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Hastings grad LaDoux finds niche at NIACC

Austin LaDoux hits in a home series against Iowa Central. (NIACC photo by Jim Zach)

Austin LaDoux’s swing wasn’t the issue.

North Iowa Area Community College’s freshman catcher has one of the fastest bats on the team. But his quick trigger couldn’t prevent an 0-for-18 start to his college baseball career.

“Austin was one of those kids where it was ‘All about my swing. All about my swing. All about my swing.’” NIACC head coach Travis Hergert said. “Finally he realized, ‘My swing is fine. It’s the pitches I’m swinging at.’”

Now he’s one of the best hitters on the team that is going to the NJCAA Division II World Series.

LaDoux, a Hastings High School graduate, is hitting .298 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs through May 16.

He earned second-team all-NJCAA District IX honors as a designated hitter. Oh, and he bats ninth in the order.

“You have Austin hitting in the nine hole. He can be a three, four or a five in anybody else’s lineup,” Hergert said. “That makes us particularly dangerous.”

That depth has helped the Trojans hit a school-record 74 home runs through May 16 and LaDoux’s 49 RBIs are tied for 16th most in a single season in program history.

Hergert said LaDoux is a “pure hitter.” And while the numbers are a testament to his raw ability, they’re also a reflection of his approach to hitting, one he worked tirelessly to develop during his freshman year.

NIACC discovered LaDoux last summer at a showcase at Grandview University in Des Moines, Iowa. Hitting coach Pete Lauritson reached out to LaDoux and made his pitch.

“When he called me, he had a plan already developed about what NIACC would do for me and what the plan of attack was,” LaDoux said. “They got right after it. They showed another level to me.”

LaDoux bypassed offers from other junior colleges and brushed off interest from Division I programs Central Michigan and Western Kentucky to attend NIACC.

LaDoux’s father Mark Dembroski said his son buckled down after committing and began taking baseball more seriously than ever.

“He became more of a student of the game,” Dembroski said. “He’s even more so. He’s even expanding that as we speak.”

LaDoux earned first-team all-conference honors after a stellar senior season at Hastings High School and joined the local amateur Hastings Hawks to prep for college baseball.

He arrived at NIACC in the fall and spent the winter lifting weights and ironing out his swing with Lauritson.

But it didn’t pay off immediately.

“I started off the year pretty rough. It was one of those things where I just couldn’t find anything. So I got moved down in the order probably just to see more fastballs I guess,” LaDoux said. “I just kept piecing it together.”

LaDoux starting taking mental reps and perfected an in-game routine that helped him find his swing.

Part of that routine?

“He’s got a note pad,” Hergert said. “It has everything broken down. What pitch this pitcher throws on what count. Results of his at-bats. Results of other guys’ at-bats. He became a student of that approach.”

LaDoux said he drew inspiration from big-leaguers Evan Longoria and J.D. Martinez.

“It’s really helped me focus, slow the game down,” LaDoux said. “You’re going to fail 70 percent of the time.”

Hergert said if LaDoux continues to develop he’ll have the potential to transfer to a Division I school.

“That’s the biggest reason why I came to junior college is to focus on moving on to the next level and be good to go,” LaDoux said. “That is my ultimate goal – to move on to a Division I program.”