Daniel McCrary can always count on his parents, John and Deb, to be right there in the bleachers, cheering for their son who graduated from Lumpkin County High and now has found considerable success in Dahlonega as a starting pitcher for Division-II University of North Georgia.
“We’re so excited to see him pitching so well,” his father said. “Since he was little, I said the Lord blessed him with long arms.”
On March 12, it was especially memorable for the McCrary family. Daniel, a hard-throwing junior left-hander was sharp all nine innings, striking out four Armstrong State batters for a complete-game shutout – the first of his career.
He wasn’t done there.
On April 9, it was complete game No. 2 for McCrary, as he scattered five hits and recorded five strikeouts for the top-ranked Nighthawks (32-8, 16-5 Peach Belt Conference) in a 13-2 league win at Young Harris.
With these outings, his future looks bright as a prominent member of the North Georgia starting rotation as it looks to make a run at a league title and College World Series appearance.
The early season gem for McCrary (7-1, 2.20 ERA) against Armstrong State showed his command of the strike zone and variety of pitches.
“He was dominating the whole zone, and his pitching was very effective,” North Georgia freshman catcher Andres Perez said. “Every pitch our coach called, he threw it on the dot.
“It was one of the top five pitching performances I have seen this season.”
North Georgia redshirt sophomore pitcher Jack Fleming said that every outing for McCrary this year has been a building block off of the previous ones.
“He had awesome stuff during the Armstrong outing, but being able to compete with every pitch and his tenaciousness is what he needs to have in order to be successful,” said Fleming.
Daniel’s father, a former wrestling coach at Lumpkin County High, instilled the value of hard work in his son. Daniel, who was a three-sport standout for the Indians in high school, was sure to be the first at practice and the last one to leave.
Chalk that up to being a coach’s kid.
“His work ethic is one of his strongest qualities,” said Fleming. “I’ve been lucky enough to have shared every baseball moment on and off the field with him at North Georgia, and his work ethic is the reason he is having this type of season.”
Michael Gouge, an accomplished infielder for the Nighthawks, said McCrary’s combination of God-given talent and work ethic have played a major part in the team success for North Georgia.
On April 1, McCrary showed just how well he could play through pain. Facing Montevallo, McCrary was hit in the first by a ball off the bat of the hitter. Despite substantial pain, McCrary stayed in the game for six innings and, in the process, saved innings on relief pitchers.
“Aside from the obvious physical traits, what makes Daniel a good player is the attitude he possesses every day at the ball field. He attacks everything he does with a purpose and genuinely enjoys the sport,” Fleming said.
Gouge said the Nighthawks’ lefty does not like being in the spotlight and is quick to give his teammates praise.
His assessment of the outing against Armstrong State was a good example.
“It would not have been possible without the defense behind me,” McCrary said. “We turned multiple double plays to get out of some jams.
“Those double plays also helped keep my pitch count at a good number. It was a major confidence booster as well because I proved to myself that I could go the distance. We have one of the best defenses in the country and that is evident when watching us play. We make play after play. Without the defense backing me up and making all the great plays, I would not have near the success I have been having.”
One obstacle McCrary had to overcome, just like many college athletes, was becoming more of a vocal leader.
“We are very proud of Daniel and how far he has come as a pitcher in his time here at North Georgia,” North Georgia coach Tom Cantrell said. “He continues to get better every year and that is a tribute to who he is as a young man and as an athlete.
“Daniel is an extremely hard worker who puts time in every day on the field and in the weight room and works hard in the classroom maintaining good grades.”
Lumpkin County High baseball coach Dustin Allen still holds his former star athlete in high regard.
“He works so hard,” Allen said. “I hope my son grows up to be like him.”
After Allen invited North Georgia coaches to one of his practices to watch McCrary in high school, the Nighthawks responded with a scholarship opportunity.
McCrary jumped on the chance to stay in Dahlonega and pitch in college.
Off the field, the local talent has been presented the Academic Achievement Award (2015-2016) and is a Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll Gold Scholar (2015-2016). He plans to stay in the game and coach in the future.
In football, McCrary still owns the Lumpkin County High record for passing yards in a season (1,833) and for a career (2,984).
The left-handed thrower said all the lessons he learned at the high school level — hard work and determination – have been a driving force to his college career.