Jordan Romero delivers twice, including a winning hit in the 12th inning, as LSU tops Cincinnati 6-5 in its season opener _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU catcher Jordan Romero (28) singles into right field, pushing LSU infielder O'Neal Lochridge to score and win the game 6-5 in 12 innings against Cincinnati, Friday, February 19, 2016, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

The phone call interrupted Jordan Romero’s groggy, medicine-induced haze and, more so, changed his bleak outlook on life.

That outlook? Before the phone call, it was bad.

Romero lay on his living room couch, in and out of sleep, his left leg elevated, his left knee showing fresh stitches from extensive surgery, his head swimming because of the medicine.

This was a sad sight.

Romero didn’t only think his dream of playing major college baseball had ended. He thought he’d never play baseball again, period.

“I was like, ‘This could be it for me,’ ” Romero said.

“He thought his career was possibly over,” said his father, Kenneth, then bustling about the home.

Andy Cannizaro’s call changed everything. In addition to checking on Romero’s recent surgery, LSU’s recruiting coordinator also extended to him an invitation for an official visit to campus.

Happiness swept over the Romeros. Jordan felt something else: complete shock.

After all, who wanted a lightly recruited, current junior college catcher fresh off surgery?

“That was the last call I was expecting to get,” Jordan said.

He got a scholarship offer weeks later, committed, signed and — lo and behold — hit the game-winning single in his very first game as an LSU Tiger last weekend.

In just his third at-bat of his LSU career, the Catholic High graduate and injury-plagued former LSU-Eunice catcher blooped a curveball over the first baseman’s head to give the Tigers a 6-5, 12-inning win over Cincinnati on opening night last Friday.

This came three innings after, inserted as a pinch-hitter, he took a first-pitch fastball over the second baseman’s head to bring in the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Jordan’s parents, his 90-year-old World War II veteran grandfather and two of his three siblings were in the stands, watching this once-hobbled local boy smash two clutch pitches and deliver a win.

“Unbelievable,” his dad said.

Romero is among the group of unfamiliar faces on this 2016 LSU baseball team. He’s one of seven first-year players who took at least one swing last Friday night.

Given his clutch clobbering, he’s probably among a collection of newbies the Tigers (3-1) will use this weekend in a three-game series against a dangerous Sacramento State team.

The Hornets (3-1) won two of three games at Auburn last weekend and were Western Athletic Conference champions in 2012 and 2014.

Romero isn’t like the other new guys on this team. A reserve catching option behind the skilled Mike Papierski, he likely won’t play in every game. In fact, Kenneth admits being surprised when coach Paul Mainieri sent his son to bat with two outs, two on base and the Tigers trailing 3-2 in the ninth.

Jordan was a late bloomer at Catholic High. His first real scholarship offers didn’t pour in until his senior season, when he hit .500 for much of the year en route to leading the Bears to the 2013 state championship.

“He was late to the party,” his father chuckled.

He didn’t play as a sophomore, relegated to the junior varsity team, and as a junior, he played a less-than-desirable position of first base. He’s a natural catcher — always was and always will be.

So what happened between junior and senior year?

“I really bought into working really hard. It all started coming together,” Jordan said. “My fall going into my senior year, I was working out two-a-days. I’d work out with Catholic and then work out with a trainer.”

Brad Bass’ second year in charge of the program was Romero’s senior season.

“It was an incredible year. He got hot,” Bass said. “I’ll never forget that fall of his senior year, seeing it click in the weight room.”

Romero passed on offers from Northwestern State, Louisiana-Monroe and Nicholls State to keep alive his dream of playing at LSU. He spoke to Mainieri during the process.

LSU had four catchers on the roster for the 2014 season. Go to LSU-Eunice, the coach told him, and we’ll follow your progress.

What happened at LSU-Eunice? Romero got injured — twice. He dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum during a plate collision in a fall scrimmage as a freshman.

During summer ball ahead of his sophomore season, Romero’s knee locked out while he reached for a wild pitch. Attempts at rehabilitation failed. Surgery — including a six-month rehab — was the only option.

Doctors mended his torn meniscus, a thin piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between your thighbone and shinbone.

So, there he was on that couch before that call from Cannizaro. Around that same time, Romero missed LSU-Eunice’s pro day. Like the Major League Baseball scouts and college coaches, he watched his teammates perform.

“Fall of your sophomore year in JUCO is kind of when everyone starts talking to you,” he said. “I was on crutches for our pro day and scouts are asking about me.”

His scholarship offers at that time were non-existent. No one wanted him — not even Louisiana-Lafayette, where most of his family attended school.

Cannizaro’s call changed much of that.

“It didn’t discourage us. They were freak injuries,” Mainieri said. “Those things happen.”

Romero struggled offensively during practice in the fall. Mainieri admits to having concerns. He then returned from winter break bashing the ball.

“He hit Alex Lange like he owned him,” the coach said referring to the Tigers’ All-American ace. “He was swinging the bat like I remembered him swinging.”

Days later, LSU players mobbed Romero after the game-winner, carrying him from first base into the outfield as Alex Box Stadium roared.

Ten seconds into an interview moments later, Romero caught another surprise. Lange raced from the dugout carrying a shaving cream-filled aluminum pie dish. He crept behind the game-winning star and smothered his face into the dish.

Things weren’t feeling so bleak any longer.

“Pretty crazy,” Romero smiled.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.