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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State baseball team opens its 2016 season on Friday opening a three game series at Auburn. The Hornets have another challenging non-conference schedule in preparation for Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play, with the team's home opener March 4 against South Dakota State. Sixth-year head coach Reggie Christiansen talked about the upcoming year:

What are the strengths of the team and what will its success be built upon?

I believe our strength will again be our pitching and defense along with the depth we have on the position player side.

With 17 returners and 12 newcomers how has the team come together through the fall and spring practice leading up to the season?

I was concerned going into the fall with so many new faces but I really credit our returners for welcoming in the new group. It's a special group that has the same goals.

How important is it for the team to have success against top SEC and Pac-12 teams in the non-conference season?

This trip is going to be a special one for our team and I believe it will pay dividends as we make another run at a NCAA tournament appearance, just as it did in 2014 when we traveled to Texas A&M.

How were you able to replace the five great players from the 2015 team that signed MLB contracts following the season?

I don't like to use the word "replace" because we will never replace what those five guys did for our program. Brennan Leitao, Sutter McLoughlin and Nathan Lukes were All-American type players during their time in our program. Ty Nichols had the best single year in the history of the program and Scotty Burcham was a four year starter at the most important position on the field and maybe one of the best defenders I have ever coached.

Those five guys, along with many before them, have created a culture of TEAM. They were all great teammates, and much of our success has come from the efforts they put in to make this place a little better each year. Our guys this year will need to do the same.

What are the expectations for the season and what will it take to get back on top of the WAC and advance in the postseason?

I have zero expectations. We will show up each day and prepare to win that day. The rest will take care of itself.

What can fans expect to see from the team every game?

This group will be fun to watch, physical on the mound, and again at the plate. It should be a special group to watch.