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  • • Coach: Reggie Christiansen, fourth year, 84-92 • Conference: Western Athletic • Other members: Northern Colorado, New Mexico State, Seattle, Grand Canyon, Utah Valley, Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Texas-Pan American, North Dakota, Utah Valley • 2013 record: 34-25; 14-13 WAC, fifth place • 2014 predicted finish: Third • Opening series: vs. Utah, 2 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday and 1 p.m. Monday • Five home games to watch (all at Raley Field): Nevada, Feb. 25, 6:35 p.m.; Fresno State, March 5, 6:35 p.m.; Pacific, March 18, 6:35 p.m.; Oregon State, April 21, 6:35 p.m.; UC Davis, May 13, 7:35 p.m. • Key returners: 1B Rhys Hoskins (Jesuit High School), DH-OF Chris Lewis, 3B Will Soto (Elk Grove), RF Nathan Lukes (Center), C Dane Fujinaka, CF Dave Del Grande, SS Scotty Burcham, P Ty Nichols, P Brennan Leitao, P Hunter Greenwood (Franklin), P Sutter McLoughlin (Rio Americano), DH/1B Clay Cederquist • Top newcomers: P Sam Long (Del Campo), P Jared Paderez P • Outlook: The Hornets’ hope of building on consecutive 30-plus-win seasons and reaching the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time may have been made easier with the offseason reshuffling of the WAC. The six schools that left were replaced by six teams with lesser baseball pedigrees. Last season, Lewis (.349, 46 RBIs) was the WAC Freshman of the Year and a first-team all-WAC pick, along with McLoughlin (2.11 ERA, 17 saves). The pitching staff, which graduated five key players, could get a boost if Jeff Dillon (El Dorado) and Dallas Chadwick can return successfully from Tommy John surgery. After playing one game at Raley Field last season, the Hornets will play seven this year, starting with Nevada on Feb. 25. “We drew 1,300 people for Fresno State last year,” Christiansen said. “It’s obviously a great venue and creates some excitement for the players and fans. We’re also the only school in our conference that plays without lights. So it prepares us better for night games on the road, where it’s tough to win.” – Bill Paterson
  • •  Coach: Matt Vaughn, third season, 46-67 • Conference: Big West • Other members: Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, Hawaii • 2013 record: 19-37; 5-22 Big West, 10th place • 2014 predicted finish: Ninth • Opening series: vs. Seattle, today, 2 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. • Five home games to watch: Nevada, March 25, 2:30 p.m.; St. Mary’s, April 1, 2:30 p.m.; Long Beach State, April 13, 1 p.m.; Sacramento State, April 15, 2:30 p.m.; UC Santa Barbara, May 24, 1 p.m. • Key returnees: P/1B Spencer Henderson, 3B Adam Young, 3B/DH Nick Lynch, SS Tino Lipson, 2B Steve Patterson, C Cameron Olson (River Valley High School), C Spencer Brann, OF Seth Batty, OF John Williams, P Spencer Koopmans, P Evan Wolf, P Harry Stanwyck, P Max Cordy (McClatchy), P Craig Lanza, OF Austin March • Top newcomers: P Orlando Razo, P Zach Stone, P Blake Peters • Outlook: The Aggies return 24 lettermen, including six field starters and three starting pitchers from last year’s youthful bunch that finished last in the Big West. The Aggies hit a decent .283 – third best in the Big West – but struggled mightily as the Aggies finished second-to-last in fielding (102 errors) and pitching (5.32 ERA). Leading the Aggies this year are returning All-Big West second teamers Patterson and Lipson and honorable mention selectee Lynch. Lynch led the team in hitting with a .359 average and .441 slugging percentage. Patterson, a pro prospect, hit .324 with 33 RBIs, and Lipson batted .339 with 10 stolen bases. The Aggies compete in one of the nation’s tougher baseball leagues, so they face an uphill climb in trying to find their way to the top half of the league. Defending champion Cal State Fullerton is ranked No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball in its preseason top 40 and has dominated the Big West through the years. If that’s not enough, Cal Poly is ranked No. 27 and UC Santa Barbara No. 39. – Bill Paterson

Hoskins hopes to lead Hornets to NCAA baseball playoffs

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - 8:07 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 - 2:26 pm

Perhaps if Rhys Hoskins had specialized in baseball at Jesuit High School, he might have landed more than a lone scholarship offer from a then-struggling Sacramento State.

