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The Ledger

TALLAHASSEE - The perfectionist in Tony Thomas Jr. will not allow him to completely enjoy a four-hit night and another Florida State win.

A harmless ninth-inning error, with the Seminoles leading by five runs, consumed Thomas' thoughts after Tuesday's 7-2 win over Jacksonville.

"Even though I got four hits, somewhere inside I'm upset about the error because that's what mainly got me here was defense," Thomas said.

The junior second baseman is known for more than defense now. Thomas struggled at the plate his freshman season, improved the next year and is now enjoying a breakout 2007.

Thomas is the best hitter on the nation's No. 1 team, leading the Seminoles (32-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in nearly every hitting category: Batting average (.493), home runs (seven), runs (59), doubles (21), triples (five), stolen bases (18), slugging percentage (.836) and on-base percentage (.566). He also leads the ACC in five hitting categories and, with 20 games left in the regular season, has established career highs in four hitting categories.

But what might be more impressive is that he's cut his strikeout total down dramatically. Coming into the season, he was averaging one strikeout per game. In 2007, he has shown more plate discipline with almost as many walks (22) as strikeouts (23) in 36 games.

Thomas, who is from Valrico in Hillborough County and went to Bloomingdale High School, credits hours of work in the batting cages with FSU assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. for his turnaround at the plate.

They spent hours together in the offseason tweaking Thomas' stance, opening it more so that he can get a better look at the pitch.

"Tony this year has developed into quite a prospect," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "He is definitely a five-tool player. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Other games, he'll beat you with his legs. Some nights he'll beat you with his leather.

"He is a rare baseball player in that he can do anything well. And being a second baseman, his stock has certainly risen."

Thomas, as a junior, will find out in June just how far his stock has risen when Major League Baseball holds its amateur draft. He will, of
course, have the option of staying in Tallahassee or turning pro. Thomas would love to play in the major leagues one day, and when he watches games on TV he's drawn to a Mets shortstop that also possesses similar skills: Jose Reyes.

"He just has it all," Thomas said. "He's just a tremendous player."

But for now Thomas is comfortable chasing FSU's two main goals: an Atlantic Coast Conference title and the Seminoles' first trip to the College World Series since 2000.
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