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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Baseball

Romero looks to lead Cougars to the postseason


A projected first round pick, junior Seth Romero hopes to be the Ace that leads the Cougars to Omaha and the College World Series. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Sitting at home on Monday, April 12, waiting to hear his name called in the first round of the MLB Draft after a successful season where he led the Cougars to Omaha for the College World Series — that’s where junior lefthander Seth Romero hopes to be at season’s end.

The West Columbia native enters his third season as a Cougar after leading the team in ERA in each of his first two. As the No. 25 prospect according to MLB.com, Romero knows an impressive year can go a long way come April’s draft.

“I just want to show them what I know I can do,” Romero said. “I’ve been looking pretty good so I’m expecting big things. I want to go out there and help my team as much as I can and that’s what I plan to do.”

Since arriving in 2015, Romero has been an integral part of the Cougars pitching staff, going 7-4 with a conference-leading 1.96 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 83.1 innings, while being named to four All-American teams.

The 2015 American Conference Rookie of the Year had his breakout performance in the Silver Glove Series against rival Rice, being named MVP of the series. In his first career start, Romero held the then No. 8 Owls to two runs, none earned while striking out nine in 6.1 innings.

“That was Seth’s coming out party his freshman year,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “From that point forward, he was one of our most dominant pitchers. We put him in some tight situations for a freshman to handle and what defined him going forward is how he responded.”

In what could be seen as a down year for him in 2016, Romero finished 6-4, leading the Cougars with a 2.29 ERA and striking out a team-high 113 batters in 94.1 innings. He had his best month in March, going 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA and being named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association pitcher of the month.

Now an upperclassman and Ace of the staff, Romero knows he has to do his part in being a leader and helping the newer Cougars adjust to playing at Houston.

“We’ve got a young team but all of us returners have got to do our job of showing them the way and showing them how we do,” Romero said. “If we do how we’re supposed to, the results will be there.”

Heading into 2017, Romero has already received numerous accolades, being named to three Preseason All-American teams in addition to being rated the No. 10 college prospect by Baseball America.

Projected by d1baseball.com to be the AAC Pitcher of the Year, Romero knows the preseason accolades mean nothing if he doesn’t go out there and prove it on the diamond.

“They mean a lot, but at the same time, I try not to focus too much on them because they don’t really mean anything,” Romero said. “They’re just how they think I’m going to do; I’m focusing on how I am going to do.”

Romero has taken a more professional outlook leading up to the 2017 season, working hard on improving himself and not having the same indifference that led to him being suspended for the first two weeks of 2016.

One notable area is in his conditioning, where the lefthander has worked hard to get himself in better shape, dropping down to around 220.

“He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason to get his body in shape, losing probably 20-30 pounds and worked extremely hard in the weight room,” Whitting said. “The way he responded to having an average year last year and him being able to recognize that and do some things to get himself better, I’m really proud of the way he worked to this point.”

Despite an impressive season from their Ace, the Cougars missed the postseason in 2016, and they know that if they want to get back there in 2017, Romero will be key in setting the tone.

“Any team that has aspirations of playing in Omaha has to have an ace on their staff and Seth is capable of being that guy,” Whitting said. “He has lightning coming out of that left arm but I think, more than that, it’s his desire and preparedness to win.”

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