Having to sit on recent postseason disappointments for over two years, Shafter and Foothill's softball teams have been put in prime position to redeem themselves in the coming weeks.
The Generals and Trojans earned the No. 1 seeds in Divisions V and VI respectively for the CIF Central Section softball tournament in pairings released on Saturday.
Shafter, which comes into the Section at 12-1, earned a first round bye in the Division V field and will face either Riverdale or Rosamond in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Playing as the No. 2 seed in 2019, the Generals fell 5-2 to eventual Division V champions Kern Valley in the semifinals. No 2020 tournament was played due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shafter coach Julia Garcia said that "to my knowledge," this was the first time the program had secured the top seed in the section tournament. And after inching closer to the spot over the years, she and her players are excited to finally enter the postseason atop the bracket.
"This honor has been many years in the making," Garcia said. "These girls have grown up watching their siblings, friends and relatives playing Shafter softball. Each year we have gotten a little bit closer, but this is huge."
Several other Kern County teams will be vying for the Division V title as well. Bakersfield Christian will host Mira Monte in a 5-12 matchup on Tuesday. Third-seeded Highland and sixth-seeded Golden Valley will also open section play at home Tuesday against Corcoran and Desert respectively.
After reaching the section title game for the first time in school history two years ago, losing 7-0 to Central Valley Christian, Foothill will look to get over the hump from the No. 1 position this year.
The 11-6 Trojans open Division VI play at home against eighth-seeded Bishop on Thursday. The semifinals will be played on June 15 with the championship game set for June 17. Fresno Christian and Mission Prep will be the No. 2 and 3 seeds in Division VI.
Three local teams will open section play in Division I on Tuesday. Fourth-seeded Liberty will host Clovis East, 11th-seed Stockdale will play Kingsburg on the road, while 14th-seeded Frontier will travel to face No. 3 Buchanan.
Second-seed Garces and fourth-seed Independence earned byes in Division II. With a win in its home game against El Diamante on Tuesday, seventh-seed Centennial would play Garces in the quarterfinals Thursday. 11th-seed East is also in Division II and will face No. 6 Monache on the road Tuesday.
In Division IV, No. 3 Taft earned a fist-round bye, while No. 9 Bakersfield and No. 11 North will open on the road Tuesday against Santa Maria and Exeter respectively.
On the baseball side of things, Kennedy captured the top seed in Division VI, earning a bye through the first round. The 9-3-1 Thunderbirds will face the winner of Wednesday's 8-9 matchup between Woodlake and Mammoth in Friday's quarterfinals.
After several down years, including back-to-back winless seasons in 2013 and 14, Kennedy successfully built on its 9-2 start during the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
A potential Shafter vs. Kern Valley matchup could be in line in the Division VI quarterfinals Friday. The fourth-seeded Generals received a bye and will face the fifth-seeded Broncs on Friday, if the Broncs defeat No. 12 Lone Pine in the opening round Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Bakersfield Christian and Arvin both earned No. 2 seeds, the Eagles in Division IV, the Bears in Division V.
BCHS will host No. 15 East in the opening round on Wednesday. In the same division, fourth-seed Taft and sixth-seed Wasco will also be at home Wednesday, Taft hosting Central Valley Christian, Wasco facing Sierra Pacific.
Arvin and No. 7 Rosamond both earned byes to the quarterfinals and will play in Arvin Friday. The only opening round game in Division V will be played between No. 8 Lindsey and No. 9 Delano Wednesday.
On Wednesday in Division I, No. 5 Stockdale is hosting Tulare Western, No. 6 Liberty is hosting Clovis East and No. 7 Centennial is hosting Clovis, while No. 9 Frontier travels to Clovis West.
No. 8 Highland will open Division II play at home against Sanger on Wednesday. That same day, No. 10 Tehachapi will travel to Hanford and No. 12 Bakersfield will travel to Edison.
No. 4 Ridgeview hosts No. 13 North, No. 6 Independence hosts St. Joseph and No. 7 Garces hosts Nipomo in Division II on Wednesday.
Unless specifically changed by the schools, each game is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.