcomb factors in the chance of playing in the MLB in his decision to transfer to Rice University.

In his four years at Penn (including the shortened season due to the pandemic), Holcomb started 28 out of his 31 appearances. He made an immediate impact as a starter in his freshman season with a win over Villanova. During his junior year, he tallied the best record on the team at 6-1 and finished with 51 strikeouts.

Holcomb’s transfer decision first began to take shape as a result of the pandemic and subsequent cancellation of athletic seasons at all levels. Holcomb received the news about the suspension of the season, and like many others, his near future was up in the air.

“Nobody had any clue what was going on, so the uncertainty part of everything was really big,” Holcomb said. “People thought this was going to be it for people’s baseball careers.”

Shortly after, the NCAA voted to grant graduating seniors the option of taking a fifth year of eligibility, dealing hundreds of collegiate athletes across the nation with a difficult and murky decision: student-athletes who opted to play could either return to their current universities and tack on a few extra classes — perhaps to add a second major or minor — or apply to a nationwide transfer portal. 

However, the Ivy league did not grant this eligibility to students enrolled in graduate school (as not all Ivies have graduate school programs). Staying at Penn meant being forced to delay graduation a year in addition to forfeiting the chance at graduate school, which was enough to lead Holcomb to throw his name in the transfer pool.

With many great options on the table, Holcomb chose Rice University. Practically speaking, Holcomb is a Texas-native, and his family lives about an hour away from Rice, saving them from what used to be repeated flights back-and-forth to Philadelphia to see Holcomb’s games.

The Owls have a fantastic coaching staff and also sport an impressive history as a program in terms of both winning and grooming players. They have produced 38 MLB draftees, 14 of whom were first-round picks. Rice is also a member of the Conference USA, a "top 10 conference in the country," according to Holcomb. 

Holcomb's decision to transfer is the latest in a trend of his teammates, as fellow pitcher Christian Scafidi is transferring to Notre Dame and outfielder Peter Matt will compete at Duke.

Though he expressed gratitude and excitement at the opportunity to play baseball again, Holcomb also reiterated the difficulty and emotion that accompanied his and his teammates’ decisions to not return to Penn.

“Two words: unfinished business,” Holcomb said. “[In the Ivy League,] we had things that we needed to take care of, and we just never got that chance.”

Looking at the bright side however, Holcomb left a sweet and personal thank-you to his teammates, coaching staff, and Penn baseball.

“They’re family. Me and those guys, playing with them day in and day out, blood, sweat, and tears; that’s something you never forget,” Holcomb said. “A heartfelt thank-you to the Penn baseball program, to the Penn baseball community, and everybody that was involved. They truly did make the experience special.”