Carley Hoover averaged two and a half strikeouts per inning this spring, so the Daniel (Central, S.C.) senior right-hander is accustomed to predictable results. But when she was surprised today with the 2012-13 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year trophy, the teary-eyed teen confessed she was unprepared for the moment.
“You play every game with this award in mind, but you never really think you’re going to win it,” said Hoover, a Stanford signee. “I really didn’t think it would happen. I’m standing here holding the trophy and I still don’t believe it.”
A 6-foot-2 senior, Hoover led the Lions (24-4) to the Class 3A state championship this past season. A two-time Gatorade South Carolina Softball Player of the Year, Hoover posted a 16-4 record in the circle with a 0.15 ERA and 338 strikeouts in 138 innings. A four-time All-State selection, she batted .500, scored 45 runs and drew 55 walks in 107 plate appearances, compiling an on-base percentage of .757.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Hoover is now a finalist for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award. USA Today High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
"I think she’s the next great pitcher at Stanford,” said Derek Allister of OnDeck Softball. “She’s the kid who can get them to the World Series. She throws gas. She’s one of the few kids legitimately in the upper 60s. I think she’s a great kid, and she’s tough, too."
In 483 innings-pitched over the past four years, Hoover allowed just 115 hits and issued 182 walks for a prep career WHIP of 0.61. She never batted below .475 and she graduated with a career OBP of .646. As a senior, she averaged 2.45 strikeouts per inning, allowing only three earned runs in 20 starts. She fired four no-hitters and opponents batted just 0.62 against her. Hoover led her Team North Florida club squad to the 2011 ASA 18U Gold National Championship.
Olympic silver medalist and professional softball infielder Lauren Lappin delivered Gatorade’s National Player of the Year trophy in a surprise visit to Central on Tuesday.
“To be honest, stepping in to hit against her wouldn’t be any fun for me,” said Lappin, 28, a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year at Stanford who helped Team USA to Olympic silver in 2008. “As a Stanford grad myself and knowing that this award stands for more than just the athlete you are, I had high expectations for Carley upon meeting her. She’s exceeded those expectations.”
Hoover has maintained a 3.84 GPA in the classroom. A three-time All-State honoree in volleyball who led her team to the state finals in three of four seasons, she was president of her senior class and served on the student council throughout high school. A member of Beta Club and faith-based Young Life, she has volunteered locally delivering food to the needy in association with Feed the 500 in addition to coaching youth softball players. She is also active with the St. Andrew Catholic Church Youth Group.
Hoover becomes the first female athlete from South Carolina to earn national Gatorade honors in any sport. Along with University of Tennessee junior quarterback Justin Worley (2010-11) she represents one of only two Gatorade national winners from The Palmetto State.
California has produced the most national winners in the award program’s 28-year history with 60 followed by Texas (27), Florida (19) and Illinois (15).