Future ZooKeepers player Cuda, LR off to impressive start

By Dennis Garcia

General Manager

Wade Cuda admitted he didn’t know very much about Lenoir-Rhyne University when searching for a place to play baseball, but after beginning his second year with the Bears, he has certainly become familiar with the Hickory campus. And the Bears are glad he’s there.

Cuda, who spent one year as a redshirt freshman at Stetson and one year at Indian River State College in Florida, arrived at LR last season and showed just what he’s capable of doing after hitting .351 in 30 games. 

Now he’s taking that even one step further.

The 6-foot-0, 190-pound outfielder from Florida has keyed an early-season onslaught that has seen the Bears record 16 straight wins for a 17-1 record heading into action this weekend. Cuda, a preseason second-team all-SAC selection who started all 18 games, is hitting a robust .461 from the leadoff spot. He is 30-for-65 with 24 runs scored, five doubles, nine home runs and 22 RBIs for the 15th-ranked Bears. He has an OPS of 1.468.

“I’ve always been a step away, a click away in my swing,” said Cuda, who played second base last season but has switched back to his more comfortable outfield position. “Early on this season, I have kinda figured things out, but I really don’t want to say that because this is a game that can turn really quick. I’ve trusted my hands at the plate and trusted my eyes.”

After graduating from Winter Park High School in Orlando, Cuda went to Stetson, where he spent just his redshirt freshman season. He left Stetson and went to Indian River State for his freshman season and then began looking for another baseball home.

“The whole recruiting thing was really crazy,” Cuda said, referring to his year after Indian River. “Covid had just ended. Lenoir-Rhyne had recruited one of my friends from high school who went here and he told me about the school. Everything was rushed and I ended up here in Hickory.”

Cuda said it was the right move.

“The coaches and team are very welcoming,” said Cuda, who had eight doubles, three home runs and 19 RBIs in 2021. “Most teams, it takes a couple of months to get to know each other and with Covid last year, it was even harder. We all jelled really quick. I found a home here.”

Cuda has not only adjusted to different programs, but different positions. Last year at LR, he was asked to play second base. This year, he is back in the outfield.

“I do feel more comfortable out there,” Cuda said. “I can showcase my speed and I have more free range. I feel more at home out there.”

LR has felt at home just about every time it took the field so far during the 2022 season. The team is hitting .334 and has more than doubled its opponents in runs, scoring 163 times while giving up 65. The Bears have blasted 26 home runs.

“Everyone knows what we are capable of doing, I think you can see that in the numbers,” Cuda said of his team, which has recorded more hits than any other Division II school in the country. “Our pitching staff is extremely deep in the bullpen.”

Cuda has vast experience in summer leagues as he has played in the Orlando Futures League as well as the Valley League. Now, he said, he’s looking forward to coming to Asheboro.

“One of my favorite things about summer ball is meeting people from different backgrounds,” Cuda said. “There are really no goals, just to get better and get my swings in. It’s a little more relaxed and not quite as intense when it comes to pressure.”

Cuda certainly isn’t feeling any pressure right now with the Bears. He’s having fun. Just look at his numbers.