Top Gun

<b>Mike Martin</b> and the Florida State baseball team finally have a Friday night starter. The thing is, there's no guarantee that they'll play on Friday nights again before next season. After a nearly season-long search, Martin has finally settled on senior <B>Rhett James,</b> a former JuCo all-American from Pensacola who has filled every role imaginable for the Seminoles (37-19). FSU has won in each of James' three starts since he moved into the No. 1 starter spot. (Photo: Section B).

Florida State senior pitcherRhett James wants the baseball.


"Starter, closer, bullpen – it doesn't matter," said James, who leads FSU into its ACC Tournament opener tonight at 8 p.m. against N.C. State.

"As long as I pitch a lot it doesn't really matter. I've been given a gift. My arm never hurts."

James claimed the role for good after an impressive four-hit shutout against Virginia May 7. A week earlier, James came on in relief of Hunter Jones and threw 8.2 innings to lead FSU past Clemson. Though not needed, he's been available for relief stints on Sundays and weekday games.

"I can pitch nine and then come out the next day and throw three more," he said. "I can throw a lot of innings. Especially if I have a day off in between, I can go."

One of FSU's most consistent pitchers over the last year and a half, there is a reason it took James so long to crack the rotation.

"We hesitated because Rhett was so valuable as a reliever," Martin said. "You love to have a guy with his versatility coming out of the bullpen."

James may not have the sharpest curve on the staff or light up any radar guns but the Panama City native has his approach down. Making pitches when it counts is his specialty.

"We have to make our pitches," said James, second on the team with a 2.97 ERA. "There are going to be hits. It's going to happen, it's baseball. But when the bases are loaded and we need a K or a fly out or groundout, we're going to have to make it happen."

And with the competition a little more even in the ACC Tournament that is has been in past years, the Seminoles will have to make plays on defense and in the batter's box, as well. A strong performance could only strengthen FSU's resume to host an NCAA Regional, something that has been almost a given over the past decade.

The Seminoles took two of three from the Wolfpack back in April but the loss was an ugly one. Behind eight dazzling innings from Michael Rogers, N.C. State handed FSU an and embarrassing 11-0 loss, the first shutout against The Tribe in 263 games.

"We have to concentrate on the small things," James said. "Baseball is a fundamental game. One guy lays a bunt down and nobody remembers it. But it matters."

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