Former PRC athlete earns DI scholarship to Ole Miss

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 24, 2020

Hayden Dunhurst didn’t expect a possible career to come out of playing baseball, but after turning heads as a freshman in high school the catcher earned a baseball scholarship to play for Ole Miss.

Dunhurst said one of his earliest memories with baseball was his dad rolling the ball on the ground so he could hit it.

Those backyard sessions turned into tee ball before eventually turning into travel ball, where Dunhurst and his team would go up against talented competition across the country.

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Taking part in the travel ball competitions not only exposed Dunhurst to top talent, but also allowed him the opportunity to seek advice from former players who coached in the travel ball league.

“The organization has a bunch of coaches who were MLB players or college players. Every team you played on everybody had good experience and can teach you multiple things,” Dunhurst said.

All the extra innings and experience from travel ball led to some varsity playing time as an eighth grader with the Pearl River Central High School baseball team.

During his freshman year colleges came calling with several in state schools such as Ole Miss and Mississippi State showing interest.

However, a trip to the Ole Miss campus sold Dunhurst and after his freshman year he committed to play college baseball with the Rebels.

Prior to the commitment, Dunhurst said he would put enormous amounts of pressure on himself to perform, which he thought would disappear after committing.

It didn’t work out that way as opponents learned about Dunhurst’s commitment they’d try and get in the catcher’s head during games.

“After I committed I thought everything would be lifted off my shoulders. We started playing more games and those teams and kids were coming after me, which put even more pressure on my shoulders,” Dunhurst said.

He was able to overcome that pressure and stand out not only behind the plate, but in the batter’s box as well for the Blue Devils.

In 36 games as a senior he had a .396 batting average with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs.

Dunhurst was producing at the college level as well before the NCAA canceled all spring sports, but he said athletes could use the down time to improve themselves.

“It’s been a curse in some ways, but it can also be something helpful because we can spend the next five months working out every day and getting bigger, faster and stronger. For kids who look at it negatively it could be bad for them,” Dunhurst said.

The future of the world in general, with sports included, is uncertain given the COVID-19 pandemic.

That doesn’t mean Dunhurst doesn’t have dreams about what he can accomplish in the coming years on the field.

“The plan is to go all the way and play as long as I can in the league. I want to play three years here at Ole Miss, then start my professional career and if the good Lord is willing make something out of it,” Dunhurst said.