EUNICE — When Ben Braymer looks down from the mound before delivering a pitch, he usually sees a familiar target with a catcher’s mask returning a glance from deep behind the plate.
It helps, Braymer said, to know that LSU-Eunice catcher and longtime battery mate Jordan Romero is aware the nuances in a pitching routine that has evolved during the past several years.
Although they didn’t plan it this way, the baseball careers of Braymer and Romero have become intricately intertwined at Catholic High and in Eunice for the past two years.
The relationship will end later this year when the two become Division I players at competing Southeastern Conference schools.
Before Braymer enters the Auburn pitching rotation and Romero is catching for LSU, the battery mates will play essential roles beginning Sunday when LSUE plays in a Division II National Junior College Athletic Association first-round game against Scottsdale Community College.
Braymer, who played quarterback for Catholic, set the LSUE school record for strikeouts (120) on May 15 when he pitched the Bengals to a 10-6 win over then-No. 1 Hinds (Mississippi) Community College.
Catching that game was Romero, who as a kid always wanted to play baseball for LSU.
Braymer said that in high school he was focused more on playing college football, a vision he said eventually blurred and disappeared after his final high school season ended.
There was also talk, Braymer said, between him and Romero about perhaps playing baseball together in college.
The two, he said, just didn’t know how accurate those conversations really were,
“I remember back in my senior year, Jordan and I would always discuss about going to play at the same school. It wasn’t something we really planned, but it’s unfolded that way. We’ve played together four years at Catholic High and now two years (in Eunice).
“Jordan has really helped me develop as a (college) pitcher. After my first fall (at LSUE), I knew I could go to Jordan and I would get his honest opinion about my progress.
“The biggest thing about what we have as teammates is the consistency. That has made me a better pitcher,” Braymer said.
Romero, who is batting .323, called the game without help from the assistant coaches in the Bengals’ 6-0 May 16 win over Hinds.
That win gave LSUE the Region 23 tournament title and a berth in the World Series.
While Braymer was examining the college football possibilities, Romero said he had several baseball options after leaving Catholic High.
“Playing on the same team (with Braymer) is something that just happened. There were other opportunities available to me, but I decided to come to Eunice. It was the best decision I ever made.
“Playing here has allowed me to catch 100 games over the last two years, whereas if I had gone to a four-year school, I probably would not be playing as much,” Romero said.
When it came time to get serious about where to play college baseball, Romero said he and Braymer drove to Eunice together with their families and toured the facilities with coach Jeff Willis.
“Coach Willis looked at Ben and I and said he had one scholarship left, and the one who agreed to come here first was the one who would get that final scholarship,” Romero said.
Willis apparently was kidding, as both players signed with the Bengals.
“It wasn’t intended to work out this way for us, because Ben had been playing football, and my goal was the play at LSU since I was a little kid going to Alex Box games. It’s just crazy the way it’s happened,” Romero said.
Braymer said that during his two years at LSUE, he has worked on developing off-speed pitches: a curve and changeup, which he now throws without worrying about the situation with the batter.
This season, Braymer is 7-1, striking out 120 and walking 26 in 78 innings.
Romero said Braymer’s ascendency as an effective pitcher has been steady.
“I have caught him since we were freshmen in high school, and he’s gotten up to 90 or 91 and even 95 now with the fastball.
“(Braymer) also now has a college curveball. He’s figured out how to rotate the ball. It’s become hard to hit, and his changeup keeps the hitters off-balance,” Romero said.