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PREP ROUNDUP: Four area teams looking to reach section softball finals

Heading into Wednesday’s Central Section softball semifinals, Kern County is assured of having at least one local team in this weekend’s championship games at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond.

In Division III, three of the final four teams are from Kern, including the top three seeds. Frontier will be playing on the road in Division I.

No. 1 Taft (28-2-1) is riding a 14-game win streak heading into its home matchup against No. 5 Tulare Western (15-11).

The Wildcats, who won the South Sequoia League title this season, lost in the semifinals to eventual-champion Fowler in the D-III semifinals last year.

Taft defeated No. 16 Atascadero 9-3 in its opener before advancing with a 1-0 victory over No. 9 Lompoc-Cabrillo on Friday. The Wildcats won with a walk-off single by Jaycee Edgar with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

The victory capped a dominating performance by senior Jada Mizener, who limited the Conquistadores to just four hits, with a walk and three strikeouts to improve to 18-2.

The Mustangs (15-11) have been relying on a potent offense of late, out-scoring their two playoff opponents 23-6, including a 14-4 victory on Thursday over No. 13 Independence.

The winner advances to play the winner of No. 3 Wasco at No. 2 Bakersfield Christian. That game will be Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Fresno.

The Eagles (25-1) have won 25 straight games since losing their season-opener at Liberty, 5-1.

The South Yosemite Valley League champions defeated No. 15 Chowchilla and No. 10 Reedley by a combined score of 23-1 to advance to the semifinals.

Junior pitcher Anabell Hinojosa (25-1) tossed a 1-hitter with 10 strikeouts in her team’s 12-0 victory over Reedley on Friday. She also homered, one of six BCHS has hit in two postseason games.

Junior Cailee Carr and freshman Tia Nichols have homered in both games and now have a combined 22 for the season. Carr leads the team with a .519 average with 22 extra base hits and 42 RBIs.

Wasco (21-6), which lost a pair of close games to Taft to finish runner-up in the SSL, has won six straight since dropping a pair to the Wildcats nearly five weeks ago.

The Tigers rely heavily on junior pitcher Cedes Saldana, who tossed a 4-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Fresno-Edison on Friday. Saldana is 18-5 with a 1.02 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 157.2 innings.

In Division I, Frontier is looking for a return trip to Fresno. The Titans (21-5), the South Yosemite River League champions, lost 4-2 in the D-II final to Madera as a No. 10 seed last year.

This season, the Titans have regrouped with five freshmen and two transfers providing plenty of support for talented pitcher Taylor Sloss.

Sloss allowed an unearned run on four hits with seven strikeouts in Friday’s 5-1 victory over SYRL rival Centennial. Arroyo Grande transfer Kesley Rodriguez had three hits, including an inside-the-park home run to lead the offense.

Now No. 4 Frontier will face its biggest challenge when it travels to play top-seeded Fresno-Central (19-6-1), the defending D-I champion.

BOYS GOLF

Four area golfers will be competing in Wednesday’s CIF Southern California Regionals at Los Serranos Golf Course (North Course) in Chino Hills. The event starts at 8 a.m.

Liberty’s Ty Weaver, Stockdale’s Manik Anand and Carrick Hentges, and Frontier’s Jed Page are scheduled to participate.

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS

Several area high school athletes have committed to play at the next level.

Liberty’s Tyler Balgeman (Cal State Bakersfield track and field), Alexis Valverde (Salem University softball), Aubrey Thompson (Nevada track and field), Brock Turner (CSUB track and field) and Grant Voss (Oklahoma Christian baseball) all committed on May 8.

East High’s Leslie Aquino is scheduled to sign her letter of intent on Thursday to run cross country and track and field at UC Merced.

Last week, former Bakersfield High guard RJ Banks committed to play basketball at Chaminade University, an NCAA Division II school located in Honolulu. Banks played the last two seasons at Fullerton College, helping the Hornets win the 2022-23 CCCAA State championship.

NEW COACHES

Garces announced former Rams standout Grant Campbell will be the school's next football coach, succeeding Paul Golla, who is now at Independence.

The 2011 Garces graduate, a three-sports star for the Rams, played football at Baylor. He was an assistant at Frontier last season.

Foothill announced the hiring of Wasco graduate Chris Wedel as its next football coach.

Wedel previously coached varsity baseball and frosh-soph football at the school in 2018-19. He guided the Trojans baseball team to the Central Section Division VI title game that season.