Garden City, N.Y. — The NYIT baseball team is in the catbird seat in its NCAA Regional.
EJ Cumbo had four hits and Joseph Murphy and Zach White pitched effectively as the fifth-seeded Bears topped eighth-seeded Franklin Pierce, 9-3, on Friday morning at Adelphi's Bonomo Field in the winners' bracket game.
NYIT, making the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1983, now will have two chances on Saturday in Garden City to win one game and advance to next weekend's Super Regional. The first pitch is scheduled for noon against Wilmington, which eliminated Adelphi and Franklin Pierce on Friday.
The Bears' record now stands at 34-14, matching the program record for victories in a season. The 1987 squad went 34-18-2.
After the latest win, first-year coach Frank Catalanotto reminded the team that it had been picked in a tie for fifth in the East Coast Conference preseason poll and now has matched the program record for victories. As the players erupted in applause, assistant coach Ray Giannelli, who played for the Bears in the '80s and went on to reach the major leagues, jokingly chimed in: "I'm not clapping for that. That was my team."
Murphy (9-3) stranded the bases loaded in each of the first two innings and took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning.
Meanwhile, the Bears pounced on previously unbeaten Franklin Pierce starter Zach Hart, posting three runs in the first inning courtesy of run-scoring singles by Cumbo, Kieran Dowd and Matt Malone.
With his pitch count rising due to the early baserunners, Murphy departed after surrendering three runs in the sixth that chiseled NYIT's lead to 6-3. He ultimately threw 125 pitches.
White then followed with three scoreless innings to close out the game and earn his first save of the season and second of his career.
NYIT padded its lead in the seventh as Cumbo doubled and scored on an error and Jake Lebel followed with his second homer in two regional games. Ben McNeill added an RBI single in the eighth.
Cumbo, the ECC Player of the Year and a national batting champion contender, finished 4-for-5 with four runs scored. He is 8-for-11 in the regional to up his season average to .460. He owns a team-high 19-game hitting streak.
White suggested the showing so far by the Bears in the NCAA Tournament was particularly gratifying because of NYIT's quick exit last week in the ECC tourney. NYIT lost to Bridgeport twice and was bounced on Day 2 with only a losers' bracket win against Queens to show for it.
"It feels great, especially after last weekend going down the first game," White said. "To come here and go 2-0 so far and have a straight path to Saturday, it's such a great feeling. It's such a confidence boost to the team."
Provided by the NYIT Sports Information Department.