WEST VIRGINIA—Eli Kirkendoll, a senior at Lincoln County High School, and Jess Canterbury, a senior at Herbert Hoover High School, have been selected as the Johnny Bench Award winners for the state of West Virginia.
The Bench Awards are given annually to the top college softball and baseball catchers in the country and the top high school softball and baseball catchers in the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, in honor of the legendary Cincinnati Reds catcher. That geographic stretch is often referred to as “Reds Country,” to recognize the 10-time Gold Glove Award winner who played for the Reds from 1967-1983 and was selected to the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Ironically, neither Kirkendoll nor Canterbury were able to play during their senior seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic which completely wiped out spring sports in the state.
But last season, Kirkendoll was awarded Class AA 1st-Team honors as a junior, batting .479 for the Panthers with six home runs and 39 RBI’s.
Canterbury helped lead the Huskies win their third-straight state championship last season, batting .362 with seven doubles and 24 RBI’s.
The awards are presented by MSA Sports and Ohio’s 529 College Advantage Plan.
“My sincere congratulations to this year’s winners because each one is a superstar catcher,” said Bench. “We are proud to honor these athletes based on their overall school careers despite not being able to finish the season this year. We wish them the best of luck on the next steps of their athletic and academic careers.”
The ten winners will be honored on June 24th during a Zoom call hosted by Bench and Reds/FOX Sports Ohio broadcaster Jim Day.