DENVER – After winning the regular season WAC title Sacramento State took home most of the top all-WAC honors on Tuesday. Junior first baseman Rhys Hoskins was named Player of the Year, freshman left handed pitcher Sam Long is Freshman of the Year, and, for the second time in the last three seasons, Reggie Christiansen was named Coach of the Year.
Hoskins is a first team all-WAC selection as well along with junior right handed pitcher Brennan Leitao and sophomore outfielder Nathan Lukes. Long made the all-WAC second team as did sophomore closer Sutter McLoughlin, junior outfielder Kyle Moses, and senior outfielder David Del Grande. The seven total all-WAC selections is a program record.
During the regular season Hoskins led the WAC with nine home runs and a .563 slugging percentage while ranking second in runs batted in (45) and doubles (16). He hit .360 with six homers and 32 RBIs in WAC play, driving in more than one run per game in conference play. He has 15 multi-hit and 12 multi-RBI games this year and ranks fifth in program history with 120 career RBIs despite playing just three season. He becomes the third WAC Player of the Year in program history, following Andrew Ayers in 2012 and Mike Eby in 1995.
"It's cool for the team; anywhere we can get some positive coverage is really cool for the program," Hoskins said, "My main goal was just to be consistent all year and I think I did that and it showed. It gives me a little boost of confidence and it should give the team a boost of confidence having three of the four awards (Texas-Pan American senior Sam Street was named Pitcher of the Year)."
Long is the third-consecutive WAC Freshman of the Year to come from Sacramento State, following Hoskins in 2012 and outfielder Chris Lewis in 2013. The freshman, who graduated high school early to enroll at Sacramento State in January, ranks fourth in the WAC with a 2.51 season ERA. He went 7-1 overall in the regular season and 5-0 in WAC play, posting a 2.24 ERA in conference games and holding opponents to a .213 batting average. He recorded two shutouts and tallied 37 strikeouts in 56.1 innings during conference play.
"It's pretty exciting but it doesn't stop here; I've just go to focus on my next start and I can't let it go to my head," said Long, who should still be completing his final semester of high school right now. "I didn't really think about that but to put all of that in perspective it's kind of cool. It's been really cool to be around these guys and experience all of the stuff that comes with playing college baseball."
Christiansen earned Coach of the Year honors after leading his team to the first outright regular season WAC championship in program history. The Hornets, who were picked to finish third in the preseason WAC coaches poll, led the league in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, home runs, saves, earned run average, and opposing batting average and 12 of their 21 WAC wins were by five or more runs. The team has recorded three straight 30-win seasons for the first time since 1993.
"It's really a team award," said Christiansen. "We've had the best players and my staff has done an unbelievable job working with the hitters and pitchers this year. The credit goes to the players and my staff, and not only the staff on the field but the staff in the department including the student athlete resource center; the credit goes to them."
The Hornets placed three men on the all-WAC first team for the third consecutive year. Lukes leads the WAC and ranks 10th in the NCAA with 85 hits this season and also leads the conference with a .371 batting average. He had a hit in 26 of the 27 WAC games the team played, had a 20-game hitting streak during the year, and is currently on a WAC-best 36 game reached base streak.
Leitao went 8-3 and has the second best ERA in the conference at 2.16. In WAC play he went 7-0 with a microscopic 1.43 ERA and a 52-9 strikeout to walk ratio. He has tied the program record for career wins with 23 and becomes just the second player in program history to be a two time all-WAC first team selection, joining Tim Wheeler in that elite company.
McLoughlin leads the WAC with nine saves and tied the program record for career saves this year while going 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 40.2 innings pitched. Del Grande had a blistering start to WAC play and is one of two Hornets (Lukes) that have started every game this season while tallying six home runs and 40 RBIs. After becoming a starter at the beginning of conference play, Moses has hit .335 with 33 runs scored and a team-leading 11 steals while taking several home runs and extra base hits away defensively.
"Hoskins has had a great year as has Leitao and Moses and Lukes and (the MVP award) really could have gone to any of them while all of our guys selected are deserving," Christiansen said. "I thought Alex Palsha quite honestly was our most valuable player all year long and he's not on either team, but that happens. It's been a great year and with the regular season behind us we look forward to the conference tournament and hopefully beyond."
The WAC Tournament begins on Wednesday while the Hornets will open play at 7 p.m. on Thursday.