Ole Miss commit pushes PRC to state title, but still hungry for more in future

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

Only in his sophomore year, Hayden Dunhurst had already committed to Ole Miss before surging the Blue Devils to what he said was the program’s first-ever state championship.

“It was a huge boost of confidence for me to sign for Ole Miss, but it also keeps me motivated because I have to continue to work hard and show them that they didn’t make a mistake by showing interest in me,” Dunhurst said. “I feel like I am representing Ole Miss every time I step on the field.”

Many schools showed interest in Dunhurst, including Mississippi State, but he was so impressed by the Rebels’ facilities and the city of Oxford that he felt comfortable with committing to Ole Miss. He said it also helped that Ole Miss constantly puts catchers in the MLB draft and has former MLB catchers Mike Bianco, Mike Clement and Carl Lafferty comprising the coaching staff.

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“It was just the perfect scenario. I feel blessed that they took interest in me. It honestly blows me away but it’s a huge honor and I intend to work harder than ever to elevate my game,” he said.

After his freshman year, Dunhurst quickly gained the reputation of being a power-hitter, but what separates him from many athletes across the nation is his authority behind the plate.

The Pearl River Central catcher has admired the St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, who is widely considered to be one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball, and has vastly improved his defensive play because of a desire to halt other opponent’s running games.

“Molina knows how to get it done. He controls the pitchers and calls his own game. He’s a true leader behind the plate and I try to be the same when I’m back there,” he said.

In his sophomore year, Dunhurst recorded 27 assists and 246 putouts in 280 chances because of his quick response time and bullet of a throw.

With a large chunk of the starters leaving before this season, Dunhurst said he knew the younger guys would have to step up and mature quickly if they had any chance of getting back to the playoffs.

“In the regular season this year, I tried to do too much, which didn’t work out too well, but in the postseason I really just tried to do my job and not over-complicate things and that seemed to really help me out, which helped out the team even more,” he said, finishing the postseason on a 13-game hitting streak.

Although Dunhurst takes pride in his defense, he also tries to emulate another all-time favorite player at the plate, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

“He’s the reason I wear 34 on my back,” he said.

Not only is Dunhurst a left-handed batter like Ortiz, but he also hits like the MLB slugger, cranking a triple, nine doubles, 37 RBIs, 37 hits and 10 home runs, including a 400 foot bomb, in his sophomore year.

“I approach every at bat the same, with a dialed in focus and determination to get on base,” Dunhurst said.

The Blue Devil slugger enjoys every aspect of America’s pastime, taking no days off in his hunt for another state title.

“There is no off-season for me. I miss out on a lot of stuff, but this is my passion and I enjoy it so much. God gave me a gift and I work hard not for myself but for my family and teammates,” Dunhurst said, adding that his favorite part about winning the state title was the happiness on his teammate’s faces.

Dunhurst has an extensive workout regime, filled with constant trips to the gym. But he said the hardest part of his off-season workout isn’t lifting weights or cardio, but yoga.

“Yoga is intense,” he said. “It’s much harder than working out, but it works wonders with keeping me flexible and increasing my quickness when batting or throwing.”

Along with being the watchful eye behind the plate for the Blue Devils and the slugging threat at bat his sophomore year, he also made his debut appearance on the mound during the playoffs.

In a wild game two against Long Beach, Dunhurst was assigned to captain the mound as PRC was trailing by three runs heading into the final inning. However, the sophomore was able to keep Long Beach at bay, and contributing to a last-second rally to push PRC to the South State Championship after teammate Caleb Tynes hit a walk-off RBI single.

“It was runs like that which helped us get to our state title,” Dunhurst said.

In the end, the Ole Miss commit helped his team reach the promised land for the first time in program history, he said.

“It feels good to win a state championship and bring it back home. I’m happy for my teammates, but we can’t be satisfied going into next year,” he said. “We won the state title, so now we have to protect it, defend it and go get it again.”