CONWAY — For junior Kyler Hoover, a full school year of three different sports culminated with the honor of being Most Valuable Player of the 3A State Championship baseball game as he and his fellow Harding Academy Wildcats easily knocked over Rivercrest 10-0 to capture their third-straight title.
Hoover was a starting receiver on the Wildcats’ dominant football team which went to the state championship game for the fourth time under head coach Neil Evans, and was a starting guard for Trey Jameson’s basketball Wildcats over the winter before coming back to the diamond Wildcats and coach Shane Fullerton.
Hoover, starting shortstop who has been leadoff hitter for the Wildcats since freshman year and a recent Bisons verbal commit, led Harding Academy offensively with 3 RBI, and provided the initial spark to begin the wave of runs in the bottom of the third inning. Hoover also made a number of key defensive plays to prevent potential Colts runners in the mercy-ruled win for Harding.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Hoover said. “As a freshman, that was one of my goals. Being with this team, it’s an overjoy with what we do, and what it came out to be, and today really meant a lot to me. It means even more to me that these seniors can go away with the W.”
In a number of situations during football season, quarterback Owen Miller always seemed to seek out Hoover for the big play to get the Wildcats out of a crunch, and Hoover seemed to carry that reputation as the kid in the right place at the right time into the spring.
“I like to be the kid that you don’t see as a huge threat, but you go out and work as hard as you possibly can,” Hoover said. “Nothing is going to stop me. That’s my goal – is just nothing stops me.”
With success, sometimes growing pains can occur. But Hoover and his teammates worked through potential issues early on as a group, and came out the other side even closer.
“I’m not going to lie, the start of the year was a little rough,” Hoover said. “We didn’t have the greatest start, and we were a little frustrated with each other, but seniors stepped up, and we talked and had little meetings. It turned out to be one of the best seasons I’ve ever been a part of for Harding Academy.”
Hoover’s at-bat in the bottom of the third inning was a scenario kids dream of with bases loaded and two outs in a scoreless tie. He stepped up in the moment with a hard hit down the third base line to score two runners to give the Wildcats complete momentum, setting the stage for the remainder of the contest.
“Regional tournament, I kind of had the same thing happen,” Hoover said. “Bases loaded, all I wanted to do was get a hit. I just want to get these guys in, and that was the goal. Any way or shape I could to get them in.”
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