Surging Hoover gives Falcons real spark
WOODSTOCK — Hank Hoover is finding his groove at the varsity level.
In his first year on the varsity baseball team, the Central High School junior took a little time to get everything going, but lately that has happened and is providing a real spark for the Falcons.
“I’m getting settled in,” Hoover said of his recent surge for the Falcons. “It’s been interesting. It’s a different level. You can tell the difference from JV to varsity, but so far it’s been good. … The speed of the game, the pitching is definitely different [from JV]. They’re a good group of guys.”
Hoover batted .545, 6 for 11 at the plate, in four games last week for the Falcons. He also threw a five-inning, complete game, four-hitter against Manassas Park.
His strong week helped Hoover earn the Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for May 11-17.
Central coach Donn Foltz said he believes that Hoover is improving in every aspect on the field.
“He’s come a long way. I’ve seen the confidence grow in him, not only in the batter’s box but in the outfield and also on the bump,” Foltz said. “He’s grown as a player during the season, and I’m very proud of him.”
For the season, Hoover is currently hitting .429 (24 for 56), which is third in the area.
Hoover said that offensively he’s tried to shorten his swing up, and that’s helped him a lot.
When he hits the ball, Foltz said he hits it hard, which is part of the reason he has six extra-base hits.
Hoover has an area-best three triples.
“It’s very nice,” Hoover said of his triples. “You kind of wish you could have hit a home run, but I’ll take a triple any day.”
On the mound, the 6-foot left-hander has been solid for the Falcons. He has a 2-2 record, and entered the week with 18 strikeouts in 16 innings of work.
Hoover said that on the mound the key for him is staying focused and not getting in too much of a rush. Foltz said he’s been very happy with how Hoover has come along on the mound.
“He’s really progressed as a pitcher, focusing on the strike zone, taking his time, not rushing,” Foltz said. “On the mound is probably the hardest adjustment for him. He’s done a really good job.”
When he’s not pitching, Hoover is helping the Falcons in the outfield. Foltz said that Hoover has been very good defensively as well.
“He’s got a lot of speed and he can cover a lot of territory,” Foltz said. “He’s played all three positions. So he’s been very receptive to any part of the outfield, and has done a very good job.”
Hoover is also a standout in football. He said he probably prefers baseball over football, in part because he’s played the sport longer.
The Falcons have a young squad this season, with only three seniors on the team. Central has suffered some tough losses, but Hoover said he thinks the best is still to come from the squad.
“I don’t think we’ve unleashed the beast,” Hoover said. “We’ve not fully come out. Our last game [a 6-2 loss to George Mason] definitely showed what we could do. Even though we lost, we showed that we can play.”
The Falcons (6-14) will travel to Warren County on Monday in the Conference 28 quarterfinals, and Hoover said he thinks they are ready to play some of their best baseball.
“I think that they’re going to see something that they haven’t seen in a while — from the beginning of the season to now,” Hoover said. “I’m hoping for the best outcome for the team and maybe we can pull off the win.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com