Early in the afternoon, Georgetown pitcher Tom Bass walks to the stereo in his apartment holding three rock 'n roll records. He plays "Twilight Zone" first, then "Burn It Up" and "Man on the Silver Mountain," songs slightly more musical than a downtown construction site.

"I'm a heavy metal man," Bass says.

The speakers blare. Bass stands, eyes wide. When the music stops, he whispers a quick prayer and is off to the locker room.

He slides into his baseball pants and stuffs a weathered batting glove into his rear right pocket. He puts an old shoelace inside his right sock.

"As far as getting prepared goes, I'm very superstitious," Bass says. "Baseball players are all a little touched."

Coach Ken Kelly can't dispute such eccentricities. Bass, the Hoyas' top pitcher for the third straight season, picked up a newspaper recently to find his 0.00 earned run average over 21 innings led all college pitchers in the nation.

"Like being king for a day," Bass says.

Two subpar efforts knocked Bass off the ERA throne; still, the left-hander is among the area's top pitchers. Since an 0-4 freshman season, Bass has won 21 games--more than any Georgetown pitcher in modern history--lost eight and saved three, accounting for 40 percent of Georgetown's victories. This season, he is 9-3 with a 1.68 ERA.

He is not the prototypical college pitcher; until this season, Bass, a senior, threw mostly offspeed, using a darting curve ball to get batters swinging at pitches they'd more likely hit with a sand wedge.

Bass still has the excellent curve ball and sharp control, but he's altered his style, due in part to an offseason visit from Nelson Briles, a former major league pitcher and family friend.

"He told me that in order to pitch in the pros, you need to have two pitches that you can put wherever you want. At the time, I was throwing about 75 percent breaking balls."

Kelly also had suggested Bass have more confidence in his 85-mph fast ball. Bass warmed to the advice and, on the Hoyas' southern road trip early this season, pitched a three-hit, 3-1 victory against Stetson, one of the country's top 20 teams.

"Tommy's confidence level is so much higher," says Kelly. "He believes he can throw the fast ball and get people out."

That was not the case in 1979, when Kelly began recruiting Bass, a senior at North Miami High School. Kelly feared he might not get the straight-A student, because Georgetown offers no scholarships. But Bass received no scholarship offers.

Kelly is surprised not by Bass' effectiveness but by his durability. Thursday, Bass pitched and won both games of a doubleheader.

Bass could see increased relief action this week, with Georgetown (24-19-1) playing key ECAC games. The Hoyas have an opportunity to reach the playoffs for the first time ever.

"Before the season began, I thought our team spirit and leadership would be atrocious," says Kelly. "The guys are all low-key; there's not a take-charge guy out there.

"But it's not like that at all. They're funny as hell. (First baseman Chris) O'Meara has the ability to keep the team incredibly loose, no matter what the situation."

Against George Mason, Bass faces a no-out, bases-loaded jam. He throws two quick strikes to the batter, then follows with three balls. O'Meara trots to the mound and reassures Bass.

"Hey Tommy," he says, "what are you doing after the game?"