6:00pm: Sunday Sportsline

RCB’s Junkins, Jefferson’s Horowicz earn state’s top baseball honors

(Story by Rick Kozlowski, WVSWA & The Journal)

Griffin Horowicz began the season as a relief pitcher and ended it as a starter for Jefferson.

He succeeded on both fronts as Jefferson played in its second straight state tournament and won 35 of 40 games during the 2022 season.

As a reliever – more specifically, as a closer – and as a starter, he turned out to be the Cougars’ go-to pitcher.

It turned into something of an unlikely season, as the player who has signed to play baseball at the U.S. Military Academy as a utility athlete has been selected as the initial winner of the John Lowery Pitcher of the Year Award, presented by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

“This is nice for Finn,” said Jefferson coach John Lowery, for whom the Pitcher and Hitter of the Year awards are named.

Earlier this week, Horowicz was named captain of Class AAA all-state first team.

Jefferson pitcher Griffin Horowicz captains the Class AAA all-state team. Photo by Eddie Ferrari

He put together quite the season for the Cougars, especially on the mound.

“It’s fairly obvious,” Lowery said, “his stats speak for themselves: eight wins and five saves, a minuscule ERA.”

His earned run average wound up 0.887 after being below 0.50 most of the season. He also limited batters to just one hit every two in innings.

“He came into some tough situations with a chance to close,” Lowery said, “and in those key situations, he calmed the waters.

“He didn’t let the moment overtake him. He could command a couple of pitches, and he was a key to our success, as well as others.”

That he became a starter turned into bonus for Jefferson.

He pitched 2 2/3 innings for a save in the first game of the regional series with Martinsburg and then blanked the Bulldogs in a complete-game shutout win in the deciding game of the tournament.

“He didn’t get a whole lot of starts,” Lowery said, “but he had that shutout against Martinsburg and did a good job against George Washington (in the state tournament).”

He didn’t get a decision in that game, but what he did do was something not even his older brother, Cullen, who set Jefferson’s home run mark in 2021, could do — hit a home run over the wall in center field at Appalachian Power Park.

“We’ve only hit three home runs in all of the state tournament games we’ve played,” Lowery said, “and Finn was one them.”

A versatile athlete — he won a relay gold medal in the state swim meet — Horowicz proved valuable to the Cougars wherever he played. He went 3 for 3 in Jefferson’s state tournament game.

“He was a good defender for us and could swing the bat well,” Lowery said. “He was a complete player for us. He’s a good third baseman.”

And Griffin Horowicz was able to dispatch with the comparisons to his brother.

“Finn established himself in his own right,” Lowery said.

Expectations before the season didn’t equal the reality of Horowicz’s situation as a pitcher.

“I didn’t think I’d pitch as much,” Horowicz said. “We agreed I would be the closer. Even as closer, I did more than I thought.”

He craved pitching in difficult situations as a reliever, feeling like he gained more knowledge of what pitches to throw as a game moved along.

He said he felt more pressure as a starting pitcher compared with entering a tight game in relief.

“Coming in as a closer, I know what they’ve done, and the coaches know what pitches to call. I have an idea, which really helps,” Horowicz said.

“As a starter, you don’t know how certain things will work, so it’s trial and error.”

Trial and error speak to how Horowicz went from “Finn-isher,” based on his nickname and anticipated role, to starting pitcher for the Cougars.

It helped him land honors as the top pitcher.

Also considered were fellow first-team Class AAA hurlers, Reece Sutphin of state champion Hurricane and Ben McDougal of Bridgeport.

 

(Story by Michael Minnich, WVSWA & Clarksburg Exponent)

The impact that Nathaniel Junkins and the rest of the senior class on the Robert C. Byrd baseball team can’t be understated.

Called upon to play right away for a young RCB team as freshmen by first-year coach Tanner Hill, Junkins and company suffered through a 9-20 season, then saw their sophomore campaign fall to COVID-19 cancellation.

In 2021, it was a year of growth, but near-misses for the Eagles: RCB beat rival Bridgeport during the regular season, contended for the Big 10 title, were seeded first in the section, but were felled by Philip Barbour.

There were no such issues in 2022, as Junkins swung a powerful club.

The senior hit. .461 with eight home runs, 11 doubles, two triples, and 46 RBIs and also stole 16 bases.

Two of those home runs came in huge spots, one each in the Eagles’ two Region II championship series victories over defending regional champ Herbert Hoover.

Both were three-run blasts.

Robert C. Byrd’s Nathaniel Junkins captains the Class AA all-state baseball team. Photo by Eddie Ferrari

That offensive prowess, especially in the clutch, earned the RCB slugger the John Lowery Award as the state’s top hitter, regardless of class, as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

Junkins also pitched a complete game in Game 2, helping RCB clinch its first state berth in program history.

“I’ve loved every second of it. I’m glad to do it with my teammates (for the) first time in history.” Junkins said.

All of the blood, sweat and tears were worth it.

“That’s helped a lot. Having all the experience I have now makes the bigger situations seem easier,” Junkins, a three-sport athlete, said.

Junkins credits Hill for his, and the program’s, success.

“Our relationship with him has been really good. Everyone’s grown up and is playing good baseball,” Junkins said.

Junkins was also named as the captain of the Class AA all-state first team and was first team all-Big 10 Conference after leading the Eagles to their first sectional title in 19 years.

“It’s really special,” Junkins said. “Being able to do this with my teammates has been really fun this year. It’s been a ride.”

Also considered were Morgantown’s Aaron Jamison, Hurricane’s Ethan Spolarich and Logan’s Dawson Maynard.

Jamison batted .396 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs for the regional finalist Mohigans, adding eight doubles and five triples.

Spolarich was a .438 hitter with seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 51 runs for the Class AAA champs.

Maynard posted a .495 batting average with 11 doubles, five triples, six home runs and 45 RBIs.





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