Delaney Cumbie has never been one to keep track of stats, but that never stopped her dad from telling her.
“You know, you’re batting .315 now,” he might say to her.
“Oh, that’s cool,” she’d respond, then try to wipe the number from her memory.
“I try to ignore it,” Cumbie said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to hit for a certain average. I just go out there and try to do something positive every at-bat.”
The approach certainly worked for Cumbie in her first year playing softball at UNC Greensboro. The Cape Fear Christian Academy alumna finished her rookie season with a team-high .338 batting average, as well as 32 runs scored, 29 RBIs and six home runs. She also led the conference with a .483 on-base percentage.
That’s not bad for someone who sat on the bench for the first two weekends.
Cumbie got her big shot in a game against South Carolina, and even though the Spartans lost, Cumbie impressed as a catcher, gunning down a Gamecock runner at second.
“I think that was the moment that set the tone for me,” Cumbie said. “After that, I felt a lot more confident.”
A couple games later, she finally got her first hit, an RBI single against St. Johns. And that’s when she really started to break out.
Nine days later, she hit her first career home run — a two-run walkoff shot to beat Longwood.
Cumbie recorded 11 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games. She also had a stretch in which she reached base in 20 straight games.
Cumbie’s numbers ballooned as UNCG entered conference play: she increased her batting average (.340), slugging percentage (.617) and on-base percentage (.508).
Not only did those numbers earn her a spot on the All-Southern Conference Freshman Team, but she also made the All-SoCon First Team and the All-SoCon Tournament Team.
“I was surprised to make first team all-conference,” Cumbie said. “I thought I might make the freshman team coming into the year, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.”
Cumbie wasn’t even sure what position she’d be playing this year. A versatile player, she made her first appearance for UNCG at second base. She’s also capable of playing some shortstop if needed. That versatility undoubtedly helped her get some playing time early.
“I was definitely fighting for a spot,” Cumbie said. “I knew nothing was going to be given to me. I just worked hard in the fall going into the year and went in with the mindset of doing whatever I can to help the team, whether that’s at catcher or at second base, or cheering for my teammates on the bench.”
Asked which she prefers, Cumbie said she most enjoys working behind the plate.
“I think with catching, I feel like I’m involved in every pitch,” Cumbie said. “It’s definitely a very demanding position and a lot of hard work, but it’s also rewarding.”
Cumbie’s excellence behind the plate was huge for UNCG. She finished second in the conference in runners caught stealing, snuffing out 12 of 27 attempted steals. With her arm and her bat, Cumbie helped lead UNCG to the SoCon regular season championship.
Unfortunately, the Spartans fell to Chattanooga in the final game of the SoCon Championships, crushing their chance of earning a bid to the NCAA Regionals. But Cumbie is hopeful that they can take the next step in 2020.
“We were happy to win the regular season,” Cumbie said. “But playing in a one-bid league, our ultimate goal is to win the conference tournament. Obviously we’ve got the talent to do it. We lost two seniors, and they were both really good leaders, but I feel good about the people we’ve got. We also have some freshmen coming in that I think can come in and help right away.”
Cumbie knows what it takes to win. She was an important member as a freshman on CFCA’s state championship softball team, and helped the Eagles win the Sandhills Athletic Conference all four years she was in high school.
That winning history caught the eye of UNCG coach Janelle Breneman, who recruited Cumbie hard.
“They were the first college to recruit me,” Cumbie said. “They waited over a year and a half throughout the recruiting process, stuck with me the whole time and never rushed me. It made me feel like they were committed to me, so it was an easy choice in the end.”
Cumbie also knows what it takes to be successful off the field. She was an excellent student at CFCA as a member of the Beta Club and Key Club, was selected to the Head Master’s List each year since 2014, and was voted the 2017-18 student council president. She’s continued that at UNCG, where she’s majoring in kinesiology.
“I definitely felt prepared for the workload from both softball and school,” Cumbie said. “My teachers [at CFCA] were all great and always so helpful. And my coaches helped prepare me to play at the next level.”
Cumbie hopes to continue her success heading into her sophomore season. She’s all too aware of the infamous “sophomore slump” that plagues so many athletes after strong first seasons, and she’s hoping to avoid that by keeping the same approach.
“This year I didn’t look too much for stats,” Cumbie said. “So I think my goal is to stay kind of level, ignore the stats and not put pressure on myself.”