Rob Rinaldi gathered his giddy players in the outfield Monday afternoon and promised them one thing.
"It'll be hotter (today) and Wednesday," the Pleasant Grove High School baseball coach said.
Rinaldi was referring to the weather, but he might as well have included this three-game series against top-ranked Jesuit to decide the Delta River League championship.
Pleasant Grove beat the Marauders 6-5 in the opener on Matt Stafford's two-run walk-off hit to shallow center field, capping a wild seventh inning. The victory gave the Eagles a 12-1 league record, one game ahead of Jesuit (11-2).
Aces Zack Stilwell of Pleasant Grove and Logan James of Jesuit tossed a combined 11 shutout innings before fatigue set in for both, and emotions swung wildly for both squads in the seventh.
The Marauders scored five in the top of the seventh off Stilwell, highlighted by Jordan Hanlin's two-run double, for a 5-3 lead. But the Eagles scored three times in the bottom of the inning with two outs after James departed.
"Great win," Rinaldi said. "I was so upset for Zack because he pitched so well, worked so hard, but he was happy at the end when we pulled it out.
"This team's been pretty resilient. We played great baseball with a couple of double plays, then the three-run inning to win it."
Today's game is at Jesuit, and Wednesday's regular-season finale is at Pleasant Grove. The league title is there for the taking for the Eagles, Rinaldi said.
"For six years, you've got to beat Jesuit to win this league, and now we've got our shot," Rinaldi said.
Mom madness Allison Mason has a hard time relaxing during Placer games, particularly when her son is pitching.
On Thursday, Allison paced anxiously or ducked into the snack bar while peeking to watch Ryan overcome a slow start to strike out nine batters in the final four innings against Lincoln, and then win it 5-4 with a bloop single to tighten the Pioneer Valley League race.
"I know it kills Mom, these kinds of games," said a grinning Ryan Mason, who will attend Cal on scholarship. "She feels better when we win."
Milestone moment Valley Christian of Roseville beat Golden Sierra 8-1 Wednesday to give coach Brad Gunter Jr. his 300th win at his alma mater.
Players doused Gunter with cider and smeared cupcakes on his face, messing up a beard he won't touch until the team loses.
Valley Christian has won 13 consecutive games. Gunter has led the Lions to three Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII titles since 2008.
Lions roar McClatchy won the Metro Conference for the third time since 2008. Jared James, the son of former McClatchy baseball star Dion James, is batting .467 with 33 RBIs. Also hitting well for the Lions: Alex Jang (.392, 18 RBIs), Eddie Sievers (.522, 13 RBIs), James Triche (.393, 13 RBIs) and Rod Mackey (.394, 12 RBIs). McClatchy has hit 46 doubles, 14 by Sievers.
On the mound, Mackey, Greg Correa and Nolan Schultz have combined for 11 wins.
THE BEE'S TOP 20
Records through Sunday; PR previous ranking
Team Rec. PR
1. Jesuit 19-5 1
2. Davis 19-5 2
3. Elk Grove 17-7 3
4. Pleasant Grove 20-4 4
5. Oak Ridge 17-7 5
6. Granite Bay 18-5 6
7. Franklin 16-8 7
8. Woodcreek 17-6 8
9. Bella Vista 19-5 9
10. Yuba City 21-6 12
11. Rocklin 13-10 10
12. Oakmont 16-8 14
13. River Valley 19-6 11
14. El Dorado 23-2-1 15
15. Antelope 17-6-1 16
16. McClatchy 17-6 17
17. El Camino 15-10 18
18. Christian Brothers 13-11 13
19. Pioneer 15-11 19
20. Placer 16-7 20