College Sports

With Reggie Christiansen conducting, the Sacramento State baseball train keeps rolling

Robert S. Nelsen and Mark Orr eased into their seats at Sunken Diamond on Friday, their bodies creaking a bit from years of wear and tear.

Knee replacements may be in their future, or at least more ice packs.

And these two shared another commonality: They’re Reggie Christiansen fans. Big-time backers who steer Coach C’s expanding bandwagon of good cheer.

Nelsen is the president at Sacramento State, a champion for athletics and what successful sports programs can do for a campus. Orr is the Hornets’ athletic director, a Sacramento native who understands the bottom line at this level of competition is this: results.

Christiansen is the ninth-year baseball coach for the Hornets, a master at his craft in recruiting locally and state wide and blending it all together beautifully amid a taxing schedule.

And those results? The Hornets are in their third NCAA Regional in six seasons, this one playing out at Stanford, and they have won 30 or more games in a season eight years in succession, the longest active streak among Division I baseball programs in California.

That’s good work, which has led to bigger prizes. Sac State (40-24) after two days of this double-elimination event is 1-1. The Hornets took one square on the chin in the opener, losing 11-0 Friday to mighty Stanford, ranked in the top five nationally all season, and then bounced back by bouncing out No. 19 UC Santa Barbara 6-4 Saturday to keep the season and all manner of hope alive.

It’s hard to get here, and it’s even harder to win. The Hornets had to win six consecutive games through the loser’s bracket to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament title in Arizona, so they know about full-on scramble mode.

“We hire good people, and Reggie is good people,” said Nelsen, the sun splashing down on him and Orr on Friday just above the Hornets dugout along the third-base line. “This is testament to Reggie’s coaching, to have a team this young get here. We did not expect this. Reggie expected to bring us here, and he brought us here.”

It takes a special coach to jump start a team that starts just one senior position player in center fielder Bronson Grubbs, who had three hits and three RBIs against Santa Barbara. Trevor Doyle drove in two and Tanner Dalton struck out five while allowing one earned run for the Hornets.

Said Orr, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, including here, and Reggie’s tremendous. The way he treats kids, how he represents the school. Just a great coach.”

Getting to the Regionals hasn’t been as difficult as surviving them, but it will happen for the Hornets If not this weekend, then soon. It’s all in the making. Sac State continues to show it can compete on the NCAA’s biggest stage.

“I can tell you, there’s not one happy guy in our clubhouse (after Friday’s loss) because they all believe that they belong here,” Christiansen said. “That loss didn’t sit well with us.

“We’re on the brink of doing something really special as a program, and soon. We don’t want to be content just getting to a Regional. We want to make some noise in this tournament and start winning games.”

Winning catches everyone’s attention, and Nelsen and Orr will be taxed with holding onto Christansen long term. It’s a nice problem to have.

College programs have noticed the Hornets’ rise, including those from the power-packed Pac-12. Sac State beat No. 3 UCLA earlier this season to offer early promise to the season, and the Bruins bounded into the NCAA tournament as the top-ranked team in the land.

Christiansen is a Northern California native who wants to be a Sac State coaching lifer. His young kids enjoy the experience. His players revere him. His bosses do, too.

He is signed through 2024. The very expressions of Nelsen and Orr show they want him to be a lifer.

Christiansen has expectations for his young bunch, scores of whom have played beyond their years and compete as if it all matters. And he thanks them as much as he appreciates them.

“They’re relentless,” Christiansen said. “I feel 10 years younger, surrounded by a lot of 18- and 19-year-olds. Sometimes, teams add years to your life. Not this one. They’ve rejuvenated me.”

Cheryl Boyes has soaked in the baseball action this weekend, mixed with flashbacks. She is the Sac State director of community relations and special events who is extra proud to be the daughter of the late, great Cal Boyes, the founding father of the school’s baseball program.

Cheryl’s parents were married 67 years. Her mother, Eileen, turns 89 in August, a spirited sort who “cries tears of joy now” when thinking of Sac State baseball, Cheryl said, and “not tears of sorrow from missing dad.”

She added, “Mom was telling me that she wanted to get a word to Reggie and let him know that his players will remember these days for the rest of their lives, and it’ll connect them forever, just like when my dad coached a lot of his players. Tournaments and the playoffs are such a special thing.”

Cheryl paused and added, “I see Reggie with his young daughter, Ava, after games and that reminds me of when I was a little girl on the ball fields with my dad, and I thought the Sac State players were just the coolest guys. It was so fun.”

Cheryl even offered counsel to Coach C.

“Reggie asked me if his daughter should go to a Girl Scouts camping event or to these games,” Cheryl recalled amid laughter. “I said, ‘Oh Reggie! Have her go to the games! She can camp anytime!’”

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.
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