A sibling rivalry is one thing. But what Brooke Romano sees when she ponders facing her younger sister, St. Amant High pitcher Alyssa Romano, is something else entirely.
“My sister is the one pitcher I’m afraid to face,” she said. “She moves all her pitches around so well and her changeup is a killer. It’s a nightmare for a hitter. She's got that game face. The expression never changes. She's focused.”
Plenty of other hitters understand exactly what Brooke Romano explained. As a junior, Alyssa Romano led St. Amant to its first LHSAA title since 2006. She struck out 191 batters, had a 1.34 earned run average and a 26-2 record. No longer the little sister or the young pitcher, Romano is all grown up and committed to Southeastern Louisiana University.
First and foremost, she is committed to playing the lead role for the Class 5A Gators yet again in the spring as they defend their Class 5A title.
“Last year it was more of a mindset for us,” Romano said. “St. Amant has always been one of the top dogs and people didn't see us that way. Everybody said, ‘You’ve got seven new starters. This may not be your year.’ We took that as a challenge as a team. I took it as a challenge as a pitcher. Everybody worked harder in games and in practice. There was a purpose.”
Purists who believe dominant softball pitchers fit a cookie cutter mold, stand 6-feet tall, are right-handers and throw around 70 miles per hour probably look past the 5-8 Romano. She is a left-hander who relies on five pitches and reaches a top velocity of around 61 MPH.
“She (Romano) is one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever coached,” St. Amant coach Amy Pitre said. “She hates to lose and she will do whatever it takes to help her team win. She hates to lose and she channels that into everything she does. At our first meeting last spring I told her we were only going to be as good as she was.
“I also told her she was going to have to carry the team on her back and give us a chance to win. That might scare some players. Not Alyssa. Because she was a junior and had matured, she was ready.”
Saying that Romano was born to pitch might be an overstatement. She grew up watching Brooke, a third baseman who is set to play for BRCC next spring, play for tournament teams until she was old enough to get on the field. The younger Romano wanted to play a different position.
“I watched the pitchers and thought that was something I wanted to at least try,” Romano noted.
She grew up playing on teams coached by her father, B.J. The adjustment to high school softball was a significant one.
“I have to give credit to the older players who were at St. Amant when I got there,” Romano said. “Taylor (Tidwell, current LSU player) would always tell me ‘You’re not a freshman, you’re one of us.’ That stayed with me, especially this year when we had so many new players on the team. In travel ball there are a lot of games and you go for one on to the next one. In high school, there are only so many chances.”
Pitre and Romano are reluctant to single out one game as her best last spring. That fact illustrates consistency. But a quarterfinal win over defending 5A champion Ouachita Parish, a semifinal win over Walker and the championship win over Barbe all provide excellent cases in point.
Ouachita came into the quarterfinal game with 82 home runs. Romano limited the Lions to two hits in a 13-1 win. Romano mixed her pitches well and kept the OPHS hitters off balance. She was just as consistent in a 2-1 win over Walker and a 3-1 victory over Barbe in the title game. A three-run homer by shortstop Julia Kramer gave the Gators a come-from-behind win in the final.
“At first, it looked like the ball was going to be caught and when it (Kramer's home run) went over, I think all of us in the dugout jumped as high as we’ve ever jumped,” Romano recalled. “It meant a lot. There is more we can do. People (including Pitre) tell us we’re not the most talented St. Amant team. That's a challenge.”
Romano has seen another side of softball as one of four pitchers for St. Amant assistant coach Darrell Landry’s Marucci Patriots Gold team this summer. Landry has challenged Romano to improve the spin on her pitches and her placement. She’s also working to perfect a drop ball.
“She (Romano) is always up for a challenge,” Landry said.
Pitre expects Romano to be ready for whatever the 2020 challenges are.
"She'll do what she does ... give us a chance to win," Pitre said.