Six-pack of diamond standouts set to compete for section titles this weekend
May 25—Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been one of the busiest times to travel.
That's certainly the case for several Kern County baseball and softball teams, which will make the trek north to compete for a Central Section title Friday and Saturday.
Six teams will be in action, starting with Friday's Division V baseball final matching No. 13 East and No. 2 Firebaugh at Visalia's Valley Strong Ballpark. The game will be followed by top-seeded Bakersfield Christian's D-II final at 7:30 p.m.
About 45 minutes north, No. 4 South High will be squaring off against No. 3 Orcutt Academy in the Division VI softball final at Fresno State. No. 10 Frontier will face No. 4 Madera in the D-II final at 7 p.m.
The venue is just five miles from where the CIF State Track and Field Championships will be hosting the prelims for the two-day event that starts at 3 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Clovis-Buchanan High School. The event continues with the finals on Saturday starting at 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, No. 2 Boron will take the Fresno State softball field to square off against No. 12 Dos Palos in the Division V final at 1:30 p.m., with No. 9 Centennial playing No. 2 Buchanan at Valley Strong Ballpark in the Division I championship game at 7:30 p.m.
At Visalia's Valley Strong Ballpark
No. 9 Centennial (18-13) vs. No. 2 Clovis-Buchanan (22-8), Sat., 7:30 p.m.
The Golden Hawks, who finished second to Stockdale in the South Yosemite River League, are looking for their first Central Section title since 2007. Centennial, which has won six of its last seven games, was winless in the postseason since 2017. But the team posted three upset victories, defeating No. 8 Madera 7-2 in the opener, toppling top-seeded Fresno Bullard 6-2 in the quarterfinals and then earned a finals berth with an 8-1 win over No. 4 Visalia-Redwood. It is the Golden Hawks first finals appearance since losing to the Bears in the 2011 title game, 9-3.
No. 1 Bakersfield Christian (24-7) vs. No. 3 Lompoc-Cabrillo (24-5), Fri, 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles followed up their South Yosemite Valley League title with three playoff victories, including a 2-1 quarterfinal win over league-foe Highland last week. Bakersfield Christian is looking for its second section title in three years, but its first in Division II. The Eagles won the D-IV championship in 2021. BCHS defeated Lompoc 5-1 in the semifinals behind a strong pitching performance from left-hander Mason Brassfield and Chris Hernandez. Talented senior Toby Twist, who hit his fifth home run of the year in Tuesday's victory, is expected to take the mound. He is 9-1 with a 1.37 ERA in 15 games this year, with 113 strikeouts in 66-plus innings.
No. 13 East (15-10-2) vs. No. 2 Firebaugh (16-16), Fri., 4 p.m.
The Blades take an 11-game winning streak into the title game, including eight road wins. All three playoff victories came against higher-seeded opponents, defeating No. 4 Fresno Christian, No. 12 Lindsay and top-seeded Chavez in the semifinals to advance to their first section final in school history, according to East athletic director James Dominguez. The Blades' playoff victories were the program's first since 2007.
At Fresno State
No. 10 Frontier (14-13-1) vs. No. 4 Madera (18-7-1), Fri., 7 p.m.
The Titans, who finished third in the South Yosemite River League, entered the playoffs after being swept by co-league champion Centennial. Frontier regrouped and followed with three road victories over higher seeds, defeating No. 7 Paso Robles, No. 2 Tulare Union and No. 6 Sanger. Two of the three postseason games were decided by one run. The Titans are looking for their first section since winning the D-II crown in 2011.
No. 2 Boron (21-2) vs. No. 12 Dos Palos (13-8), Sat., 1:30 p.m.
The Bobcats return to the section title game for the second straight year. Boron was the top seed last year, but lost to No. 2 Caruthers 14-4. The Bobcats have allowed just two runs in their three playoff games, slipping past No. 15 North in the opener 2-1, shutting out No. 10 McFarland 10-0 and then posting a 3-1 victory over No. 3 Fresno-Washington Union to reach the final.
No. 4 South (13-8) vs. No. 3 Orcutt Academy (11-11), Fri., 4:30 p.m.
The Spartans, who finished in a three-way tie atop the South Yosemite Mountain League standings with Tehachapi and North, reached the finals thanks in part to a nine-run ninth inning against top-seeded Riverdale on Tuesday. It's been quite a turnaround for South, which was just 4-36 in combined in the last two seasons coming out of the shortened 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program suffered through a 60-game losing skid that stretched from the end of the 2013 season until four games into 2017. Needless to say, things are looking up for the Spartans, who have relied heavily on the several talented underclassmen, most notably sophomore transfer pitcher Scarlett Lopez, who is 10-1 with a 1.17 ERA, with 154 strikeouts in 78 innings this season.