Florida State opened its season with a roster stocked and a difficult road ahead. Halfway through the conference schedule, the No. 1 Seminoles (26-6, 12-3 ACC) are drawing closer to their goals.
"I think we put ourselves in position to be where we want to be at the end of postseason play," senior shortstop Justin Gonzalez said. "Now we have to finish it off."
FSU is in first place in the ACC and has won its last eight conference games. It hasn't all been that smooth -- the Seminoles dropped three games against rival Florida in the last four weeks -- but they haven't lost a series otherwise, and they're undefeated in the rest of their midweek games.
FSU is second in the ACC in batting average and fourth in the league in ERA.
"There was no question about whether we'd hit, whether we could play defense or whether we could pitch," Gonzalez said. "It was the fact that we have a lot of guys draft-eligible this year. The fact that we've been able to focus on just winning hasn't been surprising, but it's been encouraging."
Seven of FSU's ten hitters who have seen regular action this year are juniors and seniors. All three weekend starters are draft-eligible, along with several key contributors in the bullpen.
"They understand that they're a part of this team right now, that the draft will take care of itself," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "They can't control anything that goes on in the draft. What they can control is having a good attitude and helping this team achieve success, doing anything they can to help their team win. That's what impresses me a lot."
But the road ahead isn't easy. FSU still has to face Virginia, the preseason favorite to win the conference, and a road trip against North Carolina is further down the line. Georgia Tech, this weekend's opponent, is on a five-game winning streak.
What's next isn't easy, but it's what lies beyond that remains the ultimate goal. Midway through the season, the Seminoles' can see their goals drawing nearer.
"If we just stick together, which I know we will, something very special is going to happen," Gonzalez said.
Sophomore closer Jameis Winston will be with the baseball team for its games on Friday and Sunday against the Yellow Jackets, Martin confirmed. He'll fly back to Tallahassee for the football spring game on Saturday, then fly back to Atlanta to be available for the series finale.
"That's just him," Martin said. "That's the way he operates. He loves to be involved."
Winston declined to speak with the media before this weekend.
Junior lefty Brandon Leibrandt won't pitch this weekend. He has missed the last two weekend series. He was suffering from flu-like symptoms against Boston College two weeks ago. After recovering from that, he took a ball off his knee in practice and missed last weekend's series against Notre Dame. Martin said Bryant Holtmann would start on Sunday for the Seminoles to round out the rotation.
"Brandon is really in pain," Martin said. "Let's just say he suffered a setback. We're hoping we get him back in the near future, but it's not going to be this weekend."
Sophomore left fielder D.J. Stewart, the ACC's leading hitter, will be a game time decision on Friday. He was limited at practice on Wednesday after suffering a sprained ankle on Sunday against Notre Dame and missing Tuesday's game against Florida.