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'Nole doesn't need dominance to dazzle

Savvy, bulldog attitude have made Bryan Harvey a surprising ace.

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published May 22, 2007


Florida State right-hander Bryan Henry's not a guy who dazzles you with his stuff.

His fastball might, might, register 90 mph on the radar in the early innings of a game when he's at his freshest, and his curve and changeup are merely okay, far from maddeningly untouchable.

"Bryan doesn't have that 'wow' factor, " longtime FSU pitching coach Jamey Shouppe said.

Unless you look at his stats.

Then he takes your breath away.

The 6-foot-3, 202-pound senior, relying on the kind of pinpoint control that makes you think lasers and GPS, a never-back-down fearlessness and the cool demeanor of a Texas Hold 'em champ, leads the nation in wins with a 14-0 record entering this week's ACC tournament in Jacksonville.

No Seminole has had more Ws since Randy Choate who went on to the majors had 15 in 1996. Henry, a humble ace for the No. 3-ranked Seminoles, also has a solid 2.50 ERA thanks largely to allowing just 24 walks while striking out 107 in 1041/3 innings.

"Because I don't throw hard, I have to be more precise; it's made me work harder on my command, " said Henry, 22, who was named ACC pitcher of the year Monday and is a semifinalist for the Roger Clemens Award as the nation's top pitcher. "It's just been a blessing in disguise."

"Everybody wants to see 95 (mph) when they look at one of the elite pitchers in the college game, " Shouppe said. "But gosh, to watch Bryan work is like watching an artist paint a portrait. It's just beautiful."

Not that he - or anyone else - would have guessed that a few years ago.

After a year at North Florida Community College, Henry, a Tallahassee native, arrived at FSU in the fall of 2004 with the hopes of earning time both as a position player and a pitcher. He impressed the coaches in the field and the plate enough to win the starting job at third base.

On the mound, not so much.

There, he didn't "wow" them.

But midway through the 2005 season, Henry got his chance in a long relief role against Georgia Tech and was brilliant. He followed that with a few starts, including against No. 5 Florida in which he held the Gators to two runs on eight hits in seven innings of a 4-2 win.

"We said, 'Maybe we have something special here, ' " Shouppe said.

Henry has been a fixture in the rotation ever since, eventually moving into the role as the team's ace.

"He realized early on his best trait as a pitcher is his aggressiveness, " said his uncle, Scott Henry, a former standout first baseman at USF who spent four years in the Oakland A's system as a catcher. "Once he gets ahead in the count, he can hit his spots and make you chase and keep you off balance."

"When facing Henry, " added Georgia Tech sophomore first baseman Luke Murton, "you know that you are going against an experienced Atlantic Coast Conference pitcher who possesses good control and displays a competitive nature on the mound."

Nothing fancy, just effective.

"I'm sure hitters go back to the bench and say, 'How's this guy beating us?' " Shouppe said.

What opponents don't see is how zealously Henry works to fuel his confidence. Shouppe said the days Henry pitches are easier than his off days, likening his work ethic to that of former FSU star pitcher Paul Wilson. It's not a comparison he makes lightly. Wilson was the No. 1 pick overall by the Mets in the 1994 draft.

"As long as you're playing the game of baseball, you've got to keep working, " said Henry, who's 32-7 with a 2.56 ERA overall and is a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes a player's accomplishments on and off the field. "There's really not an off day. Every day, there's something to do."

Credit his family for helping to instill that mind-set.

"The only advice I've really ever given Bryan is, 'Make the most of the opportunity, ' " said his father, Jim, a longtime sportswriter who with his wife Dawn were high school athletes. "How many times have we seen (as reporters) athletes, talented athletes, waste opportunities because they didn't work hard enough. Bryan's been focused and goal oriented to make the best of every opportunity."

And that's the stuff that should make you say, "Wow."

Unless you can't get past the stats.