St. Thomas More standout Whitney Romero tries to spark another Cougars’ title run _lowres

Advocate Photo by BRAD KEMP St. Thomas More starting pitcher Whitney Romero delivers a pitch against Teurlings Catholic on March 31.

St. Thomas More’s Whitney Romero enjoyed fairy-tale endings to magical freshman and sophomore seasons, pitching the Cougars to back-to-back Class 4A state championships.

A year after the Cougars were bounced from the first-round of the playoffs, Romero would love nothing more than to cap her career by leading her team in the pursuit of another state crown.

“I would like to end with a state championship; everyone wants that,” Romero said. “As long as we can play to our full potential, there’s no doubt we can win a state championship. I’m excited for it. I always get excited around this time.”

Romero’s final postseason run begins at 4 p.m. Monday when No. 8 St. Thomas More (17-9) hosts No. 25 South Terrebonne (14-11).

STM softball coach Andria Waguespack doesn’t mince words when explaining the weight Romero has carried in her team’s success this season, a level of excellence that’s included a District 4-4A championship.

“We go as Whitney goes,” Waguespack said of the Texas-Tyler signee. “When Whitney gets in the circle, is confident and does her best, she’s going to keep us in any game. She’s a competitor. We really feed off of her. When she’s composed and together, we’re composed and together.”

Romero’s been a fixture for STM the past four years, taking over her freshman season and pitching every game for three straight seasons until getting some relief from a pair of freshmen this year.

Along the way, Romero’s established impeccable credentials that range from district MVP to Class 4A All-State three years running to the Outstanding Player in the 2014 state tournament.

Romero’s amassed a career record of 73-33 with 910 strikeouts in 634 innings and a 1.645 earned run average.

“What separates her from everybody else is, she wants the ball in the big moments,” Waguespack said. “She wants to make that 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and we have to have a pitch.”

Romero established her “big-game” persona by making quite a splash her first two seasons for an already tradition-rich program, further adding to the program’s legacy of seven state championships.

The past two titles came on the dependable right arm — and productive bat — of Romero who threw three shutouts during her first state tournament en route to a 6-4 victory over archrival Teurlings Catholic in the final.

“Playing a district rival like Teurlings added fuel to it,” Romero said. “There was no way they were going to win.”

Romero completed a 25-5 sophomore season with an 11-5 win over Vandebilt Catholic, sewing up Outstanding Player honors in the state tournament by going 3-for-4 with a home run, a pair of doubles and three RBIs.

Graduation left STM with its least experienced team around Romero a year ago, and the results — a first-round exit in the playoffs — were the byproduct of a team that struggled at times defensively, Waguespack said.

“Our kids have grown around her and done better,” she said. “She’s stuck by them. She’s grown as a leader and person.”

STM’s season truly took off during the second half this year, going on to win the school’s 21st district title with a 5-0 showing that included a 2-1 win over Teurlings.

Romero delivered in the circle with a 13-9 record, 206 strikeouts and a 2.243 ERA in 156.1 innings. She’s also batted .500 with a .571 on-base percentage from her leadoff spot with seven homers, 26 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

“We’ve grown a lot as a team,” said Romero, who also carries a 4.0 grade-point average. “At the beginning it was kind of rough starting out. I’ve tried to take the underclassmen and show them the ins and outs. I’ve tried to do my part in the circle and at the plate. We’re definitely going in the right direction.”

With Whitney Romero pointing the way.