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Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Former Raiders coach pleased

Christiansen to scout regional in Omaha

August 4, 2004

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The Lawrence Raiders haven't seen the last of former coach Reggie Christiansen.

When the Raiders, who won the AAA American Legion state baseball tournament Monday in Chanute, play in the Central Plains Regional next week in Omaha, Neb., Christiansen will be there.

"I'm excited," said Christiansen who took over Monday as South Dakota State's baseball coach. "I wish I could be in the dugout. If there's a way, I'll find it."

Since Christiansen will be in Omaha as a college recruiter, it's unlikely he will be allowed under NCAA rules to don a Raiders' uniform again. However, he figures he has at least one other option.

"I'll sit in a lawn chair next to the dugout if I have to," he quipped.

Christiansen, 26, was a volunteer assistant coach at Kansas University when he agreed to take over the Raiders this summer from Carl Brooks, who had retired after guiding Lawrence's top Legion team to the 2003 State AAA title.

Only three players were back from the '03 championship squad -- third baseman Tyler Blankenship, pitcher Aaron Madill and outfielder-first baseman Taylor Martin -- but Christiansen was able to reload.

Christiansen guided the Raiders into the state tournament, but he had to leave after the first two games. Following Saturday's stirring 9-7 come-from-behind victory over Hays, Christiansen told the players he was handing the reins to aides Tim Hill and Pat Holmes because he had to report to SDSU.

With Hill and Holmes in charge, the Raiders didn't miss a beat, pulverizing Pittsburg, 19-11, Sunday, then pounding Pittsburg again, 14-5, in Monday's championship contest.

As it turned out, Christiansen didn't miss much, either. As he drove to Brookings, S.D., Sunday, he was calling Hill's wife about every 20 minutes for updates. Then he followed pretty much the same pattern Monday with Blankenship's dad as his source.

In retrospect, Christiansen was pleased Hill was able to call the shots during the championship contest.

"I told the kids and the parents that I wrote out the lineup," Christiansen said, "but Tim did all the paperwork. He did the schedule and took care of the hotels."

Hill, who once played second base for the old Legion Hawks, has been associated with Lawrence youth baseball for nearly 30 years. Hill also does volunteer coaching for his nephew Mike, Free State High's baseball coach.

In Chanute, the Raiders averaged nearly 16 runs per game. Center fielder and leadoff hitter Ryan Engel paced the Raiders' relentless attack by going 10-for-17 and scoring 11 runs. Left fielder Taylor Martin also had a productive bat. Martin, who attends Neosho County Community College in Chanute, was 9-for-17 with two doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI.



"Taylor really made strides," Christiansen said. "In the second half of the season, he was our most valuable player. When we were down 7-0 (to Hays), he jumped some of the kids and got them going in the right direction. That's something I hadn't seen from him."

Now Christiansen hopes to point SDSU's program in the right direction. The Jackrabbits were 12-36 last season, and Christiansen took over the program too late to make an immediate recruiting impact.

"It's definitely a challenge," Christiansen said, "but I wouldn't have gotten the job if it wasn't a challenge. It's a great opportunity for me."

Also wielding hot bats for the Raiders in Chanute were first baseman Chris Coleman, who had nine hits, including three doubles; and Blankenship and DH Tyson Corley who had seven hits apiece.

The Raiders' first game in the Central Plains Regional will be at 7 p.m. a week from Thursday against the host team.

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