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After years of hard work and dedication, Joshua Meneses is seeing his efforts come to fruition.

On Thursday, the Porterville High School senior was joined by family and coaches as he signed a letter of intent to run men’s cross country and track for Azusa Pacific University next season.

The Cougars are an NCAA Division II institution that competes in the PacWest Conference. 

“I feel good,” Meneses said. “I feel relieved because I’ve put in a lot of work over the past couple of years, and it’s kind of paying off.”

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The storybook career for the greatest girls wrestler in Monache High School history is beginning a new chapter.

Senior Charlotte Kouyoumtjian signed on to the women’s wrestling program at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minn., during a small signing ceremony Tuesday at Monache. The Auggies of Augsburg are an NCAA Division III program.

Kouyoumtjian said she had wanted to go to Augsburg and knew it was the right place when she visited, then committed, last November. 

“Everybody was really nice, and they kept coming up to me and talking to me and telling me stuff,” she said. “I’m just really shy, so I was like, I’m scared to go here because I’m not going to be good at making conversations with people. But they came to me, so it was easier.”

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LAS VEGAS, N.M. — At a certain point, the nerves simply fade and muscle memory kicks in.

It’s in that exact moment that the realization of kicking a football is a lot simpler than what she usually does.

“There’s not any running involved, so when you’re just standing there getting ready to kick, it’s sort of easy to focus,” said Valerie Baca, a diminutive 5-foot-4 sophomore who made history by kicking a pair of extra points in Friday night’s 62-26 spring football game between New Mexico Highlands and visiting Fort Lewis.

Baca became the first woman to suit up for NMHU’s football team, as well as the first woman to play for a New Mexico college program since Katie Hnida played (and hit two extra points) for the University of New Mexico from 2002-04.

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U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Air Force sophomore Grant Snyder earned second-team All-America honors, as announced Thursday by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC). Snyder is a 2018 graduate of Porterville High School.

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Max Jimenez lost out on a football season this school year because of COVID-19, but he’ll get another one and more when he suits up for the University of La Verne.

The Granite Hills High School senior signed a letter of intent to play for the NCAA Division III Leopards next season in a small signing ceremony Monday at the high school. 

“It’s a little weird because I really wanted to play this year,” Jimenez said about signing without playing his senior year. “I felt like this was the year that I was going to do the best compared to my other years. Last year I felt like I did really good as a junior, but this year it was my last year, I had to do better than last year. But it still feels good. Still feels like nothing too different.”

During the 2019 season, Jimenez totaled seven touchdowns and had the second-most receiving yards in the Central Section Division VI with 937 yards. He also led the East Sequoia League with 516 yards in league play and was selected to the All-ESL first team.

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Best friends from MHS to play together in college

Alexandria “Mia” Rivas and Oriana Gutierrez are living the best friend dream.

Not only are the childhood best friends going to attend the same college next year, but they will do so as softball players after signing letters of intent to play for the University of Saint Katherine in San Marcos Friday. The Monache High School seniors held a joint signing ceremony at the Marauders softball field with family, friends, and teammates to commemorate the occasion.

The university ticked off a lot of boxes for the duo as they both wanted to attend a small college, stay close to home, and of course, play together.

“I like it because it’s a smaller school,” Rivas said. “It’s really, really small. And that’s what I like. My other choice before softball was UC Davis, which was a huge campus, so it’s something completely different. And not only that, I get to go with my best friend and two other softball teammates that are on our travel team. I feel like it’s where I’ll feel more at home and feel more comfortable at.”

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PHS’ Brookelyn Gutierrez to play softball for PLU

When COVID-19 hit, Brookelyn Gutierrez didn’t miss a beat.

The Porterville High School softball player knew her junior season was lost, but instead of only mourning it, Gutierrez used all of her downtime to improve her skills and perfect her game.

Now with her senior season beginning, Gutierrez can go into it knowing she will also be playing somewhere else next year. 

In early March, the infielder signed to play softball at Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Washington. The Lutes are an NCAA Division III program that plays in the Northwest Conference. 

