Adjustments Paying Dividends for Alexa Romero
By Sam Lebowitz
CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter
Even as a senior, Alexa Romero is still learning and evolving as a pitcher. She’s now more than a full year removed from her historic sophomore season in which she struck out 264 batters and threw two no-hitters. She barely resembled the same pitcher in her junior year, pitching to an earned run average nearly two full runs higher, at 3.69, than her sophomore year mark of 1.73. But in 2020, Syracuse has seen glimpses of the Romero that won 17 games in 2018. Romero has been making adjustments to get back to where she once was.
The left-hander is a flamethrower by college standards. She routinely touches the upper-60s on the radar gun with her heater. It’s the pitch that set her apart from her competition and allowed her to miss so many bats and keep the ball off of the barrel. However, a pitcher can only get by with fastballs for so long. Head coach Shannon Doepking says that by the time Romero was a junior, Division I softball players knew what to expect.
“She was three years throwing gas,” Doepking said. “This kid has to learn an off-speed pitch.”
When team workouts began in the fall, Doepking and new pitching coach Michael Steuerwald worked with the Colorado native to add something softer to her arsenal. They came up with a changeup. Now, the pitch is a key part of Romero’s repertoire. Doepking says that it’s not something she throws often, but merely having the confidence to show it occasionally prevents opposing hitters from sitting on the fastball.
Romero’s work with Steuerwald, or Coach Stu as the team calls him, did not end with the addition of a changeup. The duo also worked on Romero’s release point. The lefty previously had released the ball in front of her hip. With guidance from Coach Stu, she learned that releasing the ball from the further back is beneficial to her.
“Whenever I release it at the back of my hip, I get more speed and I get more spin,” Romer said.
The adjustments that Romero has made appear to be working more as the season moves further along. Romero’s key issue in 2019 was command. She walked 31 more batters in 2019 than in the previous season, and in 25-and-a-third fewer innings too. That trend followed her into the start of this season, walking 17 batters in her first 32-and-one-third innings. But Coach Stu’s fine tuning seem to be paying dividends after an inconsistent start to the year. Romero struck out 27 hitters in 16 innings over three appearances last weekend at the USF Tournament in Tampa, Florida. In her first appearance, she struck out ten but walked five in five innings. In her final two appearances, she did not walk a single batter.
Romero says that she had all of her pitches working well in tandem with each other in Tampa. She says she felt confident going to fastball, changeup, curveball, or riseball no matter the count. That confidence is all part of a mentality that Romero says helps her every time she steps into the circle.
“I stepped on that mound every time knowing I was better than them,” Romero said.
Romero had mixed weekend at North Carolina, with just six strikeouts and five walks over nine-and-a-third innings. She still has room to grow and showcase her potential going forward in ACC play.
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