LSU freshman second baseman Cade Doughty quipped there may soon be a reprisal of one-on-one whiffle ball games in the family’s backyard against his older brother Braden, a junior catcher with the Tigers.
Having been jettisoned from a structured environment where most of the days are planned, coupled with the inability to utilize LSU’s state-of-the-art facilities, Doughty has tried adjusting to the void in his first collegiate season that was halted after 17 games because of the coronavirus pandemic
LSU (12-5) was packed and ready to embark on the start of Southeastern Conference play March 13-15 with a scheduled three-game series at Ole Miss. But players disembarked the bus still in the parking lot of Alex Box Stadium and collected their belongings because the SEC announced it was cancelling all athletic events for the next three weeks (which was later revised to the rest of the season).
It conjured images of nearly four years ago when Doughty’s life was turned upside down by the Great Flood of 2016 that ravaged his hometown of Denham Springs.
“We had a meeting and they told us our season was postponed,” said Doughty, who batted .278 with a pair of homers and 12 RBIs in 16 starts this season. “I kind of had that same feeling (during the flood) after taking my bags off the bus of, ‘Alright, what do we do next?’ I was kind of confused and didn’t know what to say.”
In that moment, all the hopes and dreams Doughty had of following in the footsteps of his father Richard and playing baseball at LSU flashed before him.
Doughty committed to LSU before his sophomore year at Denham Springs and signed during the early portion of the NCAA’s signing period in November 2019.
He essentially guaranteed his arrival at LSU by pushing his asking price high enough that major league teams balked until the Detroit Tigers finally took him in the 39th round.
“It’s definitely not what I was expecting coming into this,” said Doughty, whose great-grandfather Frank Doughty also played basketball for LSU in 1937. “Ultimately, I do have at least two more years left and hopefully I can just capitalize on that. I’m just focusing on getting better and helping my team win. That would be the best scenario.”
Doughty’s career began right out of a movie script, homering in his first college plate appearance – a two-run shot – in LSU’s 8-1 season-opening win over Indiana.
“That first at-bat was kind of hard to top,” he said. “Being able to hit a homer in my first at-bat was crazy. It was awesome for me and my family to go through that.”
That turned out to be the lone highlight for Doughty in his first eight games when he batted .115 with just three hits. The former high school shortstop also committed four errors in 21 chances at second base.
“I thought I was getting unlucky,” he said. “I was barreling up a lot of balls. Later in the season, it started falling for me. I really didn’t try to change much. Even when I was going through that downhill stretch, I just had to really focus in and just do what I could with what I had.”
Doughty said there weren’t any drastic adjustments he discussed with hitting coach Eddie Smith, but there were certainly better results ahead.
That began with a 2-for-3 showing and an RBI in LSU’s 4-3 win over Texas. It served as a springboard over the next eight games for Doughty when he batted .429 (12 of 28) with nine RBIs.
Doughty wound up tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs, tied for second in homers (two), and was third in stolen bases (4 of 6 attempts) and sixth in slugging percentage (.407).
Moreover, Doughty played flawlessly on defense without an error in his final nine games or 29 total chances.
“We were still working on my approach, sticking to being consistent in the pitches that I swing at,” Doughty said. “I was kind of getting more comfortable in there, too. I was finally relaxed and playing the game I always loved to play.
“Defensively, I was continuing to work on my craft. I was definitely feeling more comfortable out there. I was really excited that I could help out my team like that.”
In what turned out to be the team’s final game of the season, Doughty went 3-for-4, drove in a run and scored a run in a 4-1 victory over South Alabama on March 11.
With a surge in his productivity at the plate, where he was seemingly locked into a No. 2 spot in the batting order, and developing prowess in the field, Doughty’s anticipation of the start of SEC play had reached fever pitch.
It was the time of the year Doughty relished and older teammates such as Daniel Cabrera and Drew Bianco, who were already preparing the road rookie for life away from Alex Box Stadium and his first series against red-hot Ole Miss.
“I was super excited,” he said. “I was feeling locked in and just ready to face the SEC and experience it. I had teammates telling me how crazy the SEC was, and I was ready to be called a lot of nasty things. I was really looking forward to it. It’s disappointing that I didn’t get to experience that. Next year will be that much better.”
Doughty has tried improvising, finding ways to stay sharp in his own backyard, a far cry from the luxurious facilities he once enjoyed and believed he was becoming the player he always hoped.
“I’m going to try and get better at home with Braden,” he said. “Just doing what we can with what we have. It’s definitely a crazy process we’re going through right now. We’re doing what we can but it’s nothing serious.”
The next adjustment in this process takes place Monday where Doughty restarts the spring semester and will take classes online, a fact LSU coach Paul Mainieri has already addressed with players through text messaging and the importance of remaining in good academic standing for next season.
Once the semester is completed, Doughty has designs of playing in any of the nation’s summer leagues. It’s where college players annually face tougher competition with the intention of improving for the following season.
Doughty, who had 54 plate appearances in 16 LSU games, simply looks forward to playing the game once again. But even that possibility remains uncertain.
“We’re still hopeful for summer ball,” he said. “It’s what you have to look forward to. It would be a huge damper if summer ball got cancelled as well. We’re still going to keep working and hopefully it ends up working out.”
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