Pitching Will Be The Key

FAYETTEVILLE (Ark.) – Often times a postseason baseball series is decided by pitching depth. If that's the case, both Florida State and Arkansas are in good shape heading into this weekend's best-of-three Super Regional. Both the Seminoles (45-21) and the host Razorbacks (43-22) boast an arm that is ready anytime in any situation. Rest is optional.

Charley Boyce almost single-handedly lifted the Hogs over Wichita State last weekend, throwing 16 2/3 bullpen-saving innings in under 24 hours. Boyce threw 104 pitches in a complete game Saturday night and returned the next day to throw 99 more in relief the next day.

FSU's answer to Boyce is senior Rhett James, a former JuCo all-American who has filled every pitching role imaginable for the Seminoles during his two seasons.

"Starter, closer, bullpen – it doesn't matter," said James, who took a no-hitter into the seventh against Central Florida in his last start. "As long as I pitch a lot it doesn't really matter. I've been given a gift. My arm never hurts."

Going from set-up man to long-reliever to ace, James claimed his current role for good after an impressive four-hit shutout against Virginia May 7. Though not needed, he's been available for relief stints on Sundays and weekday games.

"He's a unique athlete," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "You don't find guys that want to compete like that, pitcher-wise, that want the ball every single day. Rhett James would take the ball every day and pitch three innings if you gave him the ball. He never makes excuses; he never backs down from any situation."

His competitive nature was evident Sunday in FSU Regional Championship victory against the Knights. After doubling as a pinch-hitter, James was brushed back in his second at-bat and was corralled by Martin when he made moves toward the mound.

"That's my nature," he said. "That's the way I approach playing the game."

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, who hopes to lead the Seminoles to the College World Series for the first time in four seasons. "There are going to be hits. It's going to happen, its 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."

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