Summer lessons prime Dans' Dugas for LSU

Summer lessons prime Dans' Dugas for LSU

DANVILLE — Gavin Dugas has spent the 2018 Prospect League season showing LSU baseball exactly what it's getting when Dugas reports to campus as a freshman later this year.

Tigers coach Paul Mainieri must like what he sees.

Dugas carried a .342 batting average for the Danville Dans after Wednesday night's road victory over the Hannibal (Mo.) Hoots. The Houma, La., native boasts a team-best 22 RBI to go with 28 stolen bases and three home runs for the West Division's second-place club before the Dans and Hoots meet again at 6:35 p.m. today in Hannibal.

So it's been smooth sailing this summer for Dugas, Louisiana's top-rated prep shortstop as a senior and the 55th-ranked player at that position nationally.

Well, almost smooth sailing.

Mainieri might not mind Dugas investing in some bubble wrap for the remainder of the youngster's time with Danville.

Dugas leads the Prospect League by being hit with 12 pitches in just 33 games.

"It's been with me through high school and Little League, for sure," Dugas said of his penchant for plunkings.

The Danville Stadium crowd last week witnessed Dugas take a ball square to the back. No harm, no foul.

But that was far from the case late last month, when Dugas was struck in the head two times about a week apart.

"He still wanted to be here, wanted to travel," Dans assistant coach Drew Erie said. "But we didn't want him to because a concussion is a serious injury. It can change people's lives, change people's careers."

Last week's tilt against the Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex marked Dugas' first time back in the field since entering concussion protocol, and he posted a clean outing at second base.

Dugas is at his most impressive, though, when he has a bat in his hands. He set Houma's career records for triples and home runs in addition to single-season marks in triples, home runs and runs scored.

"He's probably one of the best players I've ever had the privilege to coach and know," Erie said. "I don't doubt his ability. I don't doubt anything about that kid."

Dugas has seamlessly made the transition from high school ball to a more advanced level despite his midseason concussion.

"It's way different," Dugas said. "I wouldn't say the game speeds up, but if you let it, it will. It's a great learning environment and something I definitely need to be part of."

LSU's staff has ties to those in charge of the Dans, hence Dugas making the lengthy trek north for his summer action. There has been an adjustment period for Dugas in that regard, but not relating to anything on the diamond.

"I thought it was going to be a lot more cool and comfortable (in Illinois)," Dugas said, "but it's a lot more hot than it is in Louisiana."

That doesn't seem negatively affect Dugas on the field, who described it as "a dream of mine to play for LSU." He held a handful of offers from other Louisiana-area programs, but committed to the Tigers the day of his official visit in 2016 and will be joined by fellow Dans infielder Drew Bianco in LSU's incoming recruiting class.

Erie said he wouldn't be at all surprised if Dugas started for the Tigers, who fell a win short of advancing from the Corvallis Regional during the 2018 NCAA tournament and own six College World Series titles in their program's history.

"When you've got guys that are bought into doing stuff for the team and the program, there's a lot of success," Erie said. "That kid's going to have success his whole life."

Dugas declines to let his mind get ahead of his body. He's simply looking to take lessons from his inaugural stint in the Prospect League and make them count toward LSU's next campaign.

"Whatever opportunity they give me, I'm going to take full advantage of it," he said. "Hopefully I'll contribute as much as possible when I get there."

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