But the Carmichael resident loved playing football, basketball and baseball for the Marauders and excelled in all three while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average.

He missed on being Jesuit’s first four-year, three-sport athlete in more than two decades only because he passed on football his senior year to work at a camp for children with muscular dystrophy to fulfill the school’s 50-hour community service requirement.

“That turned out to be a great experience,” Hoskins said. “Those kids look forward to that camp every year, and they have a great time. I had so much fun that I went back the next year and got to run the camp.”

So Hoskins has no regrets about the choices he made in high school or his decision to play for the then-under-the-radar Hornets.

Things have worked out well for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior first baseman-outfielder, who was a key player during Sac State’s back-to-back 30-plus-win seasons.

Hoskins was named to Baseball America’s preseason All-America team and is No. 68 in the top 100 college baseball prospects by Major League Baseball scouts, positioning him for a potential high selection in June’s amateur draft.

Starting with today’s home opener against Utah, Hoskins will help lead a Hornets team that could be the first in school history to reach the NCAA Division I playoffs.

“Rhys is a humble and tireless worker and an outstanding player and citizen,” said fourth-year Hornets coach Reggie Christiansen, who signed a three-year extension after last season. “He is one of the favorite guys to have coached over my last 15 years.”

Hoskins, who throws and bats right-handed, was Sac State’s first consensus freshman All-American and the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2012 after leading the team with a .353 average, 10 home runs, 44 runs and 53 RBIs. Though his numbers dipped last season to .283 with three home runs and 22 RBIs, Hoskins had an eye-catching summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League. He was named an all-star after batting .326 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs for the Falmouth (Mass.) Commodores.

Even more important are the intangibles Hoskins brings to the Hornets.

As an academic standout in business finance, Hoskins has helped the baseball team compile the highest cumulative GPA among Sac State’s men’s programs, according to Christiansen.

Sophomore pitcher Sutter McLoughlin, a high school rival at Rio Americano and a travel-club teammate for a couple of summers, appreciates Hoskins’ calm but determined demeanor.

“He’s a great baseball guy,” said McLoughlin, who set the school record with 17 saves as a freshman last season en route to earning Freshman All-America honors. “He’s a good guy to have in your clubhouse. He picks everyone up, and he holds everyone accountable.”

Hoskins always has seemed mature beyond his years.

That was one reason Jesuit’s varsity coaches decided to bring the then-sophomore up midway in the season to join a star-studded team that went on to repeat as Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions.

“If you watched him play and work out with those guys, you would have never been able to tell he was a sophomore,” said Jesuit athletic director Chris Fahey, who was an assistant baseball coach then. “He was a guy we knew would come to work every day and give his best effort.”

Hoskins credits that experience for helping him realize he might have college potential, even though he wasn’t specializing in baseball like many of his older teammates.

“There were 13 D-I guys on that team, so it was a little intimidating at first,” Hoskins said. “But getting to see how players like Andrew Susac (now in the Giants’ organization) worked and played the game really helped shape me as a player.”

Fahey was impressed not only with how Hoskins quickly earned the respect of his older teammates, but how he handled himself while quietly mourning the death of his mother. Cathy Reynolds died several weeks earlier after a 15-year battle with breast cancer.

“In hindsight, I had to grow up a little quicker,” Hoskins said of his mother’s health struggles. “I kind of got pushed into it. But it shaped me into the person I am today.”

One reason Hoskins decided Sac State was a good fit is that he could keep a watch on younger sister Meloria, a former Rio Americano soccer player who is a freshman at UC San Diego.

He also could see that Christiansen, despite coming off a 19-39 record in his first season, was steering the Sac State program in the right direction.

“Reggie watched me play a lot, and I developed a relationship with him,” Hoskins said. “He really knows his baseball. The results the last two seasons are a testament to that.”

With seven position starters returning along with five veteran pitchers, the Hornets have lofty goals.

“I’m excited for the season,” Hoskins said. “It should be a fun ride with these guys.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

Read more articles by Bill Paterson

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