University of Southern Mississippi head baseball coach Scott Berry announced recently the addition of 15 players for the 2024 season, including five student/athletes from the “Southern Six.”
The new signees include: right-hander pitcher/infielder Cal Culpepper (Clarkdale, Miss.), infielder T.J. Dunsford (East Central HS), catcher Jacob Keys (Brandon, Miss.), right-handed pitcher Drake Meeks (Birmingham, Ala.), catcher/infielder Lawson Odom (Laurel, Miss.), infielder Seth Smith (Mobile, Ala.), Josh Och (Victorian, Minn.) and infielder Will Verdung (Corinth, Miss.) as well as infielder Gabe Broadus (Mobile, Ala.), outfielder Ty Durham (Bentonville, Ark.), right-handed pitcher McCarty English (Ocean Springs, Miss.), infielder Charlie Keller (Mobile, Ala.), right-handed pitcher Peyton Lacy (Pass Christian, Miss.), right-handed pitcher Landen Payne (Ocean Springs, Miss.) and right-handed pitcher Sawyer Toney (Tampa, Fla.).
Dunsford, the reigning 5A Mississippi Player of the Year at East Central High School, helped lead his team to the state championship last spring. Dunsford had 41 hits and 30 RBI at the plate while also striking out 107 batters as a pitcher. He also earned first-team all-state honors by SBLive and was one of three non-seniors to earn first-team all-state by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
English, who preps at Ocean Springs High School, started in 10 games last season and threw 53 1/3 innings. He fanned 81 and walked 25 with a 1.71 ERA. He was a 2022 Perfect Game Southeast Regional honorable mention selection and a preseason player to watch by CaptialSportsMS.com. He added a .220 batting average with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and 14 RBI.
Keller, who graduated from Mobile Christian last spring and is a freshman at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College this season, earned the most valuable player honors in the state Class 4A state championship series as he led his school to a state championship and a 33-4 record. He homered in his final high school at bat in the final state title contest. Keller hit .398 for the season with 10 homers, 37 RBIs and 35 runs scored. He was the ASWA’s Class 4A Hitter of the Year.
Lacy, from Pass Christian High School, made the 2022 Sun Herald All-South Mississippi team and a Class 4A all-state selection by the Mississippi Coaches Association. His school reached the second round of the state playoffs. He helped District 8 capture the State Games of Mississippi, going 5-for-8 in the series and picking up a save in the final game.
Payne, who played for national champions Pearl River Community College last season, appeared in 15 games and posted a 4-3 record with a 2.88 ERA. He fanned 37 and walked nine in 25 innings of work. Payne prepped at St. Martin High, holding a 2.18 ERA over three seasons. In 88.2 innings pitched, Payne struck out 102 batters against 18 walks, while allowing just 27 runs.