HORNETS' EARLY GRAD
LONG AND HUNLEY PLAY ABOVE
a collegiate player sits out a season he or she is called a “redshirt.” But what do you
call a player who should still be a senior in high
you’re Reggie Christiansen, head coach of the Sacramento State baseball team, you might want
to come up with a term soon, because two of his starters should still be playing for their
grins, we’ll call them “greenshirts” since Brandon Hunley and Sam Long now play for the
green and gold, though in 2014 they should be playing for Christian Brothers and Del Campo
High Schools respectively.
they took different routes to get here, the results have been extremely positive for both
Southpaw Sam Long is 3-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his first year on
He 's done it with a mixture of pitches, including the circle change-up.
At the time of publication, Long had just started his fifth game and sports a 3-0 mark and 2.17
earned run average to lead the starting pitching staff.
Hunley, an infielder who started three seasons for the Falcons high school varsity, is batting
just .240, but leads the Hornets with 13 runs batted in and three home runs to date. Plus,
he’s making all the plays around the keystone sack.
both really mature and were good students (in high school),” Christiansen says, noting
qualities that helped these teens become top collegiate players in just their first
parents are good people, they’ve been raised the right away. So you knew that if the kid was
going to struggle (on the ballfield) how they were going to deal with it.
it’s not surprising at all to see the success they’re having.”
Long and Hunley played for Christiansen’s summer travel team, the Sacramento Stingers, so
the coach already had developed a unique insight into the players, both personally and
on the field.
cautions that graduating early for these two doesn’t signal a new trend. He notes that
although several prep baseball players from southern California have done it, it’s still
rare—and probably will remain so.
takes a special kid and special circumstance,” the Hornets’ coach notes. “We’re not out
there promoting it, or telling kids to come out early. Both these kids (Long and Hunley) and
their families came to us. We had already been recruiting them, and they told us they were
coming. So it wasn’t like we were trying to take them away from high
fourth year at the Hornets helm (and sixth year with the program), Coach Christiansen
stresses he greatly respects area high school coaches and has no plan to lure high school
stars before their senior year.
Brothers High head coach Rich Henning admits disappointment at losing his star player to
attend Sac State one year early. “It is too bad we are losing one of our better players, for
the high school team. But I firmly believe everyone has to do what they feel is best for
them. And I assume the family and Brandon felt the best for him was to start his college
career early. We wish him the best of luck. And I’m sure he’s going to do well.”
flip side, Henning and the CB Falcons won’t have to face Sam Long this year in the Capital
Long appears to be the trailblazer in this story.
Rosemont High his sophomore season, two events prompted Long to consider graduating early
from high school.
cousin who lives in Indiana was friends with a prep student whose father Tracy Smith is the
head coach of the Indiana University baseball program. The younger Smith skipped his senior
year to join the Hoosiers baseball squad sooner. Upon learning of it, the seed was planted
in Long’s mind.
Rosemont announced it was considering dropping its baseball team, Long (along with head
coach Paul Martinez) looked for other options, and enrolled at Del Campo High, where the
block academic schedule would allow him to complete his secondary school requirements by
factor for choosing the Cougars: they enjoy a long history for being one of
the better programs in the area. As it turned out, Coach Martinez was chosen to lead Del
Campo, and he took them to the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section title game.
Long pitched a 2-0 seven-hit shutout against Benicia for the Section title. Afterward, Long
appeared elated and announced he was planning to graduate early to begin play for the
Hornets in 2014 (Ironically, Martinez also left Del Campo after that season to take an
assistant coaching position with the Sacramento City softball team).
back now, “It was pretty sweet. I’m never going to forget something like that,” Sam says.
“It was pretty fun. Hopefully, something similar to that can happen over here (Sac State),
Brandon Hunley demonstrates the form
that leads the Hornets in home runs and RBI. Above he's
just conneted on a solo shot against Nortehrn Colorado.
by comparison, came to his decision later last summer and admits that knowing Long was
entering Sac State a year sooner may have influenced him. Unlike Long, Hunley was planning
to redshirt this season. But an injury to Hornets’ senior second baseman Scott Loper in the
second game created an opportunity and when Brandon and his parents consented to have him
play this season, Christiansen put him in the starting lineup. “He made the decision to do
it, and hasn’t looked back,” the Hornets coach said. “He’s a special player.”
first game, Hunley went three-for-four against Utah and has been in the starting lineup ever
since (he has moved over to his high school position at shortstop). Nine days later under
the lights at Raley Field, Hunley came up in the eighth inning against Nevada with the
scored tied 4-4 and hit a three-run homer over the left field wall to win the
Long expected to pitch a few innings out of the bullpen this season, he was surprised when
he was named to start in Week Two against national power Fresno State. The southpaw
delivered. In five innings of work, he allowed six hits, two runs (one earned), and
collected his first collegiate victory in the Hornets 6-4 win. On Saturday against Northern
Colorado, Long again pitched five innings, as the Hornets bested the Bears 16-2.
five starts, three wins and the subterranean ERA, Long admits “I wouldn’t have guessed that
I would be doing this well.”
too, is humbled at his success and credits his Hornets teammates and coaching staff. “If you
make a mistake, someone will call you aside and help you, no matter what. It’s really good.”
The 6-foot infielder notes that the speed of the game is the biggest difference in making
the jump to college ball. Plus, “Everybody in college is a pitcher, not just a thrower. They
know how to spot the ball, and when to throw a curve ball or change up.”
the moundsman’s perspective, Long says he could compete with one pitch in high school, when
the others weren’t working. “In college, you’ve got to compete with two pitches, at least,”
he confides. “Just make sure you’re changing your speeds as best you can.” The southpaw
changes speeds often, estimating he throws 50-percent fastballs, followed by 25-percent
curves and change-ups.
been one of our best pitchers, right from the beginning,” Christiansen says. “We knew he was
going to be able to contribute right away. He’s just a tough kid. He’s pitching on
Saturday’s already for us. It’s pretty cool.”
also pretty cool that after 23 games it appears the Hornets’ two “greenshirts” will be part
of the baseball program for a long time.