LAFAYETTE — Coming off a stellar sophomore season that saw her garner Most Outstanding Player honors after leading her team to a Class 4A state championship, the 2014-15 school year couldn’t have started off any better for Whitney Romero.

The St. Thomas More softball pitcher kept the momentum going into October when she verbally committed to the University of Texas at Tyler.

One of the top Division III softball programs in the country, the Patriots finished 41-6 last year and was ranked No. 8 nationally.

“I made a couple of visits to some other schools,” she said. “I wanted to check out some Division II schools and stuff like that and see what everybody had to offer. I also took visits to LSU, McNeese State and Springhill.

“Things were just different when I made the trip to UT-Tyler. I came away just believing and knowing this was the place that I wanted to go. They were one of the first schools to really show interest in me and offer me a scholarship. It worked perfectly because I really wanted to go there.”

Playing an important role in St. Thomas More’s success, Romero said one of the main reasons she chose to go to UT-Tyler Patriot is she will be given that same chance to make an immediate and larger impact than she perhaps would at bigger schools.

“They are a Division III school, so I can focus on academics but still be on a very good softball team,” she said. “I just feel like I could contribute more there than I would at a bigger school.

“I am going to get the chance to play defense, hit and pitch. I can be more of a use to the UT-Tyler program I believe than at any other school.

“The campus is really nice, and I am going to get the chance to be a part of their honor’s college. The academics are great. I just love everything about it there.”

Committing before the start of her junior softball season in October, Romero said the weight lifted was immediately felt.

“I get to enjoy my final two years and now my senior year, which will be starting soon,” she said. “It stopped me from being so stressed out for sure.”

Coming off of the 2014 4A title, the 2015 season definitely didn’t end the way Romero and her Cougar teammates wanted it to. STM loss to Belle Chasse in the first round of the playoffs and finished with a 14-11 record.

“We are going to use this past season as a building block kind of year,” she said. “We knew going into the season it was going to be very difficult, because besides me and Bailey Hemphill, we lost everybody from the 2014 team.

“So there was difficulty trying to find the right spots for everybody and who is going to contribute.

“This year was more getting us ready to compete for a state championship in 2016.”