Joe Davidson

Elk Grove baseball, Sheldon softball start season on top. Why one coach is nervous

The Elk Grove Thundering Herd celebrates after winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball championship against the Tracy Bulldogs at Sacramento City College on June 3, 2017.
The Elk Grove Thundering Herd celebrates after winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball championship against the Tracy Bulldogs at Sacramento City College on June 3, 2017. Sacramento Bee file

It's spring sports season, according to the calendar, but the forecast suggests winter.

Sacramento-area high school baseball and softball teams have scrambled to squeeze in games or to reschedule them amid inclement conditions.

One certainty in the forecast: It will be another banner season for Elk Grove in baseball and Sheldon in softball as those storied programs head The Bee's preseason rankings, just where they finished last spring.

Elk Grove, under coach Jeff Carlson, has won eight Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball championships since 2003, including titles the last three years. The Thundering Herd have won a section-leading 10 banners.

Sheldon, under coach Mary Jo Truesdale, has won eight section D-I softball banners since 2002 and is also seeking its fourth in a row. The Huskies' eight titles are the most in section history.

Both programs graduated Bee Players of the Year, Riley Lamb of the Herd now with USC and Maci Fines of the Huskies, now with UC Santa Barbara. But as the saying goes: Great programs don't rebuild, they reload.

Elk Grove is 2-0-1 this season, including a scoreless tie after 10 innings against Bay Area power Valley Christian of San Jose. Elk Grove is ranked third in the state and No. 1 in Northern California by Cal-Hi Sports, a spot ahead of Valley Christian.

"It does not feel like spring with this rain," Carlson said. "Kind of makes me nervous because usually the Herd starts slow, but we have looked good. It is early and we still have a long ways to go with a lot of areas we can get better. The Herd has to stay hungry."

The same motto rings true some 5 miles away at Sheldon, also a member of the Elk Grove Unified School District.

The Huskies are 4-0.

"We are looking forward to what we consider another challenging season with another challenging schedule, although the rain has certainly put a damper on it," Truesdale said. "We have rescheduled many nonleague games on Saturdays in April, but that will be fun.

"Once again, we continue to focus on the little things and believe in the process. Team first is also one of our team core covenants developed by the players which demonstrates the unselfish nature of this team."

Elk Grove has a bit of everything on display – hitting, defense and pitching – as it will compete in a Delta League that includes Bee No. 2 Davis, No. 3 Franklin, No. 5 Jesuit and No. 6 Pleasant Grove, coached by Rob Rinaldi, who just won his 500th career game (including a long stretch at Woodland High).

The Herd infield includes Carlson's son, Tanner, who has signed with Long Beach State, and All-Metro slugger George Spithorst. UC Davis-bound Jake Jordan and Brian Freitas combined to go 11-0 last season on the mound. Outfielder Kenny Williams is as speedy as any player in the section.

For Sheldon, seven of the team's top hitters return, led by four-year starter and UCLA signee Shea Moreno, a catcher who has also played infield. Maddi Ayers, a shortstop headed to San Diego State; North Carolina commit Kiwi Pierce; and outfielders Sam Oliver, headed to Nevada, and JuJu Malana are also back. The ace is San Jose State signee Grace Owen.

The Delta includes No. 4 Elk Grove and No. 6 Pleasant Grove. Sheldon and Elk Grove meet in a league opener on Tuesday, weather permitting.

The Bee's preseason Top 20 baseball rankings

With last year's record:

1. Elk Grove (23-10)

2. Davis (23-9)

3. Franklin (18-9-1)

4. Oak Ridge (21-10)

5. Jesuit (13-15)

6. Pleasant Grove (19-9)

7. Del Campo (16-12)

8. McClatchy (22-10)

9. Christian Brothers (29-2)

10. Capital Christian (25-6)

11. Lincoln (24-7)

12. Rocklin (9-17)

13. Granite Bay (19-8-1)

14. Woodcreek (14-13)

15. Yuba City (21-10)

16. Oakmont (18-10)

17. Whitney (19-9)

18. Vista del Lago (19-9)

19. Woodland (12-13-1)

20. El Camino (11-15)

The Bee's preseason Top 20 softball rankings

With last year's record:

1. Sheldon (30-2)

2. Casa Roble (19-7)

3. Del Campo (25-7)

4. Elk Grove (22-6-1)

5. Oak Ridge (22-7)

6. Pleasant Grove (18-10-1)

7. Whitney (20-9)

8. Bella Vista (18-9)

9. Roseville (19-8)

10. Rocklin (11-10-1)

11. Granite Bay (12-12)

12. Lincoln (21-7-1)

13. Pioneer (18-6-1)

14. Woodcreek (13-13)

15. St. Francis (14-14)

16. Davis (12-11)

17. River City (21-7-1)

18. Christian Brothers (18-9-1)

19. Liberty Ranch (20-3-1)

20. Yuba City (16-7-1)

Related stories from Sacramento Bee