D.W. Daniel (Central, S.C.) senior pitcher Carley Hoover is the 2012-13 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-2 right-hander 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, a 0.41 WHIP 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.
We sat down with Hoover to better understand how she outshined more than 379,000 high school softball players nationwide to win the award.
Q: People have been talking about how hard you throw since you were 12 years old. How did you not become obsessed with your radar gun readings?
A: I’m still obsessed! Who wouldn’t want to wind up and throw really hard? But I had to step back and realize that’s not going to get me where I want to go. You’ve got to have other tools in the toolbox, so I had to do the work to get them.
Q: You had USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Angela Tincher’s father as a pitching coach and 2009-10 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year Kasey Fagan’s father as a club coach. Big help?
A: Definitely. Denny Tincher rebuilt my delivery from the ground up. He got me through that. Kevin Fagan always looked out for me. One time I picked up a Gatorade cooler full of ice and drinks and he screamed, ‘Hoover! Drop that!’ Then he was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got a game to pitch. You’ve gotta learn to take care of yourself.’
Q: As a nine-year-old, you were 5-foot-10, eye-level with your coaches and played nose guard for the Central-Clemson Rec Center football team. Is it true they thought you were a boy for the first three days of practice?
A: Yup. They called me ‘son’ and after they saw my ponytail, they were like, ‘You better cut off that rat tail, boy.’ I wasn’t mortified. I didn’t really know anybody anyway. I was nine—I probably looked like a boy. I was like, ‘whatever.’
Q: Is it true your dad used to have to bring your birth certificate to your games growing up to prove you were age-eligible?
A: That’s true. Can you blame folks? I was a 6-foot-1 first baseman as a 12-year-old and I’m standing right in front of their dugout for seven innings. Wouldn’t you think: There’s no way that kid is 12?
Q: You turned down an invite to play with the Team USA Junior Women’s squad this summer to start taking classes at Stanford. Was that decision tough?
A: All I’ll say is, when you walk around the Stanford campus, there are a lot of conversations going on that are over your head. I’m not a natural genius. It’s going to be tough to succeed academically at Stanford and I’m committed to doing it. It’s just another challenge. The national team will always be there. Right now, my only softball goal is to get better.
Q: Pitching is your thing, not standing at the plate with the bat in your hands. Still, you drew 114 walks in the past two seasons. That’s a pretty good eye.
A: I’m not a great hitter in club and I may not hit at Stanford. I did well in high school. A number of those walks were intentional. I guess teams were worried about my ability to drive the ball because of my size and figured they’d win if they took me out of the equation. I was lucky to have a team that didn’t let that happen.
Q: You threw a no-hitter in your last game. Was that a perfect ending?
A: No, a perfect game would have been perfect because I never threw one in high school. I walked a batter in the seventh inning (of the title-clincher) and I was well aware of what I’d done. I just concentrated on not showing my disappointment. I don’t really care, though. My team played awesome and we won the state championship.