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SHS senior goes D2, leaves legacy behind

Even without a senior season, Jazmine Soto will go down in history as one of the greatest basketball players to grace the hardwoods of Strathmore High School.

Male or female, there’s no doubting Soto’s resume. And if she does happen to get a senior season, everyone should just say goodbye to their records now.

But while others waited around for word about a 2020-21 basketball season, Soto continued to put in work and was rewarded with a full-ride scholarship to NCAA Division II Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif.

Offered both an academic and athletic scholarship, Soto committed in December and officially signed with the Hawks women’s basketball team on Thursday at Strathmore High. 

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When it came time to take pictures, Karlie Wanmer was all smiles.

The Porterville High School senior announced her signing with Biola University women’s water polo with a small signing ceremony, Monday afternoon at the Panthers’ pool. It was the culmination of what had been a stressful past couple of months.

“It was really stressful at first before I signed,” Wanmer said. “I was stressing about being on the team and everything that came with it. And then once I finally signed, it was like a really big stress reliever….it all kind of hit me, and I’m just really excited to actually be a part of the team and start playing.”

Wanmer officially signed her National Letter of Intent last Wednesday for the private Christian university in La Mirada. 

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The future is red and black for Ava LoBue.

On Monday, the Monache High School senior signed a National Letter of Intent to play women’s water polo with Biola University in the Eagles’ inaugural 2021-22 season.

LoBue marked the occasion with a signing day at the Marauders’ pool with family and coaches Kyla Conway of Monache and Jack Amaral of Exeter Water Polo Club. 

“It really just means that all my hard work has paid off, and it all just seems so worth it,” LoBue said about signing. “I’m just really excited for this journey. I’m really excited for this new chapter of my life.”

SACRAMENTO - The CCCAA Board of Directors voted on Friday morning to continue forward with the Contingency Plan, which provides the CCCAA a framework for a return to competition this spring, while also providing decision-making guidance for institutions.

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A childhood dream is coming true for Valerie Baca, and she is nothing short of excited.

On Tuesday, the Porterville High School graduate signed a National Letter of Intent to play women’s soccer for New Mexico Highlands University, an NCAA Division II program, on a partial scholarship.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “It was literally one of my goals since I was smaller. Play D1, D2. And I’m very excited.”

Baca said she’s played soccer since she was five and loves that when she’s on the field, her mind clears. 

“I just like playing it, like just the game,” she said. “I forget about everything when I’m on the field, and it’s just been something that’s always there, always been fun. And I’m grateful that I’ll be able to continue to do it.”

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Porterville College (PC) has announced the appointment of Joseph “JL” Buchanan as the new Pirates Head Baseball Coach.

Buchanan, who most recently coached at Taft College, will lead the men’s baseball team at PC for the first time during our next in-person season. He’s already begun teaching classes virtually in our kinesiology program.

Athletic Director Gerred Link feels that PC has found the right individual to lead the team into the future. “We are excited to welcome JL to the Pirate family. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our campus, having served in various roles over the past 8 years in the Central Valley Conference. We believe he is ready for the challenge of being a head coach and are excited for this opportunity. He will be a great addition to our campus, student and the Porterville communities.” said Link.

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Two local volleyball clubs, NU Breed and Pipeline, merged together last week to create the largest volleyball club in the area.

Job Lara, the director of the non-profit NU Breed club, reached out to Pipeline’s director, Pete Rasmussen, to make the merger happen. Both Lara and Rasmussen agreed this was the right move with COVID-19 limiting resources and the two clubs wanting to increase their competitiveness. 

“It is something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile because I think both Pete and I have some gifts in us that compliment each other,” Lara said Wednesday via phone. “And I always thought that together we could be stronger and serve the south Valley volleyball community better. And so, this provided a perfect scenario for us to work together.”

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Organized sports are on hiatus but there’s still no days off in Job Lara’s backyard.

With over 30 years of volleyball coaching experience, Lara continues to train athletes who are working on their game during this extended offseason. He does so by focusing on fundamentals. 

