High school baseball in Bakersfield has been a hotbed of talent for college programs over the years.
There has always been great players that have moved on to major programs, but nothing like the number of seniors signing Wednesday in one of the biggest, if not the biggest, signing days ever from Bakersfield.
Five local senior baseball players were part of 14 high school student-athletes that signed national letters of intent to four-year college athletic programs on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period for college programs in the SEC, PAC-12, Big 12, Big West and the WAC.
The five baseball players are all going to formidable programs as well.
Stockdale seniors Sean Mullen signed with UCLA and Jalen Smith is headed to UC Davis; Liberty’s Easton McMurray is headed to his dad’s hometown school at LSU; Garces senior Jacen Roberson is staying home to play for Cal State Bakersfield; and Centennial’s Conagher Sands signed with Cal Poly.
“It adds one step further in competition with us wanting to one-up each other,” Sands said. “Knowing each of us are as good as we are, we all try to push each other to be even better than what we were yesterday.”
Independence senior Kahlaijah Dean was emotional during the signing ceremony as she inked her name to play women’s basketball at Oakland (Mich.) University.
“It's just just about having a good crowd and everybody being here,” Dean said.
The 2016-17 BVarsity Girls Basketball Player of the Year signed with nearly 100 friends and family in attendance inside the campus library.
Liberty senior Liana Caroccio has been a three-year starter for Liberty on the volleyball team that is playing at Clovis-Buchanan in the Central Section Division I semifinals on Thursday.
Caroccio’s first love was horses, and that’s why she signed with the Baylor University equestrian program.
“I’ve loved both sports and they’ve both been in my life,” Caroccio said. “I had to choose horses over volleyball because it’s been my childhood dream.”
Bakersfield Christian senior Madi Daniel signed paperwork to begin her early enrollment at Oregon last month.
On Wednesday, the Central Section girls golf individual champion signed with the Ducks’ women’s golf program, which she will join in January after she graduates early from high school next month.
Before any of that gets started, Daniel will also tee off on Thursday at the CIF Southern California girls golf regional championships in Riverside, seeking to become just the second girls golfer to advance to the state championship.
“It’s a really big week, I am super excited,” Daniel said. “Excited to sign these papers and get all ready to go for (Thursday). That’s the next time.”
Two local volleyball players also signed on Wednesday with Alexus McLeod going to Cal State Northridge after a very successful four-year varsity career at Centennial that ended in a five-set thriller in a 3-2 loss to Liberty in the D-I quarterfinals.
“This is the day I have been waiting for my whole high school career,” McLeod said.
East High senior Precious Gonsalez signed to play volleyball at Hannibal-Lagrange (Mo.) University, which happens to be led by former North High coach Kyle Smith.
"Excited to have at least one Bakersfield kid follow me over to the Midwest and come into help our team get to the next level,” Smith said.