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Friday, August 18, 2017

Baseball

Sophomore pitches his way to top 10 in the nation


After playing mainly as a reliever his freshman year, sophomore left-hander Trey Cumbie has quickly proved himself as a stellar pitcher, ranking No. 7 in the nation with a 1.04 ERA. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

By the end of last year, sophomore left-hander Trey Cumbie had cemented himself as one of Cougar baseball’s up-and-coming pitchers.

Starting out as relief for starting pitchers, he slowly proved his pitching finesse. When it came time for his first career start, he led the Cougars to a 4-3 win over Sam Houston State University.

Cumbie finished his decorated freshman season by being named American Pitcher of the Week, Silver Glove Series MVP, Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, and NCBWA Second Team Freshman All-American.

“It gave me a feel for the college level,” Cumbie said. “I knew what to expect coming into this year, and I had a lot better feel for my teammates as well.”

Early into his sophomore year, Cumbie has already exceeded expectations. He ranks No. 7 in the nation with a 1.04 ERA, leading the Cougar pitching staff. In seven starts, he boasts a 5-0 record — one of the top starters in the county.

Starting from the bottom

Despite starting only five games as a freshman and spending most of the season as a reliever, Cumbie does not believe that much has changed for him this season. Because of his understanding of the nuanced team dynamics, he feels more confident in his playing style at the elite level.

“I thought (Cumbie) by the end of last year was our best pitcher,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “He was the most durable, reliable, consistent guy that we had for, really, the last half of the season. So, what he’s done this year hasn’t really surprised me.””

When starter Andrew Lantrip went down last year with an injury, Cumbie was the top choice to take his spot in the rotation.

Over the course of his freshman year, he appeared in 15 games. He finished with a 1.29 ERA and a 5-2 record in 56 innings pitched, while only walking nine and allowing three home runs.

Realizing his talent

All of his hard work came together in his March 21 start on the road playing then–No. 10 University of Louisiana — his hardest contest to date.

Louisiana had all the momentum going into the game. They were coming off a series win over Appalachian State University and had a 7-2 record at home. They were led by Alex Pinero, who had a .375 batting average, 24 hits, 12 runs and 12 RBI.

Facing these factors, Cumbie dominated the Cajuns every inning. He finished with his first complete game, shutting out the Cajuns, striking out five and giving up just five hits.

The Cougars won 4-0. His performance earned him American Pitcher of the Week for the first time in 2017.

“There’s not a situation where we think, ‘It’s too big for him,’” said junior catcher Connor Wong, “He takes it pitch by pitch and he actually gets the pitches he needs to and he’s been doing a really good job for us this year.”

Consistent performer

His dominance against Louisiana was not a freak occurrence. He has been doing that for the majority of his two years at UH.

Since coming to Houston, he has a record of 9-2, with a 1.18 ERA and 78 strikeouts against only 16 walks.

Never letting the situation get the better of him, Cumbie is seen by many as one of the most competitive athletes on the team.

“The thing is, (Cumbie) is a real quiet, competitive guy,” Whitting said. “He’s a leader on our team but he’s not a leader in the fact that he’s real vocal. He’s more about how he acts and how he carries himself.”

sports@thedailycougar.com

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