“When you have the fundamentals, then you can be creative,” Lara said. “I share with them how Michael Jordan and some of the greats talk about how they worked on fundamentals all the time, even at their peak, because that allowed them to be great. 

“Once they have the fundamentals, they know where to move and body positions, then they can make those plays they see other people do. But without the fundamentals, you’ll never,” Lara said.

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The wildcat strike, described as a stoppage of work by unionized workers without union approval, grew as all NBA teams from the other two scheduled games -- the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers and Los Angeles Lakers -- opted not to play. All WNBA and MLS games for the day were also postponed, and several MLB teams chose not to play including the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners. 

Porterville College head coach Rob Haynes, had the NBA channel on in the background and was sending his students emails when he got the news alerts about the Bucks’ strike. 

“I wasn’t shocked because there was rumblings about it the day before,” Haynes said. “So I wasn’t shocked. I was probably more proud of them than anything else. Especially Milwaukee because I think they had the first game. So that kind of catapulted for everybody else to follow suit. 

“I would say that I was probably more proud of Milwaukee for taking the initiative because it’s so close to the home for them,” he explained. “I don’t know if any other teams would’ve done that if they would’ve played first. But it’s crazy how the stars lineup.” 

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Neda Velasquez continues to be proof that hard work pays off.

Last week the Monache High School graduate was awarded an athletic scholarship from the University of California, Merced. Velasquez, who is going to be an incoming freshman on the women’s cross country team, said the scholarship was unexpected. 

“The scholarship was honestly so unanticipated,” she said. “I honestly thought a scholarship wasn’t possible my first year, it never crossed my mind. When I received the text from my coach I couldn’t believe that I received the scholarship during my first year of running. I’m new to the sport, and the fact that I was able to receive the scholarship shows that I was dedicated this summer and will hopefully shine light to UC Merced.”

She added that the scholarship was a blessing and restored her confidence in herself. 

“It meant that life is constantly blessing me & I was pretty much capable of doing anything if I believed in myself,” she said. “Waking up every morning and putting in the hard work has paid off.”

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In the midst of a pandemic, Roxana Orozco found something to smile about.

The Granite Hills High School graduate returned to campus Wednesday to sign a National Letter of Intent to play women’s soccer at California Miramar University, Montebello. Orozco received an athletic scholarship and will play for the Fighting Falcons in their inaugural season next year.

Even with a mask, Orozco’s excitement about the future was apparent. Although the face covering did serve as a reminder that she would have to wait a little longer for this next adventure.

“It’s exciting,” Orozco said. “But it’s kind of bad because then I’m not going to start when I want to start.”

Revised Contingency Plan implemented, no XC in fall

Rather than wait until July 17 to make their decision, the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Board of Directors announced in a press release Thursday that they are implementing a revised Contingency Plan for the 2020-21 athletic season. 

The revised Contingency Plan moves all fall sports to 2021 and creates two seasons for the spring: early spring and late spring. The original Contingency Plan had allowed cross country and women’s golf to stay in the fall.

“It was definitely disappointing to see that but the No. 1 thing is safety for all people involved. All athletes, all coaches, all spectators,” Porterville College cross country coach, Michael Kasimoff said. “Sometimes there’s things that are greater than sports that have to be taken care of or dealt with. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

MHS alum named MOP for Reining, co-Rookie of the Year

Freshman Macey Newkirk stood out so much on the University of California Davis equestrian team, that her teammates selected her Most Outstanding Player-Reinier of the Year and co-Rookie of the Year.

Newkirk, a graduate of Monache High School, said this first season had its challenges but she worked hard and was proud to know her teammates saw her hard work too.

“It was a pretty cool feeling to know that my team thinks of me that highly,” Newkirk said.

In an Instagram post from the equestrian team (@ucdaviseq) announced Newkirk’s MOP-Reining selection saying, “Macey finished her inaugural year off with a 4-3-1 record, garnering 4 scores above a 71. Notable rides: She kicked off her freshman debut with 2 wins at the Willis Invitational winning an MOP with Penny against DSU. She scored a career high 73, tying her point against OSUs Hannah Mitchell on Trigg. And also defeated Auburn’s Boo Kammerer with Remi.”

