The Herbert Hoover baseball roster features 14 players who experienced the Huskies’ Class AA state championship last season.
But it was a freshman pitcher who stole the show for the Huskies on Wednesday.
Right-hander Chase Stover tossed five innings of two-hit baseball in leading Hoover to a 13-0 win over defending Class A champion Charleston Catholic at Triana Field.
Hoover won its seventh straight, and 13th of its last 14, in improving to 22-3, while Catholic dropped to 18-8 with just its third loss in its last 12 games. Stover didn’t have overpowering stuff against an Irish team that had scored at least 10 runs in seven of its last 11 games, but he did have one simple formula in mind.
“I just tried to throw strikes and let my defense back me up,” said Stover, who improved to 3-0 in just his third outing of the season. “I just had to hit my spots and let my catcher (Matthew Farmer) help me out back there. I followed what he told me to pitch and just pitched the game.”
Despite Stover’s varsity inexperience, Hoover coach Brian Young wasn’t surprised by the outing.
“We thought he was capable of doing what he did,” Young said. “He’s a pretty good pitcher. He throws his curveball for a strike and he’s all around the strike zone with his fastball.
“We expected him to come here and just throw strikes and let his defense work. We expect good things out of him. He’s a good pitcher, he’s very coachable and he listens well.”
Stover was admittedly nervous before the game, but got a big boost when the Huskies plated nine runs in the second inning.
“That gave me a little more confidence and I was able to throw it in there better,” he said.
Stover finished with just one strikeout and two walks.
After a quiet first inning, Hoover played long ball off of Catholic starter Alex Belcher (3-1) in the second inning with a two-run homer by designated hitter Joel Ridenour and a two-out grand slam off the bat of Tristan Fields.
Fields also doubled in the inning, in which the Huskies sent 13 batters to the plate.
Hoover added three more runs in the fourth inning off reliever Nick Russo, highlighted by an RBI double from Shaun Dotson.
A single run in the fifth closed out the scoring.
Overall, Hoover had 11 hits, led by Fields and Matt Justice with three apiece, while Hunter White and Dotson added two hits each.
The outburst was a welcome change for the Huskies, who’d struggled of late with runners on base.
“The last week or so, we’d been getting some hits, but we hadn’t been getting them with runners in scoring position,” Young said. “Tonight we were able to do both and we hit the ball real hard.
“This was very important. Some of our better hitters had been struggling for the last couple of weeks and it was good that they got to see the ball hit the ground a couple time tonight. We’re coming together at the right time. We’re starting to play real good defense in the last few games and again, starting to get some balls to hit the ground. That’s always a bonus at this time of year.”
Catholic coach Bill Mehle wasn’t pleased with the loss, but has been pleased with his team’s overall performance this season.
“We’re very pleased with the way we’ve performed,” Mehle said. “We set a goal to win 20 games in the regular season and we still have a couple opportunities this week, if the weather holds, to try and achieve that.”
Catholic had singles from Connor Golden and Sam McKown for the club’s only hits. It was far cry from a 17-run performance the night before.
“That’s baseball,” Mehle said. “Last night we had 15 hits and tonight we were struggling for the ball to find grass. They (Hoover) have an above average high school defense, and some balls that could have found their way, they were able to make some good plays on.
“It’s just hats off to Hoover.”