Quinn McDaniel, the second baseman for the University of Maine baseball team, is currently leading the country in walks and walks per game. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

University of Maine junior second baseman Quinn McDaniel has been spending a lot of time on the bases this season.

That’s primarily thanks to his discipline at the plate. 

McDaniel has drawn 33 walks so far this season, which ties him with Oklahoma’s Bryce Madron for the most walks across all Division I programs. But McDaniel’s 1.65 walks per game (33 in 20 games) leaves him alone at the top of the standings in that statistic.

He had drawn 48 walks in 90 career games entering this season.

His on-base percentage of .578 is fifth best among players at 295 Division I schools.

McDaniel said he didn’t come into the season looking to draw more walks than in previous years.

“I’ve been a better hitter with two strikes on me. I’ve been trying to cut down on my strikeouts,” explained the Eliot native and former Marshwood High School star.

He said his ability to get hits with two strikes or foul pitches off to extend at-bats, which can lead to walks, is a matter of discipline.

“It’s trusting yourself with two strikes. Knowing the pitcher doesn’t really have anything to beat you and trusting the process with it,” McDaniel said. “The pitchers have to come to you. They have to give you a pitch to hit and when that pitch comes, you try to do damage with it.”

And he has been doing plenty of damage as he will enter this weekend’s three-game, home-opening series against America East rival UMass Lowell hitting .364 with six homers, four doubles and 17 runs batted in.

He has also scored 32 runs, which puts him third in the country in runs per game at 1.60.

UMaine head coach Nick Derba said one of the major keys to McDaniel’s success is that he’s resisting swinging at bad pitches. 

“The biggest difference-maker for him is he is better in the [strike] zone. He is swinging less and not missing as many pitches. He isn’t missing fastballs. If you swing at good pitches, you typically put the ball in play more often,” Derba said.

“It’s a really incredible stretch he has been having. He has been a big driver behind why we’ve been having success.”

UMaine will enter the UMass Lowell series with six wins in its last seven games.

“He is the leader of the team, hands down,” said sophomore first baseman Jeremiah Jenkins, who leads the team in homers (8) and runs-batted in (26).

“He doesn’t chase pitches he can’t hit. He sticks to his approach and will take his walks happily. He has been instrumental in our success.”

McDaniel was a first team All-America East selection a year ago when he hit .330 with 10 homers, 46 RBIs and a team-leading 54 runs scored.

“There is always a lot of room to grow. I’ve learned from my failures. I wanted to cut down my strikeouts and get on base more. I wanted to have more overall control of the zone,” said McDaniel, who has struck out 17 times in 20 games after striking out 91 times in 90 games over his first two seasons. 

McDaniel hit in the third spot in the lineup last season but he is hitting second this year.

umaine baseball season outlook

“I kind of like it. I’m more of a table-setter this year. Last year, I was more of an RBI guy,” he said. “In the spot I am now, I can play fast, get on base, steal bags and score runs. The people behind me are doing a good job hitting me in.”

McDaniel also leads the team in stolen bases with 13 in 17 attempts.

“Every time he steps to the plate, you know something is going to happen,” said graduate student center fielder Dylan McNary, who hits ninth in the order. “It’s fun to watch. I try to get on base for him so he can knock me in.”

This is McDaniel’s Major League draft year, and it’s not lost on him.

“It has been in the back of my mind a little but I try not to think about it. I just play my game,” McDaniel said.

UMaine, 9-11 overall and 3-0 in the conference, will enter the series against UMass Lowell (3-17, 0-3) averaging 10 hits and 7.9 runs per game. It is 31st in the country in homers per game (1.65), 33rd in on-base percentage (.415) and 60th in slugging percentage (.482).

“We’re dangerous at the plate. The depth in our lineup has been pretty impressive,” McDaniel said.

Derba and his team expect a tough series from the River Hawks.

“Lowell will show up and play their best baseball. They will be a contender in the conference,” Derba said. “Coach [Ken] Harring does a real good job getting these guys ready. This is a very deep-seated rivalry.”