Freshmen drastically influence collegiate baseball year in and year out. Judging by history, a freshman will find a way to factor into his team’s wins and losses each week during the regular season.
We’re only one week into the 2016 season, but it’s pretty clear that there are some remarkable freshmen in this year’s crop who will play a role in how May conference tournaments pan out.
Already, one such player has made an immediate impact and has the college baseball world buzzing based on what we’ve seen thus far. Everyone is talking about Florida A&M University freshman Willis McDaniel.
McDaniel is listed at 5’9″ weighing 165, but packs some major power for his physique. The Tallahassee, Florida native decided to stay home in his college baseball recruitment, choosing the Rattlers to start his college baseball career.
McDaniel wasn’t a full-time baseball player at Lincoln High, but his decision to stay home and play baseball over football has already started to pay dividends. The freshman outfielder is off to an incredible start this season already establishing himself as one of the elite freshman outfielders the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
In his first test he made a statement belting a homer in his very first career at-bat against Marshall. But, it does not end there. McDaniel finished the weekend series with two home runs, six runs scored, six runs batted in, 11 total bases and an .846 slugging percentage. He also was 2 for 2 in stolen bases which all helped FAMU to the series win.
After Sunday’s game, McDaniel goes home. When he wakes up Monday morning, the MEAC has announced Willis McDaniel Rookie of the Week after his performance against Marshall.
McDaniel’s feat helped the Rattlers tally a school-record 54 hits over the three-game series and scored 38 runs to start the season 2-1.
Coming into the 2016 season there were question marks offensively that the Rattlers lacked potential power threats, so they added a fifth-year transfer from Jacksonville University in Dylan Dillard and a power hitting catcher in Jackie Miles Jr.
The 2015 MEAC championship team lost key pieces from last season. But, the players who led FAMU to the NCAA Division I Regional playoffs last season return along with a veteran pitching rotation.
Right-handed pitchers, Danny Rodriguez and Sawyer Betts were effective during the series which showed why FAMU is one of the top teams in the MEAC.
Converted closer, LHP JoJo Durden, a JUCO transfer, made his first career collegiate start working 5.1 innings and allowed just three runs on three hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Durden was selected as MEAC Pitcher of The Week.
Florida A&M seems to have found the answer to its need for power at the plate with the addition of Willis McDaniel, an all-around force for the Rattlers. His speed in the outfield and on the bases is also a plus. McDaniel has the tools to be an elite center fielder in college. He is that player colleges wished they had recruited but overlooked.