Short season costs PC academic, postseason honors

The accomplishments of Porterville College softball, both on the field and in the classroom, will go largely unrecognized because of a shortened season due to COVID-19.

Kuea “Kiki” Angilau, the Pirates' star hitter, was on pace to become the program's second-straight All-American but was unable to finish the season. Batting .467 through 20 games, Angilau was second in the state in home runs (11) and slugging percentage (1.244), 17th in RBIs (25) and tied for 18th in runs scored (26).

“The lack of closure for the sophomores was the most difficult,” PC head coach Vickie Dugan said. “All but one of the sophomores will be coming back, but for Kiki there was no final sophomore game, end of year activities, etc. She was on pace to be an All-American and will not get that opportunity now. Hopefully she will keep the same pace at Texas A&M.”

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Shorter seasons, no fans among early changes

On Tuesday, the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) announced its new athletic plan for the 2020-21 season. But even with all its documents, powerpoints, charts, forms and more; there is still a lot up in the air about how sports will look this upcoming season.

Porterville College volleyball coach, Pete Rasmussen, and men’s and women’s cross country coach Michael Kasimoff, both said it was good there are plans in place but there’s still things they’re unsure about.

“It’s kind of all up in the air and it’s all fluid,” Rasmussen said Wednesday. “It seems like it changes daily.”

Kasimoff said PC athletics would have a ZOOM meeting Thursday at 2 p.m. to go over some things.

Some uncertainty centers around the CCCAA’s three plans — the Conventional Plan, the Contact/Non-Contact Plan and the Contingency Plan — which depend on the health guidelines of the state and what stage California is in on the Resilience Roadmap for COVID-19.

Madison Emerson has had an outstanding career at Fairleigh Dickinson University. And she hopes it will continue.

Emerson, a 2016 Porterville High graduate, has one more season of eligibility and would like to play softball for one more season at the Division I university in New Jersey in 2021. She has earned her bachelor's degree at Fairleigh Dickinson. She plans on returning to the school in 2020-2021 to earn her master's degree.

Fairleigh Dickinson will make a final decision in July if the university will resume on campus class in the fall of 2020, so Emerson is keeping her options open.

This past season in 2020, Emerson received the Knight Award which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Knight in competition, the classroom and community service.

SACRAMENTO – The CCCAA Board of Directors unanimously approved a three-part plan on Friday to allow the state’s community colleges a return to intercollegiate athletics for the 2020-21 academic year while being directed by health guidelines from the state of California. 

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“I always have a gut feeling someone’s right behind me,” she said. “Like no matter what, there’s always going to be someone right behind me wanting to take my spot, just waiting for me to stop. So that’s what I keep in mind. And that’s what pushes me.”

Vasquez’s mindset is a good one to have as she heads into the college arena. Last year, the Cardinals top female runner signed with, and received a partial scholarship from, California State University, Sonoma -- a NCAA Division II program. She will run cross country and track for the Seawolves.

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The mere mention of the city home to his favorite NFL team had Daniel Baca hooked.

A Pittsburgh Steeler fan since he was young, Baca received a call from Duquesne University’s tight end coach, Matt Stansfield, offering the Reedley College sophomore an opportunity to be near his favorite team while playing NCAA Division I football for the Dukes, a program in the Northeast Conference.

COVID-19 kept Duquesne from bringing Baca, a 2018 graduate of Monache High School, out to Pittsburgh, Penn. for an official campus visit, but Stansfield and head coach Jerry Schmitt offered Baca the one thing other programs hadn't offered — a full-ride scholarship.

“I put the phone on mute and I almost cried,” Baca said. “I kind of yelled but I like tensed up. Like my chest started beating. And I was like, ‘Woah, that’s a full offer! He said it.’”

Three area athletes affected by the suspension of upcoming season

The California Collegiate Athletic Association announced on Tuesday the suspension of all fall sports for the upcoming year.

