"It literally can't get much better than this," Hoover said. "I couldn't have written myself a better ending. This is pretty perfect."
Hoover, a standout at D.W. Daniel High in Central, S.C., was surprised with the news by Olympian and Stanford alum Lauren Lappin.
"It felt great to surprise Carley with the news and invite her into one of the most prestigious legacy programs in high school sports," said Lappin, a former U.S. National Team elite member. "Gatorade has been on the sidelines fueling athletic performance for years, so to be recognized by a brand that understands the game and truly helps athletes perform is a huge honor for these kids."
Hoover, a 6-2 right-handed pitcher, led Daniel High (24-4) to the Class 3A state championship as a senior in 2013. The state's returning Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, she posted a 16-4 record with a 0.15 ERA and 338 strikeouts in 138 innings this past season. A four-time all-state selection and the High School Sports Report Class 3A Player of the Year, Hoover batted .500 with four home runs and 45 runs scored.
Hoover has maintained a 3.84 GPA in the classroom. She also was a volleyball standout and president of her senior class.
Hoover joins former Cardinal pitcher Maureen LeCocq (2000-03) as the two Stanford softball players to earn the Gatorade National Player of the Year honors.
"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 (mph). I think she's a great kid and she's tough, too."
"She's been the kind of kid since she was little who saw something and set goals and wanted to achieve it," Jolene Jordan Hoover, Carley's mother, told Greenvilleonline.com. "I remember her reading an article in Sports Illustrated about some kid who had all these trophies, and she (Carley) didn't have one, so she set out to get trophies."
Hoover has acquired her share of awards, but she didn't know this one was coming.
She was told to come to the school Tuesday morning because she was to be interviewed for a USA TODAY story, and the interview was to be conducted by Lappin, a member of the 2008 Olympic silver medal-winning USA softball team.
In the middle of answering one of Lappin's questions, Hoover was interrupted by a representative carrying the Gatorade trophy.
"I know what it looks like. I've seen the trophy before," said Hoover, who played travel ball with last year's winner, Georgia high school pitcher Geri Ann Glasco. "I was like, 'This isn't real.'"
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Hoover as the nation's best high school softball player.
A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Hoover from nearly 373,000 high school softball players nationwide.
Hoover is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.