Former Maverick Romo shines on baseball’s biggest stage
Colorado Mesa University baseball coach Chris Hanks wasn’t a bit surprised Sunday night as he watched former Maverick pitcher Sergio Romo join a short list in baseball.
Romo, the San Francisco Giants’ closer, struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday to record the save as the Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-3 to win the World Series.
Romo became the seventh reliever to save at least three games in the World Series.
“He’s not just on a major league roster, he’s a major leaguer now,” Hanks told The Daily Sentinel on Monday. “He’s a key element now. He’s performed impeccably on the biggest stage there is in baseball.”
Romo became successful for several reasons.
First and foremost was his ability to thrive in big-game, pressure situations.
He did it more than once at Mesa, taking a no-hitter against New Mexico Highlands into the seventh inning in an NCAA Division II regional playoff game.
Romo was 14-1 in one season with the Mavericks in 2005, leading them to the RMAC title and hosting the NCAA West Regional. In 2009, he was selected the RMAC player of the century during the conference’s centennial celebration.
The Brawley, Calif., native set numerous school records at Mesa: lowest career ERA (2.46), single-season ERA (2.46), innings pitched (124.1), strikeouts (129) and fewest walks per nine innings (1.1). He is tied with Brett Armour for most wins in a season with 14.
“Some of what makes him so good is the mental side of pitching,” Hanks said. “He knows how to get guys out. That’s a gift.”
Case in point: Romo struck out Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera looking for the final out.
“The only pitch he made that he could’ve been hurt was the last pitch,” Hanks said. “That was gutsy.”
Instead of going to his now-famous slider, Romo went with a high fastball.
“He didn’t think Cabrera would swing,” Hanks said. “His quality of pitches were so good.”
Romo allowed one run on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts in 10 2/3 playoff innings.
He is eligible for arbitration now and can expect a significant pay raise after his World Series performance. He made $1.58 million this season.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they try to keep both of them (Brian Wilson and Romo),” Hanks said. “They went by a closer by committee for most of the season. It wasn’t until late in the year they settled on Romo as the closer. I think it’s solved now.
“There’s no question he can be a major league closer. Nothing Sergio has done surprised me a bit.”
Romo wasn’t the only San Francisco player with ties to Grand Junction.
First baseman Brandon Belt, who played in the 2007 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for San Jacinto (Texas) College-North, hit an RBI triple Sunday. Belt won the Big Stick Award for highest batting average in the junior college national tournament.
Romo made his major league debut in 2008 and was Wilson’s set-up man the past three seasons. He told the Sentinel he was content in that role just days before Wilson tore a ligament in his pitching elbow and was lost for the season.
Attempts to reach Romo on Monday were unsuccessful, but Hanks said, Romo was likely getting a lot of calls from friends and family.
“Everything’s been a blessing to this point,” Romo told The Daily Sentinel in an exclusive interview early in the season when the Giants were in Denver playing the Colorado Rockies.
“The opportunity to be in my position doesn’t come around a whole lot for anybody. I definitely don’t take it for granted. I didn’t know it was attainable, but I knew it was achievable.
“Every day I’m here, it’s proof that anything is possible. Yeah, anything’s possible, but when I come here every day, it’s a reminder I’m lucky and blessed.”
The right-hander went 14 for 15 in save opportunities during the regular season and had a 1.79 ERA. With runners in scoring position, he held hitters to a .176 batting average.
At Mesa, Hanks is already seeing an impact on the program as a result of Romo’s success.
“In the last month, the kids we’ve been recruiting recognize he is from our school,” Hanks said. “They are immediately more interested in coming here. It means a ton to us, being he was an ex-player and a good teammate.”