For high school baseball teams blending new faces with older ones, the early part of the season can be fraught with ups and downs.
Rob Rinaldi understands this as well as anyone.
The veteran coach for Pleasant Grove saw his squad, ranked fourth by The Bee, start 3-0, highlighted by a 11-0 rout of Franklin, which knocked out the red-hot Eagles in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs last season.
After exacting revenge at Cosumnes River College, Pleasant Grove lost close ones to seventh-ranked Davis (4-3) and third-ranked Granite Bay (2-0).
Last week, Pleasant Grove ran the table in the Boras Baseball Classic, winning the 16-team Northern Regional event with "Rinaldi Ball" pitching, defense and just enough offense.
The Eagles beat Rodriguez of Fairfield 4-1, Deer Valley of Antioch 4-2, Rio Americano 5-2 and, in the championship game, Bee No. 1 Elk Grove 11-1. Against the Thundering herd, Pleasant Grove (9-3) broke the game open with eight runs in the seventh inning.
Elk Grove committed five errors and hit eight batters with a pitch, including four in a row with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Rinaldi has had spirited encounters with Elk Grove since his head-coaching days at Woodland in the early 1990s.
"The Boras was a great tournament, an unbelievable opportunity for Sacramento baseball," Rinaldi said. "We played well. Pitching and defense can take you a long way."
Josh Adams, showing no signs of trouble after a knee injury sidelined him last season, earned the win against Elk Grove. The powerful senior had two hits, as did Nico Toni and Beau Boyle.
Eagles sophomore Dalton Gomez is 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA on a staff that includes Matt Stafford. Adams has an 0.93 ERA.
"Josh was excited to pitch against Elk Grove," Rinaldi said. "He had a fantastic game."
Pleasant Grove opens defense of its Delta River League championship next week with three games against Sheldon. The Eagles meet the Boras Classic Southern Regional winner April 13 at Pacific. The Southern Regional will be held this week in San Juan Capistrano.
Around the bases In a showdown of Sierra Foothill League rivals, Woodcreek beat Roseville 11-6 in the final of the Gina Montes SureWest Easter Invitational.
Woodcreek senior first baseman Alex Montes is the son of Gina Montes, who died from an aneurysm in 2010.
Dylan Spezia had three hits and two RBIs and earned the win, and Austin Blatnick stole four bases for the Timberwolves, the defending section D-II champions.
Elk Grove opens Delta Valley Conference play Thursday at Grant in an anticipated meeting of aces: the Thundering Herd's David Smith and the Pacers' Cameron Avila-Leeper.
In another DVC opener Thursday, No. 6 Franklin hosts No. 7 Davis in a rematch of last May's D-I North final, won by Franklin.
No. 10 Antelope (10-0) hosts No. 11 Whitney (12-0) on Wednesday in a Capital Athletic League opener pitting the only unbeaten and untied teams in the section.
No. 9 Rocklin hosts No. 5 Oak Ridge in a nonleague game Wednesday. Thursday, Oak Ridge hosts another SFL power, Granite Bay.