Playing with a purpose

Florida State carries a 19-game winning streak into tonight's ACC Tournament game against Wake Forest. The Seminoles don't have any deep, dark secrets to share concerning their stellar play. However, pitcher Matt Lynch and first baseman Jerrod Brown offered a theory or two Friday. "I really think our schedule has been beneficial," Lynch said. "The last couple of years we've always been on the road once we got out of school (following spring semester). It was kind of rough, traveling like that."

There's really no need to overanalyze Florida State's success the past five weeks.

The top-ranked Seminoles (53-12) are quick to admit they are on an impressive roll, carrying a 19-game winning streak into tonight's crucial showdown against Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in St. Petersburg. Still, FSU is not ready to reveal any deep, dark secrets behind its success.

It's more a feeling than anything.

"Basically, anybody in the lineup can do the job -- everyone is kind of leaning on each other and we all believe in each other," first baseman Jerrod Brownsaid Friday morning as he prepared to grab a quick lunch with pitcher Matt Lynch before heading out to watch the Clemson-North Carolina State game.

"We just feel real good about the way we are playing."

That feeling is reflected in the scorebook and on the scoreboard.

FSU, the league's regular-season champion thanks to its three-game series sweep at Clemson last weekend, needs just three victories to clinch its first ACC Tournament title since 1997. The Seminoles moved into this position with Thursday's 9-4 victory over the Tigers, who now have dropped eight straight to FSU.

Brown, one of the Seminoles' hitting heroes in their opening-round win against Duke Wednesday -- Brown knocked in four runs on a pair of two-out hits with bases loaded -- chipped in another hit versus Clemson. Of course, his lunch partner -- Lynch -- also played a huge role in the win.

Lynch surrendered four runs in the first inning but patiently waited for his offense to get down to business. When the dust settled, Lynch registered his third complete game in four starts and his 13th win -- the most by a Seminole since 1996. Lynch allowed only one earned run on seven hits while striking out nine and walking none.

"I was a little frustrated with myself in that first inning -- I threw a couple of bad pitches and then I didn't cover first base properly, but I was able to keep my composure and once we scored, my confidence was sky-high," Lynch said Friday. "I knew it (offense) was going to happen. I was able to throw zeroes the rest of the game thankfully. We are just playing well right now and we want to keep building on it. We are ready to go out and do the job again."

Lynch believes the Seminoles' schedule has played a role in their success. Unlike past seasons, when FSU was usually on the road following the end of the spring semester, the Seminoles instead got to enjoy a little home cooking. FSU played 14 of its last 18 games at Dick Howser Stadium. During that span, the Seminoles' lone defeat was a 6-5 decision at home against South Alabama.

FSU's winning streak is three shy of the school record (22) set in 1996 and 1991. If the 'Noles had beaten the Jags, they would be sporting a nifty 25-game winning streak. Of course, the Demon Deacons, who beat FSU twice earlier in the season, will be looking to douse the torrid Seminoles. Even so, Lynch says FSU is refreshed and confident thanks to the regular season's final month.

"I am sure we can play better," Lynch said. "Look at yesterday (Thursday), we made three errors. We probably could have beaten them 9-1. I had trouble touching first base, we threw a ball into the stands. But you can't argue with the results.

"I really think our schedule has been beneficial. The last couple of years we've always been on the road once we got out of school. It was kind of rough, traveling like that. It was rough on us earlier in the year when we traveled and we lost a bunch of games. But we got home, took care of business and then we went to Clemson with a lot of confidence - and we swept them. I wasn't expecting that but we did it, and, like I said, our confidence is sky-high."

The Seminoles also don't want to risk playing on the road during the postseason. FSU was eliminated in the Super Regional at Georgia last year in three games. That train of thought also is easy to comprehend.

"Everyone is focused," Lynch said. "We have a lot of veteran guys who have been through it before. We don't want something to happen like last year (on the road for the Super Regional). We are playing well and we want to make sure we have everything at home."


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