Pitch and catch: McDaniel, Malone now teammates at Milligan

Former William Blount High School pitcher Hunter McDaniel will continue his baseball career at Milligan College this spring, where he will be teammates with onetime rival Brandon Malone of Heritage.

Former William Blount High School pitcher Hunter McDaniel will continue his baseball career at Milligan College this spring, where he will be teammates with onetime rival Brandon Malone of Heritage.

Former Mountaineer Brandon Malone waits for the delivery in a game against Maryville two years ago.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Former Mountaineer Brandon Malone waits for the delivery in a game against Maryville two years ago.

We know this about Hunter McDaniel.

The former William Blount High School right-hander isn’t the kind to carry a grudge.

McDaniel signed to continue his baseball career at Milligan College near the end of the previous school year. Just prior to doing so, the Governor captain placed a call to one of his new teammates, Heritage catcher Brandon Malone, who’d signed with the Buffaloes four months earlier.

“He said, ‘I heard you’re going to be signing with Milligan,’” McDaniel said. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Well, you want to be roommates?’”

The last time the pair faced each other as rivals on the diamond Malone came inches from taking McDaniel deep.

The Governors and Mountaineers met for an in-school contest two years ago, Malone’s last active season at Heritage. McDaniel was on the mound for William Blount that afternoon when Malone came to bat in the seventh, the Governors holding a 5-2 lead. Malone was quickly ahead in the count, 3-0.

“He hit a foul ball straight up in the air to our catcher,” McDaniel said.

When the out wasn’t recorded, “The next pitch, he hit it to the (outfield) fence,” McDaniel said.

Now that they’re teammates, it’s time to let bygones be bygones, he said.

“It’s really not a big deal now,” McDaniel said. “We’re on the same team.”

Malone said he never tried to influence McDaniel’s decision to attend Milligan, but the former Mountaineer said he did tell his one-time rival what he thought of the place.

“I said, ‘I love it up there and it would be awesome to know somebody up there,’” Malone said.

McDaniel never got a chance to pitch to Malone during their senior seasons this past spring. A power-hitting catcher with a freakish right arm, Malone had hit .392 with eight home runs and 35 RBI during breakout junior season that had gotten him noticed by the Buffaloes. Prior to his senior campaign, he suffered an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery that would cost him the entire season.

“I’m doing good,” Malone said. “I have two months left in rehab, and I’ll be ready to go. It’s all fallen into place quite nicely.”

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