June 10, 2005
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Gainesville, FL – The last time All-ACC first team pitcher Bryan Henry took the mound versus Florida he was auditioning for a role in the starting rotation. He had made just two starts in the first three months of the season and only one start in the last seven appearances before facing UF. That night in Tallahassee the Henry legend was born as he pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed just two runs in Florida State’s 4-2 win over the fifth-ranked Gators. Friday night he will open the Gainesville Super Regional with a chance to move his team one step closer to the College World Series.
“Bryan Henry was not in our rotation until he pitched well in a relief appearance at Georgia Tech,” said FSU head coach Mike Martin. “Then we gave him a start against the University of Florida at our place. He pitched very well and at that point he moved into the rotation.”
Since then Henry has won seven straight decisions including wins over Miami, North Carolina (twice), NC State, Virginia and Auburn. He has eight straight quality starts and given up just 10 earned runs in those games. The last time he took the mound he pitched Florida State’s only nine inning complete game of the year in the winner’s bracket versus Auburn at the NCAA Tallahassee Regional. So how will he handle the biggest game of his young career? The same we he has handled every start preceding this one.
“Same old, same old, it does not matter how big the game is you just have to go out there and pitch it,” said Henry. “You have to keep your emotions under you sleeve and you can’t let it get to you. It is just a part of pitching and that is what I have tried to do. I’m just taking it as another game.”
The way Henry has pitched over the last six weeks has done nothing but enhance the mystique surrounding the Tallahassee native. He threw so well leading up to the Tallahassee Regional that people in the stands were scratching their heads when he was touched up for three runs in the second inning against the Tigers. It was as many runs as he had allowed in his previous 29 innings combined. All Henry did was respond by not allowing a run over the next seven innings and striking out a career-high 10 batters.
“I think it is a confidence thing more than anything a lot of time,” said senior catcher Aaron Cheesman. “When you are throwing them (strikes) you are not questioning yourself. When you aren’t throwing strikes you are questioning yourself. When anyone starts questioning their ability, weird things happen and I think Bryan has a lot of confidence in himself and he is not scared of anybody. He goes out and he is just a bulldog out there.”
It is no coincidence that since Henry moved into the starting rotation FSU has gone 20-7 versus the toughest part of its schedule. In those 27 games the Seminoles played 19 games versus teams that made the 2005 NCAA Tournament and 11 games versus ranked opponents.
“Bryan has given us a lift in the fact that he has gotten a lot of competition going with our whole team,” said Martin. “It has been fun watching him just go out there and seeing the other pitchers compete for pitching time as a result of what Bryan Henry has accomplished.”
If you ask the right-hander about his pitches, he will tell you he just lets Cheesman put up the glove and he just throws it there. His fastball doesn’t reach 90 mph yet he isn’t afraid to throw it and allow the opponent to put it into play. He is the only pitcher on the Seminole staff that records more fly ball outs than grounders. Despite all of that, he has the third-lowest ERA in the nation and he leads the pitching-heavy ACC in ERA by more than three-quarters of a run.
“He just pumps the strike zone and it just makes it so much easier for everyone else when he is just sitting there and throwing strikes,” said Cheesman. “You know balls are going to get put into play. Everyone is involved in the game somehow because of that. It just makes it easier on everyone else. He works quick. Usually guys in the big leagues do it all of the time, and you hear their teammates praising them for that. He has done and excellent job this year.”
That is exactly what you can expect to see tonight as well. Just like the last time he faced Florida when 70 of his 106 pitches were strikes and nine of his 15 outs came through the air, Henry will do what he has done since he moved from the bullpen to mid-week starter to Friday night starter and finally to All-ACC first team.
“In that game (versus Florida April 19) it was just a battle and that’s all that really was,” said Henry. “It was my first time pitching and I didn’t have really command of anything. I was just up there competing and letting everybody work behind me and we came out on top. We are going to go in there tonight and do the same thing. I am just going to throw strikes and let my defense work behind me.”
If Henry just does what he has done up to this point, FSU will leave the field with a win for the ninth consecutive time Henry started the game on the mound. They will also be one step closer to returning to Omaha for the first time since 2000.