The CCAA, a NCAA Division II conference, is home to 12 California State Universities (Pomona, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, San Bernardino, San Marcos, Chico, Humboldt, San Francisco, Sonoma, Stanislaus) and the University of California, San Diego.

The CCAA’s decision followed CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White's Tuesday announcement that the 23 schools in the CSU system would use online learning for the majority of classes during the fall semester due to COVID-19.

However in a Wednesday press release on Chico State’s website, chicowildcats.com, Chico State Director of Athletics, Anita Baker, clarified that the suspension was only a suspension, not a cancelation — at least for now.

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Monache senior committed to FPU’s cross country and track programs

Before he was a standout runner for Monache High School, Isaiah Sotelo was drawing attention in middle school and at the elementary level.

Now the senior looks to do the same as a member of Fresno Pacific University’s track and cross country programs after committing to the NCAA Division II Sunbirds.

“I chose Fresno Pacific because of how coach Ray Winter sold me on the program,” Sotelo said via email. “They are an up-and-coming program that has a lot of potential. Hopefully, through hard work and dedication, we can achieve something over the next four years. It means a lot to continue my career in college (with) new goals, new people. It is a blessing to be able to continue something that I enjoy doing.”

Along with running at FPU, Sotelo plans to major in criminal justice before moving on to law school and becoming a district attorney. At FPU Sotelo will receive $11,000 in academic scholarships ,and the rest in grants and athletics, to cover the total cost according to MHS head coach Seth Ishida.

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Neda Velasquez was all set to hang up her running shoes after high school and simply continue her education at California State University, Chico.

But as running became more of a passion and a part of her life, she decided to give it a collegiate try and reached out to one of her top college choices, the University of California, Merced, for an opportunity. Now the senior is committed to competing in cross country for the Bobcats — an NAIA program in the California Pacific Conference.

“With track season ending early I noticed that running became a part of my life, and as a runner with little experience I wanted to see my full potential,” Velasquez said. “So I decided to commit to UC Merced athletics since it's a growing program and I'm still finding my full potential in running.”

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Porterville High School’s Brandon Rose is continuing his football career with Montana State University-Northern after signing with the NAIA Lights in mid-April.

Stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic prevented Rose from actually getting to visit the campus in Havre, Mon., let alone have a signing ceremony, but the senior said being offered a nearly full-ride athletic scholarship and a new experience helped him make his decision.

“I talked to the coach for a while, we had a lot of long talks and stuff,” Rose said. “And he always talked about how nice the weather is up there and how they get snow and stuff like that. And I thought it would just be like a really cool, new experience.”

Rose, who has a 3.5 GPA and plans to major in biology en route to a career in dentistry or nursing, was also thankful for an opportunity to continue playing football. 

In a breakout season with the Fresno Pacific University Sunbirds, junior goalkeeper Camryn Berra earned All-American honorable mention from the Association of College Water Polo Coaches, as well as All-Conference honorable mention by the Western Water Polo Association. 

“It’s cool from going to like not getting to play a lot, to getting all the play time and getting recognized for that,” Berra said over the phone Wednesday.

The Monache High School graduate played in just 10 games over the past two years but proved she was deserving of a starting spot with the NCAA Division II Sunbirds when she took over for a sick teammate early in the season.

FPU head coach Bryan Suhovy, another MHS alum and former Marauder head coach, said Berra worked hard to put herself into a position where she could become a starter.

“This past summer she took it upon herself to train all summer long at the collegiate club level with some high-level athletes,” Suhovy said in an email Thursday. “That really helped build her confidence, gaining experience, giving her the edge she needed to excel in the goal for us this season. Every game she set goals for herself striving to improve at every opportunity."

Wrestling in college was always the goal for Tyler Avila, but the Porterville High School senior accomplished his dream of signing with NCAA Division I California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Tuesday afternoon at Porterville High.

