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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Ace pitcher dodges MLB draft to lead Cougars by example


Junior Trey Cumbie earned his designation as the baseball team’s starting pitcher last season. Now he has a chance to improve his stock for both himself and his team this year. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Consistent shutdown pitching week in and week out is something any baseball team needs to be successful. Junior Trey Cumbie, an All-American from Lufkin, has been prepared to provide that stellar stability since he first joined the Cougars.

When drama surrounding starting pitcher Seth Romero’s suspensions occurred last February, then-sophomore Cumbie made his transition from the bullpen into the starting rotation. Last season proved what head coach Todd Whitting said he already knew about Cumbie: that he had all the makings of being the next great pitcher to come out of the program.

By season’s end he racked up a 10-2 record with three complete games, two shutouts and a conference-leading earned run average of 2.04. Cumbie has become a leader by example for a team that just missed out on an NCAA Super Regional. If baseball wants to ultimately reach the College World Series, the team needs Cumbie to be on his best game.

“He’s really been that kind of go-to guy for three years,” Whitting said. “There’s been other good ones here, but ultimately Trey Cumbie’s always been the most reliable. I thought the last month of the year he might’ve been the best pitcher in college baseball. He was unhittable.”

Though the team fell one game short of an NCAA Super Regional berth, Cumbie was praised for his efforts. In addition to being named the American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, Cumbie was named a First Team All-American, the first Cougar in more than a decade to earn the honor.

According to Whitting, Cumbie is not a vocal leader. Instead, he leads his teammates more through his performance on the mound. For Whitting, those players are the best kind.

Cumbie has shown an ability to make hitters miss and command the strike zone ever since he was a freshman. It was one of many attributes that made his transition to the rotation so seamless.

“I was up for whatever the coaches wanted me to do,” Cumbie said. “Last year (when) I was a starter I just gave it everything I had once a week.”

After last season, Cumbie did have the chance to go to the Major Leagues. Cumbie was selected by the Houston Astros in the 38th Round with the 1,141st pick as a draft-eligible sophomore. Ultimately, Cumbie chose to come back to school, knowing the Cougars were in store for another strong year.

Plus, one more year on the mound would greatly improve Cumbie’s draft stock. Whitting believes Cumbie will go in the top half of the first ten rounds in the upcoming draft if he continues his strong performances.

The Cougars are once again predicted to win the AAC, and Cumbie has been named the Preseason Pitcher of the Year. For anyone else this would be a tall task to live up to, but not for Cumbie.  

“I think if he could replicate last year that would be pretty good,” Whitting said. “Some guys their junior year, the year of the draft, they try to do some things a little more than what they’re capable of doing. But he doesn’t have to do anything more than what he’s doing right now and just continue to prepare and approach the game one pitch at a time like he’s done in the past, and he’ll have a great season.”

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