When Quinn McDaniel was making the 190-mile trip from Eliot to Orono for a baseball recruiting visit to the University of Maine, the Marshwood High School junior standout admitted that he wasn’t “super interested” in UMaine
But that changed once he arrived on campus.
“After I got up here, I kind of fell in love with it and I [verbally] committed a week later,” McDaniel said.
UMaine head coach Nick Derba is glad that he did.
After starting at second base as a freshman last year and hitting a respectable .268, McDaniel has taken his game to another level this season. He is now the team’s leading hitter at .341 and has hit a blistering .441 over his last eight games (15-for-34) with 11 runs scored and seven runs batted in.
He has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games and in 31 of the team’s 40 and has 17 multi-hit games this season for the 24-16 Black Bears, who have earned the top seed for the America East Tournament in Orono beginning May 25.
McDaniel is among the top six hitters in America East in several categories.
He is tied for first in sacrifice flies with six, third in runs scored (46), fourth in batting average (.341) and slugging percentage (.555), and sixth in hits (56), on base percentage and slugging percentage (.967), and stolen bases (21).
He is also tied for ninth in RBIs with 36.
McDaniel’s recent surge at the plate has also carried over to his fielding.
He has committed just one error on 60 chances over the past 14 games.
“He is a really good college baseball player,” said UMass Lowell coach Ken Harring. “He plays extremely hard. He is passionate. He is super athletic and physical.”
Derba said a dramatic transformation occurred for McDaniel between his junior and senior years at Marshwood.
“He took a huge step forward. He got a lot stronger so when he came in as a freshman, we thought we had a special player,” Derba said.
McDaniel said he devoted himself to getting stronger by working out to get ready for UMaine.
“I felt that was going to be a big piece in taking my game to the next level … hitting balls harder and being stronger, overall,” McDaniel said.
Derba agreed with Harring that McDaniel plays with a lot of passion.
“He plays like his hair is on fire and that is something we love,” Derba said.
UMaine graduate student first baseman/right fielder Joe Bramanti said McDaniel is one of the hardest workers he’s ever seen.
“He lives, eats and breathes baseball,” Bramanti said. “He truly loves the game. He is always texting me about getting together to work out. He puts in work in the weight room like nobody I have ever seen and that is a tribute to his strength and speed.”
Derba said another area of growth for McDaniel this season is that his baseball IQ has significantly increased.
“He has started to understand the game and not just react to it, which is really important,” Derba said. “His raw numbers, when it comes to being able to run and hit the ball far, are great but his game play and maturity in the game have come a long way.”
McDaniel has also reduced his strikeouts. He struck out 48 times in 153 at-bats last season but has cut it to 36 in 164 at-bats so far this season.
“It was an adjustment I was looking to try to make,” McDaniel said. “I just feel a lot more confident at the plate, to be honest.”
He had only two stolen bases in five attempts a year ago and his 21 steals this season have come on 23 attempts.
McDaniel said he takes a lot of pride in being an in-state player for the Black Bears.
“It’s cool to represent the state. You get to wear it across your chest and kind of prove that kids up north can play. There is a lot of talent coming out of Maine,” said McDaniel, who is one of seven in-state players on the UMaine roster.
UMaine, 19-5 in the conference, will entertain Albany (20-21, 9-15 in AE) on Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon. It will be Senior Day on Saturday.