HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Daniel Keating's knack for hitting the long-ball dates all the way back to his days at Gulfport, to the tune of 57 RBI and 11 home runs over his high school career. Now, over three years later? It's safe to say those talents have carried over to Hattiesburg, becoming one of four Golden Eagles with double-digit dingers last season (11).
"I try to bring a balance of speed and power to the plate," Keating said. "I never try to do too much with the plate. I just try to swing at pitches and whatever happens, happens."
The Southern Miss senior figured to be a key returner from last year's Conference USA Championship season, until surgery on a hamate bone injury sidelined him for fall practice.
"Any senior hates to miss out on his last fall practice period," Keating said. "But I've been working my hardest and doing everything I can to get back to 100 percent."
That puts the 2016 Conference USA Tournament MVP in a fierce competition for the starting centerfield job, a position head coach Scott Berry says is still wide open as the Golden Eagles begin spring practices..
"(Keating) missed the whole fall," Berry said. "So he's gotta get back out there early now, get those reps and prove himself in a short time, to be honest with you. His swing has missed a whole semester. He is back swinging now, but he missed a lot of reps."
"I think we're all pretty close, and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing," Keating said of the competition. "I just think it says a lot about our depth."
Keating also will likely spend time at designated hitter, where he started 19 games last season. But regardless of position, the former Admiral looks to spend his senior year helping push the program to new heights.
"I don't really have any goals statistically, per say," Keating said. "At the plate, maybe handle the bat better in certain situations and just continue to improve on defense, but my overall goal is just to help the team in whatever way possible."
Keating and the Golden Eagles begin their season the same way the ended 2017, with a home contest against Mississippi State. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. on Friday, February 16.