Five months removed from an historic splash into his LSU freshman season, second baseman Cade Doughty suited up for his South Florida Collegiate Baseball League debut with the Boca Raton Blazers.
And promptly went hitless in three plate appearances.
Things didn’t get better any time soon. He reached base safely with one hit in his first four games, his confidence and batting average (.100) simultaneously plummeting.
“It took me a couple of games to get my footing and get used to seeing live pitching again,” Doughty said.
By the time Doughty left sunny South Florida, he owned the league’s third-best batting average (.429), captured a berth in the league’s all-star game and has a robust amount of confidence in his return to LSU for his second year.
“Once I got comfortable back in the box, it was pretty smooth from there,” said Doughty, who had 39 hits with nine doubles, three homers, 17 RBIs, scored 29 runs and walked 18 times.
There wasn’t much of a ramp up to the 27-game summer season for Doughty which began June 12. He hadn’t swung a bat in a competitive environment since March with a 3-for-4 showing and a RBI in LSU’s 4-1 victory over South Alabama.
That turned out to be the final game for the Tigers (12-5) with the remainder of their season cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Doughty, who batted .278 and tied for the LSU team lead with 12 RBIs, completed the remainder of the semester taking online classes from his home in Denham Springs. He was hopeful, but unsuccessful, trying to hone his skills because of state-mandated shutdowns of such places as gymnasiums.
“It was mostly working out, working on my mechanics,” Doughty said. “I figured some things out for myself, trying to get better in that sense even though I wasn’t able to hit live pitching. There weren’t many opportunities to have live at bats.”
Doughty was one of several players from LSU that took part in the wooden bat South Florida Collegiate League, an experience that progressively got better over time. He and LSU teammate Cade Beloso, who played for the Phipps Park Barracudas and batted .412, were selected to the SFCB All-League first team.
“It’s definitely big from a confidence thing, getting your reps and kind of figuring out what you need to do to contribute next year,” Doughty said. “I’m definitely grateful that I got the opportunity. I’m thankful that I was able to do something that a lot of our (LSU) players weren’t fortunate enough to do.”
The summer league also enabled Doughty to gain a sneak-peek into what it may be like to play baseball in the spring of 2021 in a pandemic world.
By the time he and fellow LSU infielder Collier Cranford arrived for the start of play, the league’s quarantine period had already elapsed.
Doughty said no one from his team contracted coronavirus, and the one reported positive case involved a player from the opposite league that resulted in him being quarantined with no stoppage of play.
While on offense, masks were worn and players were separated by six feet in the dugout, but masks weren’t required to play in the field on defense.
“It was a very serious topic,” he said. “We couldn’t take that lightly since we all wanted to be out there playing the game we loved. It was definitely weird, but at the end of the day, if that’s what we all had to do to play baseball, we were more than happy to get that done. We were there to try and help the team win, just to do anything we could to help the summer league continue on.”
Doughty was far removed from first collegiate plate appearance, cracking a two-run homer that served as the catalyst in the Tigers’ 8-1 victory over Indiana. He became the first LSU player to homer in his first career at bat in 11 years.
Doughty overcame a slow start this summer by going on tear in which he raised his batting average to a season-high .458 on July 14. He wound up getting a hit in 22 of 27 games, including a season-high 15-game hitting streak that included nine of his 12 multi-hit games.
Because his team didn’t qualify for postseason play, one of the personal highlights of the summer came for Doughty when he was selected start in the league’s all-star game along with Beloso. The LSU teammates both second-inning RBI singles to help the North All-Stars to a 5-3 victory.
“It was awesome,” he said of the all-star invite. “You got see the better pitching in the league that day. It was an honor to start at second base and just contribute and help my team out.”
After having his 15-game hitting streak snapped, Doughty responded in a positive manner. He applied the finishing touches on a successful summer by hitting safely in six of his last seven games, highlighted by a 3-for-4 effort with a double, a homer and three RBIs in a regular-season ending 7-3 victory.
More than offensive prowess, though, was a continued development at second base in which Doughty tried to build a case to retain his starting job when LSU begins fall practice later in September.
Doughty, who drove in 12 runs in his last 12 games, had a .920 fielding percentage with just four errors in 50 total chances.
“I got more comfortable out there,” Doughty said of his play at second base. “I’m really looking forward to this fall and spring, to show people that I’ve gotten better at it so I can contribute to the team. I wanted to prove to them that I’m not a liability out there.
“The level of play was pretty good, probably equivalent to last summer in the Cal Ripken League. You had a handful studs, and everybody was there ready to play. It took a while for everyone to get in the rhythm. It’s definitely going to help me prepare for the fall. I’m grateful for just being able to see live pitching again.”