The spring season of 2020 may have ended too soon for San Marcos High baseball pitcher Chase Hoover, but he liked how quickly the summer came together.
“I’d say that 2020 definitely turned into a win,” the junior left-hander said after committing last week to NCAA Division 1 power Texas Christian University. “I got the opportunity to earn a scholarship from my dream school.”
The Horned Frogs’ offer came after Hoover struck out six of the 10 batters he faced three weeks ago at the Underclass Area Code Games in Atlanta, Ga.
“When it happens, it happens fast,” he said. “Once schools get interested in you, it starts to move pretty fast.”
Hoover, 16, was making a name for himself at San Marcos last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ended his sophomore season. He struck out 40 batters and allowed just one run during 19 2/3 innings to post an earned run average of 0.36 for the Royals.
Jacob Pepper, whose seven-year tenure as San Marcos’ coach ended last season, has known Hoover ever since he started coming to his baseball camps at age 10.
“You don’t see a lot of lefties, and I was a lefty pitcher myself,” Pepper said. “He’s always thrown a hard fastball and had nice athletic ability, with a real natural pitching motion.
“Chase was really showing his potential with how much he’d improved between his freshman and sophomore years, working hard to make the corrections necessary to pitch at a higher level. He was just going about his business and being super-coachable. It’s nice to see that hard work paying off.”
The 6-foot-1 and 180-pound Royal struck out Santa Barbara High’s last three batters to preserve a 1-1 tie that was called by darkness on March 7. But the coronavirus threw him a curve less than a week later when athletic competition was shut down all over the country.
“I was worried that there wouldn’t be any Perfect Game events or baseball this summer, either,” said Hoover, who pitches for the Coastal Cubs club program coached by Chicago Cubs area scout director Tom Myers.
His summer began to heat up in Surprise, Az., however, after several states resumed their sports activities. His first competition came at the Trosky National Team college showcase at the MLB Spring Training facilities shared by the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.
“It was a good starting place for me to get warmed up after the long break of quarantine,” he said, “although I have been lifting five times a week and working on all areas of my game. I’ve definitely been developing my changeup.
“I had to grind it out with what I had during quarantine, but I like how I competed during the summer.”
So did college scouts from several Pac-12 and Big West Conference schools. Hoover, who has compiled a grade-point average of 4.4, had also attracted the attention of Yale University.
His Area Code Games debut came with one out in the fourth inning and the bases loaded against a team comprised mostly of players from Texas. Although Connor Bennett hit his first pitch for a two-run double, it was the only hit the San Marcos lefthander would allow in the tournament.
Hoover struck out Texas’ next two batters to help his team hold on for an 8-8 tie.
“That’s the kind of resilience that kid has,” Pepper said.
“You always want to keep your composure and stay competitive,” Hoover said. “Even if I give up a three-run home run, I want to get the next guy out.”
He also pitched two innings of a 1-1 tie against a roster of mostly Northern Californians. He allowed no hits and just one walk with four strikeouts.
Kirk Saarloos, TCU’s pitching coach, soon informed Myers of his interest in his protégé.
Hoover, the eldest of Tim and Kelly Hoover’s three sons, took an unofficial visit to Fort Worth, Tex. just a few days later.
“I felt right at home as soon as I saw their campus,” he said. “I loved Fort Worth and the vibe I got from the town. The campus was beautiful and I really enjoyed my time there.
“I remember watching TCU play on TV when I was younger, thinking what a cool baseball environment they had.”
He also likes the environment that’s being developed at San Marcos. He’s been working out with senior Henry Manfredonia, a fellow pitcher and corner infielder who has committed to UCSB, as well as junior catcher Joaquin Sandoval.
The Royals return eight of their top 11 players from last year including the entire pitching staff.
“It’s definitely the consensus of the players that we’re going to go win CIF next year,” Hoover said. “We’re all willing to do the work — do whatever it takes to get that done.”
And it can’t start too soon for the future Horned Frog.