Because he decided to not take the gridiron for South Dakota State, Nebraska native Jake Dugger is playing like a linebacker on the diamond for the University of Arkansas.
Just ask the wall and the ground at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, site of last week's SEC Baseball Tournament.
The 5-10, 190-pound freshman outfielder Dugger, who would love nothing better than to return to his hometown of Omaha to play in the College World Series, had a run-in with the left field fence while saving a run with one catch and dove headlong to make several other plays that saved more tallies.
"You just have got to go out there and do everything you can to help your team win," said Dugger, still donning Band-Aids and patches from cuts he picked up over the weekend. "If you have to run through a wall or make a hole in the ground, you've just got to do it. I will say that fence was nothing but thick wood and I got my bell rung pretty good, but maybe it knocked some sense into me."
Dugger originally signed to play both football and baseball at the Division I-AA school, but then changed his mind when Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn showed interest.
"Coach Van Horn told me that he had the money for me and if I could get my release then I could come down and I would play," Dugger said. "I knew that Coach Van Horn was a great coach and the SEC was a great conference. But I was afraid South Dakota State wouldn't let me out of my scholarship and I would have to go juco and then come here, but they were real nice about it and the rest is history."
The lefty-swinging Dugger certainly has been a spark plug as the Razorbacks' leadoff man with a .311 average with 7 homers and 40 RBIs and been safe in all of his 10 steal attempts.
He was 4-of-5 in Saturday's 3-2 loss to South Carolina in the SEC semifinals, 7-of-14 in the last three games of the event and 8-of-20 for a .400 average in the tournament.
"He's a just a gritty, tough guy who does play the game like a football player in that his body means nothing to him and he is always making contact with something," Van Horn said. "He's just been a great pick-up for us and has a great future ahead of him because he is going to get even better as he puts in the work."
Dugger can't wait for this weekend's NCAA Regional at Baum Stadium to get started on Friday when Missouri plays Wichita State at 2 p.m. followed by top-seeded and No. 9 Arkansas (39-21) battling Le Moyne (36-19) matched up at 7 p.m.
There have been estimates of between 9,000 and 10,000 expected for Friday night's game.
"This is awesome," Dugger said. "It is going to be a great weekend. It's going to be like nothing I have ever experienced before. I am really looking forward to it and we are going to leave everything on the field."
Dugger is not the prototype lead off hitter as he has only drawn 39 walks while fanning 46 times, but he does go up there hacking and has a .421 on-base percentage, which is the second-best on his team.
"I really try to set the tone, especially if we are the visitors because if you come out and get a hit it really gets your team going," Dugger said. "But if you strike out, you don't give them that burst of confidence that this is going to be our day."
He was a four-year starter in both football and baseball for Omaha Millard West High, leading the football team to a state title in his junior season and batting .410, swatting 26 homers and driving in 200 runs in his baseball career.
"I was a running back who was pretty good and enjoyed the game," Dugger said. "But I love baseball and I think that shows."
UA's Dugger not afraid of contact
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