Here are some Kern County sports storylines I’ll have my eye on with 2019 officially here:

Local baseball scene heats up

It’s right around the corner and there are some interesting subplots in place.

Stockdale is the defending Central Section Division I champion, although must replace a number of key seniors who moved on the play Division I college baseball. Look for Frontier to make a move in the Southwest Yosemite League, highlighted by two Cal State Bakersfield-bound players — shortstop Kobe Silva and pitcher Austin Puskaric. Left-handed pitcher Kris Anglin, a junior, has also verbally committed to the Roadrunners.

Elsewhere in the SWYL, Garces will replace head coach Guy Dees with Bryan Haney. Those will be big shoes to fill — the Rams are coming off their fourth Central Section title during Dees’ 12-year tenure — although Haney is a young coach who brings solid experience to the table. He played at Liberty and Bakersfield College, won an NAIAA World Series Championship at Cumberland College as a catcher, and was recently an assistant coach at BC under Tim Painton.

In the Southeast Yosemite League, Highland has won four straight league titles and figures to be in the thick of things once again.

And while Ridgeview always seems to be in the South Yosemite League title hunt, Independence got over the hump last season and won the SYL crown with a 14-1 league record. Bakersfield Christian joins the fray this year after winning a South Sequoia League championship last year with an 11-1 league mark. The Eagles bring back talent to the diamond in 2019. How they compete against their new league competitors will be something to watch.

Bakersfield Christian softball joins new league

Speaking of BCHS, the Eagles softball program will also enter the South Yosemite League after winning a Central Section Division VI championship last season.

Last year’s title triumph was no small feat. The Eagles went 21-67 over the previous four years, yet finished 16-8 overall in 2018 and took home a South Sequoia League championship in head coach Jodi Russell’s fifth year in charge of the program. Frankly, the turnaround was remarkable.

Now the team hops into the SYL, where it will take on the likes of Independence, Ridgeview and Tehachapi, among others. While it certainly could be a step up in competition, it could also benefit the Eagles come Central Section playoff time once again in 2019.

Unlikely faces at top of boys basketball power structure

Some of the area’s smaller programs look to make noise on the boys basketball court.

For starters, Foothill and Bakersfield Christian could be on a collision course in the Central Section Division IV postseason.

Both certainly have talent, although some question marks are also in place.

At Foothill, one will be the health of point guard Jaden Phillips, who recently tweeted that he’ll be out for a period of time with a torn quad muscle. His status, along with the awaited clearance of transfer Gabriel Bossi, could very well determine just how far the Trojans go in the new year.

As for BCHS, the Eagles certainly have a quality team and continue to establish themselves under head coach Kyle Shiloh. Depth could be an issue, however, and they could also get pushed by another darkhorse in South Yosemite League play.

That would be Independence, which stands at 11-3, is coming off a championship in last week’s East High Tournament, and has been playing good basketball throughout the season. The Falcons, coached by Rich Ross, have been led on the court in the early going by senior guard Elijah Carter.

And since we’re on the topic of surprise teams, don’t overlook Mira Monte in the Southeast Yosemite League, as the Lions currently hold a 14-2 record.

Is Garces girls basketball legit?

It would appear so, particularly with the recent clearance of North High transfer Aliyah Johnson. The Rams are off to a 14-2 start to the season.

Bakersfield High should contend in the Southwest Yosemite League as well. The Drillers won the Central Section Division II title last year, are off to a 12-2 start of their own, and have been playing good basketball. Despite losing last year’s senior standout Taylor Caldwell, who is now playing at Grand Canyon University, the Drillers look solid once again.

Viveros coming back to defend crown

This has been fairly well documented, although Liberty senior Daniel Viveros returning to defend his state championship in the shot put is a big deal. Last year Viveros capped an undefeated season by winning state with a heave of 62 feet, 5 inches.

Viveros won’t be alone at Liberty, as Ramon Henderson can flat-out fly in the 100- and 200-meter sprints. On the girls side, Faith Bender is a force to be reckoned with on throws, while Rebecca Vanderpoel (200/400), Reese Renz (hurdles) and Alexa Schacher (pole vault) all figure to be in the postseason mix.

Elsewhere in Kern County, Stockdale’s Marcus Mota is a star in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Also, keep an eye on East High’s Syrena Hamilton (100/200), Bakersfield High’s Kynnedi McCall (200/400) and Taft’s Macayla Wells (triple jump).

Centennial, Garces looking for football coaches

The coaching carousel continues in Bakersfield with these two Southwest Yosemite League programs looking to fill voids after Chad Brown stepped down as Golden Hawks head coach, and A.J. Gass left Garces to accept an assistant coaching position with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

Also, Centennial will be looking to fill its head volleyball coaching position after the school announced last month that Penny Roberts would not return. She was with the Golden Hawks for two years.

Teddy Feinberg can be reached at 661-395-7324. Follow him on Twitter: @TeddyFeinberg.

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