Consistency is key for Sac State baseball team entering new season

Hornets begin 2020 campaign Friday against UC Santa Barbara


Shaun Holkko

Sac State sophomore outfielder Trevor Doyle poses for a photo at practice on Thursday, Feb. 6 at John Smith Field. Doyle started in 49 games as a freshman and had eight multi-hit games in 2019.

The most consistent sports team at Sacramento State will begin its 2020 season Friday night with a three-game series against No. 22 University of California, Santa Barbara. 

The baseball team, led by Reggie Christiansen in his tenth season as coach, will attempt to win at least 30 games for the ninth consecutive season.

The Hornets won 40 games last season for the first time since 2014 and advanced to the NCAA Regional at Stanford for the third time in the last six seasons. The Hornets advanced to the regional after winning their third Western Athletic Conference tournament championship since 2012, which is more than any other team in the conference.

Sac State concluded the 2019 regular season with a 33-22 record before beginning the WAC tournament. The Hornets lost the first game of the double-elimination tournament and with their backs against the wall, played their best baseball.

Sac State became the first team to lose the opening game of the WAC tournament and go on to win six games in a row, en route to a tournament championship. The Hornets also became the first team in WAC tournament history to eliminate all five other teams playing in the tournament.

Sac State then went on to play in the NCAA Regional against powerhouse programs like Stanford, Fresno State and UC Santa Barbara, before being ousted from the postseason following two losses to the Cardinal.

RELATED: Sac State baseball team ends 2019 season at NCAA regional

However, the Hornets did eliminate Santa Barbara from the regional and ended the Gauchos season. The Gauchos enter the 2020 season ranked in the Top 25 of several national polls, including 22nd in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

“We have had some success so sometimes, how do you deal with that success? You guys in the media world wanna use the word expectations a lot,” Christiansen said. “Like for us, it’s just our expectation to have a good practice today. If we can stack up good practices, you hope it transfers over to the game. But right now it’s just about being consistent in our work.”

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Sac State was a very young team in 2019 comprised of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Therefore, only three notable players left the program following last season. 

Senior outfielder Bronson Grubbs graduated while two right-handed pitchers had their dreams come true being drafted to MLB. Junior Austin Roberts was selected in the eighth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates and senior Tanner Dalton was chosen in the 17th round by the Chicago Cubs.

RELATED: Sac State pitcher hopes to be ‘powerhouse’ Pittsburgh Pirates need

Junior right-handed pitcher Parker Brahms was also selected, being chosen by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 27th round. Brahms said he wanted to return due to unfinished business. 

“I thought it was the best decision for me and ultimately I didn’t have a great year last year,” Brahms said. “I’m trying to come back this year and have a better year than that and just hope for the best.”

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Shaun Holkko
Sac State senior pitcher Parker Brahms poses for a photo at practice on Thursday, Feb. 6 at John Smith Field. Brahms was drafted in the 27th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers but chose to return to Sac State.

During the offseason, the Hornets traveled north for exhibition games. In August, the team traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia to play in the 2019 Collegiate Baseball Classic, the program’s first-ever international tournament. The Hornets not only battled teams from Canada but from Japan as well, making the trip a unanimous favorite among the team.

“Just being able to play against the teams from Tokyo and try to communicate with them through baseball was a really awesome experience,” sophomore outfielder Trevor Doyle said.

Sac State returned to school for the fall semester before traveling to Oregon in October. The Hornets played exhibition games against PAC-12 schools, Oregon and Oregon State.

Following last season’s success, Sac State has already received preseason accolades. Brahms and junior right-handed pitcher Scott Randall were both ranked on D1 Baseball’s Top 150 pitchers list. Randall was ranked at 40th and Brahms at 125th. Randall and senior outfielder Matt Smith were selected to the WAC preseason all-conference team. Sac State was chosen as conference runner-up in the coaches poll.

“Honestly, it’s the best team that I’ve been (on) here,” Brahms said. “We got one really good pitching staff. Our hitters can really rake and they’ve been proving it to all the pitchers that we’ve thrown out there this offseason.”

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Shaun Holkko
From left to right, Sac State senior pitcher Parker Brahms, coach Reggie Christiansen and sophomore outfielder Trevor Doyle pose for a photo at practice on Thursday, Feb. 6 at John Smith Field. The Hornets begin the 2020 season on Friday against UC Santa Barbara.

With a more experienced team, Christiansen would like to see the Hornets offensive production improve in 2020.

“We need to pitch and play defense at a little higher level than we did a year ago,” Christiansen said. “We struggled last year offensively. Obviously some of our players are also a year older. So the maturing process of them both mentally and physically will help us to be a better offense.”

The Hornets have a unique schedule to begin the 2020 season. Sac State will play at home for the entire month of February and into March for their first 12 games before hitting the road for 11 straight games in the middle of March.

This season Sac State will have many tests in addition to the rigorous WAC schedule that starts at the end of March. The Hornets will play UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s in addition to matchups against Pac-12 schools, Stanford, Cal and Arizona.

“I have really high expectations for this team,” Doyle said. “I think we can do really great things this year. But then again, it just goes to putting in the work we need to right now and not (being) worried about things later in the season.”

The Hornets begin the 2020 season Friday night at home against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at 5 p.m.