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Clay Casey chose between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. But there was a pull in a certain direction that had been there a long time.

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Casey, who became the most recent commitment for Rebel baseball for the Class of 2014, was an outfielder for Olive Branch High School this past spring as a junior. He will sign with the Rebels in November.

"It's always been my dream," said Casey of playing at Ole Miss. "I grew up not too far away. I've been to baseball games, football games. I've been to the Grove so many times I can't remember how many. Ole Miss is where I belong."

He was recruited heavily by the Magnolia State's two Southeastern Conference schools, but not so much by others. Casey said he believes it was because the others knew he was going to choose between the Rebels and Bulldogs.

"I think everybody knew it was down to those two schools for me," he said. "I don't think anybody else wanted to waste their time recruiting me, since they knew it was going to be one of those two."

Casey has also played football during his high school years, but he will likely bypass that this year.

"Baseball's my future, and I'm going to give up football to focus all year on baseball," he said.

Casey was named as a Louisville Slugger All-America selection. This past spring he was also first-team All-District, second-team All-State and first-team All-Desoto County. He's heading to California for the Area Code Games later this summer.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder wants to get up to about 210 pounds by the time of his first college season. It's one of his goals for the next several months. There are others.

"I want to focus on hitting the ball with power every single at-bat," he said. "Whether it's a line drive or a hard ground ball through the hole, or a home run. I want to take away the bad at-bats, and I really want to work on my strengths and speed. I'm going to try to get as fast and strong as possible."

He's had a good summer for Dulin's Dodgers.

"In the last three weeks, my average has been about .450," he said. "I've hit five home runs, five triples, and nine doubles. I've only had four singles the past three weeks, so I've gotten a lot of extra bases."

But he is constantly trying to find ways to improve his game.

"One thing I really want to focus on besides my speed and strength is my arm," he said. "I've got to stay injury. I had a UCL sprain in the spring, and that put me back some. Hopefully I can throw it mid-90s from the outfield and maybe lower 90s on the mound by next spring season."

Ole Miss has several Memphis area and Mississippi players recruited for the Class of 2014. Casey sees that as a positive.

"There's a lot of talent in this area," he said. "It's good that there are so many players going there. Some are there this year, like Henry Lartigue and Wyatt Short.

"It's going to help us that we've experienced a lot of the same stuff," Casey continued. "A lot of us have been playing against each other. Now we get to play together. That'll help bring us together even more."

Clay Casey
File Photo

Proximity was important to him for his family's sake.

"It's great that my parents and grandparents live close enough to come watch me play," said Casey, a right-handed hitter and thrower. "My family being close was definitely a consideration."

All in all, Ole Miss was just the place for Clay Casey, because it's where he's really always wanted to be.

"The players have fun. The facilities are awesome. It's a great coaching staff," he said. "You've almost got a weight room just for baseball. I'm pumped up about getting to go where I want to go. I'm excited to get there and get in that program and help them win a national championship."

Here are the other members of the Class of 2014 who are committed to the Rebels in baseball:

Will Golsan, INF, New Hope (Miss.) High School

Ti'quan Forbes, INF, Columbia (Miss.) High School

Tate Blackman, INF, Lake Brantley High School, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

John Wesley Ray, RHP, Christian Brothers High School, Memphis, Tenn.

Brady Feigl, RHP, Central High School, Chesterfield, Mo.

Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy, Orlando, Fla.

Michael Fitzsimmons, 1B/3B Memphis (Tenn.) University School

Kyle Watson, INF, Desoto Central (Miss.) High School

Joe Wainhouse, 1B, Kentridge (Wash.) High School

Will Stokes, RHP, West Lauderdale (Miss.) High School

Nic Perkins, catcher, Francis Howell High St. Louis, Mo.

Calder Mikell, RHP, Petal (Miss.) High School

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