EJ Cumbo entered the East Coast Conference baseball tournament on a team-high 14-game hitting streak. He also reached postseason within striking distance of the program record for batting average and the national batting title.
Cumbo, a redshirt freshman from East Meadow and an alumnus of W.T. Clarke High School, hit .460 (57-for-124) with five homers and 35 RBIs in 36 games this season with New York Institute of Technology.
The program record belongs to former first-round pick Allen Watson, who batted .463 in 1991, while the Bears participated in Division I. Watson went on to make 206 pitching appearances (137 starts) during eight seasons in the majors with the Cardinals, Giants, Angels, Mets, Mariners and Yankees.
Meanwhile, Cumbo also reached postseason second in Division II in batting average. He only trails Angelo State's Josh Elvir, who sits at .477.
"I'm very happy for this young man," Watson said. "His passion and dedication must be tremendous. To hit .460 at any level is a great accomplishment. You must have great confidence and discipline at the plate. For myself, I always believed I was going to get a hit every plate appearance. I had tremendous confidence because of my work ethic. Good luck to EJ."
"EJ has been staying through the ball so well this year that he seldom makes weak outs,” said NYIT coach Frank Catalanotto, who hit .291 over 14 major league seasons. “Everything he hits is hard. His eye-hand coordination is so good that he is always going to put the ball in play and give himself a chance."
NYIT began postseason play when it hosted the ECC tournament two weeks ago. The second-seeded Bears opened against third-seeded Bridgeport on May 9 at Angelo Lorenzo Memorial Field.
"It's playoff time now," Cumbo said. "That's what matters."
During his collegiate career, Cumbo was only slowed by a recurring hamstring issue.
A season ago, as true freshman out of W.T. Clarke High School, Cumbo was the leadoff hitter and center fielder on Opening Day against Pace. However, he appeared in only six games in 2018 before shutting things down for the season due to a partial tear of the upper hamstring in his right leg.
After getting the season back with a successful medical redshirt application to the NCAA, Cumbo stands out among most freshman. He produced his first career two-homer game against Stonehill on Feb. 24 as the Bears set the tone for their season with a 4-0 trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., while facing top competition. He also hit a go-ahead pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth inning at Mercy on April 14.
Of course, the reason the lefty-hitting Cumbo was coming off the bench in Dobbs Ferry was a relatively mild flareup of the same hamstring that had scuttled his 2018 season.
After sporadic pinch-hitting opportunities for a couple of weeks, he initially returned to the lineup as the designated hitter. Cumbo then settled back into right field during an April 18-22 series at Lincoln.
Cumbo now occupies the No. 3 spot in NYIT's lineup. He began the season in center field, but early on moved to right field — with Monmouth transfer John LaRocca flipping positions with him. They help form one of the top defensive outfields in Division II.
Despite the midseason leg issue, Cumbo is back as a menace on the base paths, too. He has a team-high 19 steals in 22 attempts this season, including a pair in two attempts against St. Thomas Aquinas during the final series of the regular season.
"He's a guy that we want at the plate in a big spot," Catalanotto said.