Don't let his size fool you.
Madison McDaniel is 5-foot-6 and not more than 140 pounds, but the Hanover senior is the team captain and ace of the pitching staff.
Coming off a two-win season, the Nighthawks are still looking for their first win of 2016. But multiple times this season, McDaniel has put them in a position to win by consistently throwing strikes and forcing opposing hitters to try to put good swings on the ball.
“When he’s on, he hits all his spots," Hanover junior catcher Issac Silver said. "Where ever I put my glove, the ball just goes right to it. (Opposing hitters) definitely underestimate him. When a No. 4 batter comes up, he’s thinking, ‘This is a little guy, this’ll be easy.' But he's got movement on the ball. He’s got a nasty changeup he developed over the offseason.”
McDaniel also found a way to maximize the speed of his fastball through several years of playing baseball year-round. He played summer and fall ball in Little League and now plays for the Hanover Post 14 American Legion summer and fall teams.
“I just get a good push off the mound, use my lower body," McDaniel said. "My Little League coaches, that was a big thing, always made sure I’d ‘take a bow’ at the end to have a good follow-through.”
McDaniel worked hard in the offseason to add about seven to 10 mph to his fastball, Silver said.
"He’s the first one out here when we’re getting ready to practice, he’s the last one to leave," Silver said. "For his size, you’re not used to someone his size to be able to throw some gas in there occasionally. He’s now throwing high 60s to mid 70s, which for his size is fantastic.”
In addition to finding a way to play big on the mound, McDaniel also took on the challenge of playing big in the clubhouse. He led warmup drills during Hanover's rain-forced off-day on Thursday, and he maintains a positive attitude as the Nighthawks continue to look for win No. 1.
“We have to do the fundamentals; we have to field, we have to hit," he said of the team's performance so far. "We haven’t been striking out much, we’ve been hitting the ball, but it’s just been going right at guys. Eventually we’re gonna find holes.”
Right now, McDaniel doesn't plan to continue his baseball career in college. He holds a 3.816 GPA and plans to attend either Shippensburg University or Millersville University. But Hanover coach Jordan Smith is doing what he can to possibly keep McDaniel's baseball window open.
“I’ve been making a push," Smith said. "I’ve been sending as many emails and making as many calls as possible. Right now, he’s really focused on education. Whatever he decides, whatever is best for him is excellent.”