The signing was a long time coming after Avila verbally committed to the Mustangs in early March. Avila received an athletic and academic scholarship to attend Cal Poly, turning down scholarships and offers from several schools including Div. I CSU Bakersfield, Cal Baptist and a President’s Honors Scholarship from Fresno State’s Smittcamp Family Honors College. 

“Feels good,” Avila said. “They put a hold on (the paperwork) for the NCAA cause of the whole coronavirus thing, so I was really just anxious waiting for it. It’s really nice to have it done.”

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Embodying the true meaning of being a student-athlete, Porterville College outfielder Sayra Sanchez was named to the Academic All-State Team by the California Community College Fastpitch Coaches Association (3CFCA) last week.

Sanchez, a liberal arts major, was one of just six softball players from the Central Valley Conference to earn the honor by meeting the requirements of having a 3.5 overall GPA and passing a minimum of 24 total units after her initial season of competition. 

A first-generation college student with a 3.7 GPA, Sanchez saw the hard work her parents put in working the fields as a reason why she wanted to make sure she made the most of her education. 

“It all starts at home, you know, watching my parents wake up at four in the morning, having to go to the fields to work. And me as well,” Sanchez, who also works the field, said. “That’s not what I want to do, and my only way out is to do good in school. The unfortunate reality is that if you don’t do well in school this is where you’ll end up at.”

Lei, Henderson and Sidhu also receive All-CVC honors

Four Porterville College men's basketball players received All-Central Valley Conference honors for the 2019-20 season.

Sophomore Tayshawun Bradford was an All-CVC, first-team selection. A starting guard for the Pirates (14-14, 7-7 CVC), Bradford led the conference in free throw percentage with 84.6%. He also averaged 16 points per game and was tied for fifth as one of the CVC's top scorers. His 42.9 3-point percentage was also sixth-best in the CVC. On the overall season, Bradford averaged 14.9 PPG and 4.9 rebounds per game.

PHS alum joins sister at Fresno Pacific University

After making a splash for Cuesta Community College men’s water polo, Porterville High School alumnus Steven Chapman is headed to Fresno Pacific University this fall to continue his athletic career.

The 6-foot-3 driver signed with the FPU Sunbirds on a partial scholarship in February. Chapman, a 2017 PHS graduate, joins younger sister Rosemary at the Pacific Western Conference, NCAA Division II university. Rosemary is a freshman on the Sunbirds’ women’s water polo team.

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On Thursday, the California Community College Athletic Association posted a press release on its website stating the board of directors voted “to immediately postpone practices outside of regularly scheduled classes, and competition for all spring sports, as well as any and all nontraditional sports seasons, indefinitely.”

In a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) post on its website Friday, CCCAA said the sports impacted are: baseball, women's badminton, women's beach volleyball, men's golf, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, and men's volleyball regular seasons.

PUSD cancels through weekend, PC indefinitely

Porterville Unified School District was the first area school to announce the suspension of athletic events due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) early Thursday morning.

On the heels of Tulare County issuing an emergency declaration after an individual tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday evening, PUSD posted on Facebook, “All PUSD athletic events are cancelled for today, tomorrow, and Saturday (March 12, 13 and 14). Practices will continue as scheduled.”

Throughout the day, Central Section high schools and school districts announced the suspension of athletic events with all beginning immediately. Summit Charter Collegiate Academy did not announce any cancellations as of press time but Lindsay Unified School District released a statement that said, “No travel outside of Tulare County for athletics, field trips, and other competitive events, unless pre-approved” through April 3.

It could've been Porterville College's fourth win of the season.

Instead Tuesday's Central Valley Conference home game against the Fresno City Rams turned into a disappointing 18-3 loss, the sixth-straight for Pirates' baseball.

After giving up two runs in the second inning, Porterville kept things close with the state's No. 6 ranked team and even got back on level ground with Fresno when PC's Isaiah Gomez (Porterville High) hit a two-run, RBI-single in the fifth to even the score.

But from then on, Fresno City controlled the game. The Pirates' struggles on the mound intensified and the Rams scored seven runs in the sixth and seventh inning to take a 16-2 lead.