GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - At 6-feet-3 and 205 pounds, Southern Miss commit Daniel Keating will be heading to Hattiesburg as a physically gifted athlete who has all the tools to become a professional baseball player down the road.
The Gulfport Admirals shortstop held offers from Tulane, Southeastern Louisiana, South Alabama and Samford before settling on USM.
"I took my visit and I really liked the atmosphere, the coaches and I made a lot of really great friendships up there," Keating said. "It was really just the whole package."
Keating is now a senior at Gulfport High School and leads the Admirals in numerous offensive categories, including runs (25), hits (30), doubles (9), triples (3), home runs (4) and RBIs (21). While his home run total is less than his junior year total of six, his batting average has jumped from .333 in 2013 to .400 this year. All of these numbers could increase if he, and his teammates, play well in Gulfport's second-round playoff matchup with D'Iberville.
"I always had it in my mind that I wanted to play college baseball," Keating said. "I just knew that if I worked hard that I'd have a pretty good shot at it."
Keating was on the radar of a few schools before the summer of 2013, but his output during summer tournaments not only helped him earn those scholarship offers, but extra attention from pro scouts. While he admits being drafted by a Major League Baseball team in June is possible, he's wanting to focus on the opportunity he will receive at Southern Miss.
"I'm excited to be a part of the program," Keating said. "They have a long tradition of winning at Southern Miss. I'm honored to be a part of it and they can expect my best."
The future USM Golden Eagle will also be joined in the college ranks by Justin Steele, who is also having a dominant senior season but at George County High School. Like Keating, Steele helped lead his team to a first-round bye. The region 8-5A champion George County Rebels will face the West Jones Mustangs in the second round.
Steele, a left-handed pitcher, has two no-hitters this season. The first came during a 6-0 win against defending 5A south-state champion Pascagoula in March, while his second no-hitter was recorded in a 9-0 victory over East Central in April. He notched 16 and 15 strikeouts in those games, respectively.
"He's a great lefty pitcher and has a lot of movement," Keating said. "He's a great guy, too. We are pretty good friends. It's always fun going up against him."