Riley Hull wins Johnny Bench Award

Caleb Lowndes

Pulaski County High School sophomore catcher Riley Hull won the Johnny Bench Award as the top softball catcher in the state of Kentucky. Hull will receive her prestigious award on June 18, at the Cincinnati Reds' Great American Ball Park.

Pulaski County High School sophomore catcher Riley Hull had another standout year on the dirt diamond, and just like last year, the accolades are already coming in.

For the past 19 years, the Johnny Bench Award has been presented to college baseball's top NCAA Division I catcher. This year, the Bench Award honored a total of ten catchers and include the top female college softball catcher along with the top high school baseball and softball catchers from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.

Hull, a Mississippi State University commit, was named the top Kentucky high school softball catcher to be honored by the former Cincinnati Red's Hall of Fame catcher.

The Bench Award honored a total of ten catchers and include the top female college softball catcher along with the top high school baseball and softball catchers from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia: Top male NCAA baseball catcher, Top female NCAA softball catcher, Top baseball and softball catchers from Ohio high schools, top baseball and softball catchers from Kentucky high schools, top baseball and softball catchers from Indiana high schools, and top baseball and softball catchers from West Virginia high schools.

"It's already a prestigious award and the only way we could make it better was to bring it to Cincinnati and at the same time honor the best softball women catchers in college," said Bench. "And now working with the Reds we can also recognize the top high school baseball and softball catchers from across Reds Country."

Hull's 2019 softball stats were phenomenal as the 2018 All-state catcher maintained a .589 batting average, a .622 on base percentage and a .953 slugging average for the season. Hull scored 48 runs, drove in 54 runs, hit two homers, eight triple and 17 doubles. At the catcher's position, Hull had a team-high 171 putouts, picked off eight base runners, and gunned down 10 runners trying to steal a base.

"Pulaski County's Riley Hull led all finalists in all statistics and was the clear choice," stated Johnny Bench in a recorded video announcing the award winners. "Pre-season, she was ranked 85th in the country, and this was coming off her freshman year as a sophomore. She has already committed to Mississippi State."

Hull, and the other nine Johnny Bench award winners, will be invited to Cincinnati on June 18, for an awards luncheon at Great American Ball Park and a baseball and softball catching clinic at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy. The ten winners will also be honored that evening on the field during pregame ceremonies before the Reds vs. Houston Astros game at 7:10 p.m.

Previous winners include National League MVP and World Series champion Buster Posey of the Giants and established big leaguers such as Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko and Kurt Suzuki.

The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission created the award in 2000 and dedicated it to the Hall of Famer and Cincinnati Reds legend. The Reds and Johnny Bench, along with the Reds Community Fund, announced that the award will be expanded in 2019 and permanently relocated to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum at Great American Ball Park.

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at sports@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

Steve Cornelius has worked as a journalist at the Commonwealth Journal since 2001, and has been the CJ Sports Editor since 2005.