With the arrival of 2020, a new year of local sporting events is beginning to move into focus.
Winter sports are beginning to shift into a new gear, with Cal State Bakersfield, Bakersfield College and all the area high schools opening play in their respective conference and leagues in the next few days.
Things are about ready to get fast and furious, and if you’re not prepared, you just might get left behind. With that in mind, here’s an early look at some important dates and events that the coming year has to offer:
The CSUB men’s basketball team opens its final season in the Western Athletic Conference at Icardo Center with a 7 p.m. game against Grand Canyon. The ’Runners host Cal Baptist on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m., before heading on the road.
The Roadrunner women’s basketball team plays their WAC home opener against Kansas City at 7 p.m., followed by another home game against Chicago State on Jan. 18.
The Bakersfield College baseball team, the two-time defending WSC South champions, opens its season with a busy weekend. The Renegades host Feather River at 6 p.m. in the first four games in five days, which also includes a Sunday afternoon contest against Taft College at Cal State Bakersfield’s Hardt Field. You don't want to miss that one.
The BC softball team, which has won two straight WSC North titles and figures to be strong again this year, will also be in action next door with home doubleheaders scheduled against Mt. SAC and San Mateo on Friday, with two games against Santiago Canyon the following day.
Not sure exactly how it’s all going to work, but the area’s boys and girls basketball teams are scheduled to compete in the first Kern High School Tournament, with games sandwiched between the end of league season and start of Central Section playoffs. The goal is to crown a local champion, and heck, if it means more basketball, I’m all for it.
Bakersfield will once again host the CIF State wrestling championships at Mechanics Bank Arena. The question is, can a Kern County wrestler return to podium as state champ? Last year, local grapplers were shut out for the first time since 2015. Bakersfield High senior Josiah Hill, who finished seventh in the state last year, is one of the top returners. Frontier sophomore Jacqueline Hernandez and Ridgeview senior Genesis Quirarte both medaled at the state girls meet last year.
The Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, which was first held in 1959, is the largest motorsports event in Kern County, drawing more than 500 competitors and thousands upon thousands of fans over a four-day run.
If you need a break from nostalgia drag racing, Bakersfield Speedway opens its 75th year of racing that same weekend. Four divisions of cars will be in action, including the Modifieds, Sports Mods, Stock Cars and American Stocks at the one-third mile dirt track.
Although it’s still too early to tell where the CSUB men’s and women’s basketball teams are headed this season, their postseason hopes will be on the line when both compete in their final Western Athletic Conference tournament in Las Vegas with hopes of making it to the Big Dance. The Roadrunners will compete in the Big West Conference next season — more on the later.
Last year, the Foothill boys basketball team took local sports fans on a wild ride, all the way to the CIF State Division V championship. It was the first state title for a Kern County team since East won the D-III crown in 1994. If an area team can maneuver its way through the regional playoff brackets, they would be playing for a state this weekend.
Kern County Raceway is still finalizing its upcoming schedule, one of the highlights of the season with its 6th Annual Winter Showdown, which typically features some of the nation’s top Super Late Model drivers.
The Bakersfield Condors close out their regular season with a Fan Appreciation Weekend at Mechanics Banks Arena that features a Friday game against the San Jose Barracuda with a Saturday contest with the Tucson Roadrunners. Here’s hoping the Condors will have already clinched a playoff spot by then.
The NFL Draft will likely have a local spin with Liberty graduate Jordan Love, a three-year starting quarterback at Utah State, expected to be selected early. With all the pre-draft build-up and mock drafts, where he will be selected should become more clear, although recent reports indicate he could even go in the top 10.
The CIF State track and field championships will dominate headlines this weekend. Last year, Liberty senior Daniel Viveros closed out an impressive career with his second straight shot put title. There’s bound to be a handful of area athletes in the running this year, as well. Viveros’ former teammates, Faith Bender and Reese Renz, each medalled in two sports at the state meet last year as sophomores. Can they take that next step? We’ll just have to wait and see.
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when … The Major League Baseball Draft has included at least one player with local ties since the draft was implemented in 1965. Last year, three CSUB players were drafted along with former Frazier Mountain and Independence pitcher Kevin Holcomb out of Glendale College. Whose name will be called this year?
It still remains to be seen whether construction delays will throw a wrench (pun intended) in the Raiders and quarterback Derek Carr’s plans to play in Las Vegas this year, but the organization is scheduled to move into Allegiant Stadium this month.
Cal State Bakersfield officially joined the Big West Conference on July 1 after eight years as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, but with the start of the 2020-21 school year, the Roadrunner volleyball, soccer and cross country teams will get the first crack at what figures to be a much more competitive conference schedule.
The conference will consist of CSUB, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Davis and Hawaii.
Some of last year’s high school football stars will open their collegiate careers early in this month. Bakersfield Christian’s Ben Yurosek, who helped lead the Eagles to the CIF State Division 3-A championship, is headed to Stanford to play tight end. Liberty’s Ramon Henderson will be looking to earn time as a defensive back at Notre Dame. Former Bakersfield High wide receiver Isaac Jernagin will be at Nevada. Bakersfield College cornerback Justin Harrington, a native of Raleigh, N.C., is set to play at Oklahoma.
The 29th running of the California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famoso Raceway. The annual fan-favorite event brings together the best of the past and present, highlighted by quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing. The three-day event also includes a huge vendor area with vintage speed parts and specialty equipment, rods, customs and muscle cars of numerous makes and models on display and the famous Cacklefest that takes place on Day 2.
Fall sports teams wrap up their Central Section and CIF state competitions in volleyball, girls tennis, girls golf, cross country, water polo and football. Bakersfield Christian will have an opportunity to defend their football and volleyball section championships. In cross country, Highland’s Jacob Yagers will look for a second straight individual title, with the Ridgeview boys squad looking for a fourth straight section championship, which would be a first for a Kern County team. The Garces girls water polo squad is the defending D-II champ and Stockdale’s Iris Han dominated local girls golf action before winning a section title. Can she top that in her junior year?
The Bakersfield Condors annual Teddy Bear Toss will be one of the highlights of the post-Thanksgiving weekend. For the 22nd straight season, the Condors will give fans a chance to shower the ice with stuffed animals to donate to less-fortunate children in the area. More than 100,000 stuffed animals have been donated through this event.
Will a local high school football team advance to a state bowl game? State title game like BCHS did in 2019? If so they will be playing into the second week of December.
With a busy November in our rear-view mirrors, winter sports can now take center stage with a number of basketball, soccer and wrestling tournaments. The four-day Lloyd Williams/Kern Schools Federal Credit Union Shootout at North High typically features many of the area’s top boys basketball teams, with a champion being crowned the second Saturday of the month.
This month will also be another opportunity to reflect on the year that was 2020. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and this year promises to be just that, so enjoy the ride.