Brandon Romero had yet to hit a home run this season.
The St. Thomas More leadoff hitter witnessed nearly every one of his teammates get mobbed at home plate throughout the season. Even though he had helped guide the Cougars to the Class 4A quarterfinals, Romero had never took a trot around the base paths himself.
That all changed Saturday in the bottom of the fifth inning of the third game of a quarterfinal series with Neville.
With two outs and a runner on first, Romero in his final at-bat at Brother Ephrem Hebert Field, launched a fastball over the left field wall. That shot gave Romero his first trot around the bases of the season and helped No. 2 STM defeat No. 7 Neville 8-2 in the deciding game of the quarterfinal series.
“It felt so good coming off the bat,” Romero said. “That is something that I am going to remember. It will be a memory of a lifetime.”
In Friday night’s quarterfinal opener, STM stranded a dozen runners but still managed to pull out an 8-1 victory. That trend of leaving runners on the base paths followed during Saturday’s early game as the Cougars had nine runners left on in the 9-4 loss.
STM’s Grant Cox earned the loss in the early game after giving up six runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Neville’s Oliver Campbell picked up the win after giving up four runs on nine hits while striking out 10
“I think that their lefty was outstanding,” STM coach Gary Perkins said. “He had a lot to do with use leaving guys on base in that early game.”
STM (28-9) wasted no time putting runs on the board in the final and deciding game of the series.
Romero led off with a single and then put himself in scoring position after stealing second base. The swipe wouldn’t be needed as starting pitcher Brennan Breaux hit a home run that bounced off the tennis courts behind the center field wall.
In the bottom of the fourth, STM extended its lead by scoring three runs, highlighted by a two-run triple by Breaux. Two innings later came Romero’s blast to left field which gave the Cougars a comfortable 7-0 lead.
Neville (24-13) managed to push a pair of runs across in the top of the sixth but that would be all that the Tigers could muster against the Cougars ace Breaux. The STM senior gave up two runs on four hits while striking out eight.
Neville’s Will Ryan earned the loss after giving up five runs on seven hits with five walks in four and two thirds of work.
“He spotted his pitches really good today,” Perkins said. “He just had their number. You could tell that they were unsure if they could hit him.”
The defending state champions are now in the semifinals for the fourth straight season.
STM will face St. Michael in a rematch of last year’s semifinal game in Sulphur’s McMurry Park on Thursday. The game will take place on Field 41 at 7 p.m.