We're finally getting to the waning days of the winter sports season in Kern County and, with that, Friday is a big day in the world of local spring athletics.
Here's a look at what's on deck for local sports fans in the area:
Marquee matchup on the diamond
Baseball fans can flock to Stockdale High School to watch Sean Mullen throw for the Mustangs.
The Stockdale senior, who is signed to play collegiately at UCLA, is clocking in at 95 MPH on the numerous radar guns that Major League Baseball scouts are currently bringing to his games. The Mustangs will be going up against Valencia-West Ranch (5-1), one of the top programs in Southern California, at 3:30 p.m.
The Mustangs are 7-0 this season, including a 12-4 victory over Liberty in the Terrio Classic American Division championship game on Monday.
The last time Mullen was on the mound against Liberty on March 1, he went four innings of one-hit ball and struck out four in front of more than a dozen pro scouts.
But Stockdale doesn't rely solely on its ace. The Mustangs, ranked No. 13 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason state Top-25, have four players batting over .440 including UC Davis-bound senior second baseman Jalen Smith, Cory Blackburn and Eli Brum. On the mound Kade Sheedy, Alejandro Murillo, Michael Keese and Mullen have combined to give up five earned runs in 38 ⅓ innings.
Track and Field sounding board
It was a solid showing for Kern County athletes at the CIF State Track and Field Championships last June and there is plenty of those standouts returning in 2018.
Friday will be the first chance for local fans to catch a glimpse at the annual Kern Invitational at Liberty High. Field events begin at 1:30 p.m. and running events start at 2.
Leading the way on the boys side are the 2017 BVarsity Co-Athletes of the Year, Daniel Viveros of Liberty and Cal-bound Highland senior Moises Medrano.
Viveros finished third in the boys shot put at state and is currently No. 1 in the state and No. 3 nationally with a personal-best throw of 62 feet, 8.5 inches at the Arcadia Winter Championship on Feb. 17. Viveros is also No. 7 in the state in the discus (168-1).
Medrano, for his part, finished third at state last year in the 800. Where he ends up in 2018 is up in the air, however. Medrano has said he prefers to run the 1,600, but chose the 800 last season because it gave him his best shot at state.
On the girls side, all eyes are on University of Washington-bound Stockdale senior Aaliyah Wilson.
Last year, Wilson was a favorite at state in the 100 hurdles, but fell in the preliminaries. She came back less than an hour later, however, to qualify in the 100 where she took fifth in the state finals.
Wilson is a favorite once again to medal in both events this year and Friday will be her first competition of the season.
The last time we saw Wilson’s teammate Marcus Mota on a track he ran half of the 3,200 state finals with one shoe on and still finished seventh in the state. In that historic run, Mota’s leg was clipped and his shoe began to fall off. He eventually kicked it off the track and chose to run the remaining mile with his right foot bare.
Other locals to watch:
• Liberty freshman Faith Bender was a nationally-ranked thrower at the youth level and is already one of the tops in state during her first month competing in high school.
Bender ranks No. 2 in the state in the shot put (43-8) behind Fowler junior Jocelynn Budwig (45-2). Bender is also third in the state in the discus (149-0).
• Liberty senior Seth Krauss, who advanced to Day 2 at state last year, is currently ranked third in California after jumping a personal-best 6-7 at the East Bakersfield Relay on March 2.
Softball heating up
The second day of the Driller Classic softball tournament is Friday at Mesa Marin.
Local teams such Garces, Ridgeview, Tehachapi, Frontier, Centennial, Taft, Liberty, East, Highland, Shafter and host BHS are all competing.
Games start Friday at 12:30, while Saturday's semifinals and championship are at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.