Pearl River Central catcher Hayden Dunhurst still has three years left in his high school career, but he’s already thinking about the next level.
The Blue Devils’ power hitter verbally committed to Ole Miss on Monday. He also received interest from Mississippi State.
“I just felt like it was the right time,” Dunhurst told the Sun Herald on Thursday. “I wanted to get it out of the way so I could focus on my goals.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Dunhurst attended a couple of Ole Miss games this season, including the Louisville series, and came away impressed with the Rebels’ facilities and Oxford.
“Everything up there is just beautiful,” he said. “Everything was perfect.”
Dunhurst said it also helps that Ole Miss continually has catchers selected in the MLB draft and has former catchers Mike Bianco, Carl Lafferty and Mike Clement comprising its coaching staff.
As a freshman at PRC, Dunhurst was a key piece of the team’s run to the Class 5A South State series.
In addition to being a reliable receiver for a strong Blue Devils pitching staff, the left-handed hitting Dunhurst was among South Mississippi’s home run leaders in 2016 with four. He batted .286 with 27 RBIs, eight doubles, 31 runs scored and a .476 slugging percentage.
“The No. 1 thing about him that I like is his receiving,” PRC coach Neil Walther said. “When people look at him, they’re looking at his arm and his power, but it’s his receiving that makes him so valuable.”
There’s still a lot of time between now and when Dunhurst heads off to college, but website Perfect Game has the 15-year-old ranked 17th nationally in the 2019 class.
Walther said he’s not surprised Dunhurst is so highly thought of in recruiting circles.
“He’s just 100 percent about baseball,” Walther said. “He goes to baseball, church and school and that’s it. That’s his three things. They’re going to get a commit who is going to be committed to baseball.”
Dunhurst was attractive to the Rebels as being a complete package. In addition to a power bat, he’s also a reliable catcher with a strong arm behind the plate.
His arm is so intriguing — Perfect Game clocked Dunhurst at 88 miles per hour in October 2015 — that Walther expects him to add pitching to his responsibilities for the Blue Devils moving forward.
As for his bat, Dunhurst said he was surprised by his freshman power surge.
“It’s just starting to come,” he said. “I hope it stays.”
According to Perfect Game, Dunhurst is the Rebels’ second 2019 commitment, joining Winder, Ga., third baseman Zack Smith.