In last season’s matchup between Davidson and Winthrop, Wildcats infielder David Daniels watched as his older brother Leighton finished the night 3-for-5 with an RBI for the Eagles, who won the game 5-3.
In the teams’ first matchup this season on April 1, David returned the favor, going 4-for-4 with a two-run home run in a 3-0 win for the Wildcats.
The brothers, who grew up in Charlotte and graduated from East Mecklenburg High, are set to face off again at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Rock Hill with some major family bragging rights on the line.
“We’re definitely a little bit competitive,” David said Thursday. “When we play each other and one of us gets a hit, we keep track of that. I think he went 3-for-5 in the game last year and I went 4-for-4 this year, so there’s been some back-and-forth, but it’s nothing too serious.”
What’s interesting about the Davidson-Winthrop matchup is it’s one of the few times you won’t hear the Daniels family rooting hard for the Wildcats. Instead, they dawn two-sided jerseys and keep their cheers Daniels-specific.
“Its funny,” said Davidson coach Dick Cooke. “You wouldn’t even know they’re brothers if it weren’t for the family doing the T-shirt thing. Between the lines on the field, you don’t sense it. It’s just another game. Which is a credit to both of them.
“The family’s done a nice job planning for these matchups but kept it low key. It hasn’t taken away from the playing of the game. Plus, these kids playing against each other is stuff they’ll remember forever.”
This year, David’s season has in many ways mirrored the game he put together against his brother in early April. His batting average (.338) is 83 points higher than it was at the end of last season, he has matched his home run total (three) and has knocked in four more runs.
The .338 average ranks third for the Wildcats (23-11).
Daniels has found his place in the No. 2 hole in the batting order. He leads the team in runs scored (33), hits (49) and doubles (12).
“He’s a really good college version of a professional hitter,” said Cooke. “He’s got a pretty simple swing, in a good way, there’s not a lot of inefficient moving parts and this season, he’s just refined that.”
Daniels credits the at-bats he got as a regular starter last season for his improvement this time around.
“I really think it’s a year’s more experience that’s made the difference for me,” said Daniels, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior.
After Daniels spent the entire season at third base, Cooke approached him about switching to first two weeks ago.
Having played plenty of shortstop, second base and third during his career – but never first, Daniels had the right to object, but chose to do what he could to help the Wildcats.
In his first game at the new position, he made two highlight-reel plays during the same inning, diving to stop a ball to his left and then taking away a sure hit through the hole between first and second.
“He’s just a good solid player and a good solid human being,” said Cooke. “He’s a guy you want to go to war with whether you’re on a baseball field or in the classroom. Professors love him, he does a great job all around. He’s exactly what we want in baseball player here at Davidson.”
Over the past two seasons, Leighton owns a 2-1 advantage in games against his brother.
“I’m well aware,” said David. “Hopefully, I can even that score.”
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