The impact Nathaniel Junkins and the rest of the senior class had on the Robert C. Byrd High School baseball team can’t be overstated.
Called upon to play right away for a young 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, was seeded first in the section, but was felled by Philip Barbour.
There were no such issues in 2022, however, 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 2 championship series victories over defending regional champ Herbert Hoover.
Both were three-run blasts.
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 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.