OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Ryan Kuskowski led the NYIT baseball team in RBIs during a breakout sophomore season this past spring.
Now, after a cameo this week in the Long Island Collegiate Baseball League, Kuskowski has earned a spot, at least for the weekend, as a catcher with the Shelter Island Bucks in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.
Kuskowski, in his second year with the Lightning in the LICBL, went 2-for-2 with a walk and started behind the plate on Tuesday in his summer-league season debut. That LICBL team includes an assortment of collegiate talent, including student-athletes with Division I experience at Hartford, Princeton and Towson.
Kuskowski hit .298 (34-for-114) with 10 doubles, three homers, 25 RBIs, a .367 on-base percentage and .465 slugging percentage in 30 games with NYIT in 2018.
He ended up with a heavy workload behind the plate as the season closed.
Kuskowski initially shared catching duties with freshman Joseph Kelly. But once Kelly suffered a season-ending injury after getting hit by a pitch on April 28 against Adelphi, Kuskowski caught every inning of the final six and a half games.
He saw action in 22 of the final 26 games for the Bears.
Kuskowski, a product of Smithtown East High School, believes the heavy workload late in the season helped him get into a rhythm. He hit safely in 12 of his final 13 games. He actually produced a .417 average (15-for-36) with 13 RBIs in nine games from April 22 through the close of the season.
"I appreciated the workload, because early in the season it was me and Joe Kelly splitting up the time," Kuskowski said. "Toward the end — obviously it was unfortunate for him to go down — but it was great to get in the games. And we actually started winning some games, so it was a lot of fun.
"I felt the workload helped me get in a groove. Early in the year I was struggling a little bit. Toward the end of the year the workload helped me boost my average."
In addition to the increased playing time, Kuskowski credited his offensive success to being able to see the ball better and relaxing at the plate.
With Kelly expected to continue his collegiate career in his native Florida, Kuskowski appears penciled in as the No. 1 catcher for the Bears in 2019. Brendan Dowd, who saw the bulk of his action this past season in the outfield, and Kuskowski are the only returning players with catching experience.
"I'm not sure what recruits are coming in, but I'm looking forward to getting that starting job," Kuskowski said, "and bringing this New York Tech team to the playoffs."