Romero Returns with Fourth Career No-No, but Remaining Rotation Lost the Zone
By Tom Russo
CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter
STILLWATER, Okla. – Entering the season Coach Shannon Doepking was bursting with excitement regarding her pitching staff for the 2019 season. Thus far things have gone anything but according to planned for Syracuse (5-10, 0-0 Atlantic Coast).
Alexa Romero and Sophie Dandola were supposed to become an elite 1A, 1B option at the top of the rotation. However, both have been up-and-down. Romero was sidelined following an injury that popped up in the February 15th contest with No. 24 Indiana (14-1, 0-0 Big 10) and Dandola has already given up six runs in two outings this season.
But after the rain cleared in Stillwater today, Romero trotted out to the circle for the first time since the injury today to face Seattle (10-7, 0-0 Western Athletic) in the OSU/Tulsa Invitational. Any remnants of the injury appeared to be completely gone, as Romero pitched an absolute gem.
For the fourth time in her career, Romero tossed a no-hitter, holding the Redhawks to only three baserunners in the entire contest. She struck out 13 batters, after having struck out only six in her first four starts combined.
Perhaps most impressively, after being staked to a 4-0 lead that would grow to a 7-0 victory, Romero retired the last 13 batters she faced, and she struck out the side in the top of the seventh to put the cap on one of the finest pitching performances of her excellent career.
She now lays claim to four of the eleven no-hitters in Syracuse program history.
But while Romero’s afternoon start was the pinnacle of pitching prowess, Dandola’s evening start against No. 21 Oklahoma State (11-5, 0-0 Big 12) was the polar opposite.
The first two innings went according to planned, as the righty gave up two hits, but no runs. Then came the third inning.
It started immediately, when Dandola fielded a slow chopper back to the circle off the bat of Chelsea Alexander, OSU’s nine-hitter. Dandola sent the ball screaming three feet over the head of Gabby Teran at first, and by the time the ball returned to the infield Alexander was standing on third.
She would score when the next batter Rylee Bayless grounded out to Teran. The run would be unearned. The next batter, the opposing pitcher Samantha Show grounded out to short. Thus, if not for the error the inning would be over, no score. Instead, it stood 1-0 Oklahoma State, with two outs and nobody on.
Then the floodgates opened, with Dandola allowing a walk, back-to-back doubles, and a single. Two more unearned runs on the board. Doepking had seen enough and went to the bullpen. Dandola should have finished the third, but instead was lifted for Miranda Hearn.
Hearn’s first order of business was to walk OSU right fielder Cheynne Factor to load the bases. Then she proceeded to throw the ball two feet behind shortstop Kiley Naomi, allowing another run to trot home.
Hearn then walked Naomi to reload the bases, before walking Alexander to bring home a fifth OSU run. She would depart having thrown 14 pitches, 12 of which were balls, and having walked all three batters she faced.
Her replacement Logan Paul fared no better, immediately walking the next batter to force in a sixth run, and then giving up a two-run single to Show to culminate the scoring.
When the dust settled, three Syracuse pitchers had combined to give up eight runs, all of them unearned and seven of the eight coming with two outs in the third inning. Fourteen Cowgirls reached base in the inning, six of them reaching via a walk. After the second out was recorded, ten consecutive Cowgirls reached base in the frame.
The numbers at the end of the run-rule shortened 8-0 loss were startling. Every Syracuse pitcher except Romero faced at least one batter in the Oklahoma State game. Only Peyton Schnakenberg walked away with a line that wasn’t ugly, as she entered to get the final out of the fourth, where she struck out the only batter, she faced in pinch hitter Taylor Tuck.
The four pitchers combined to walk eight batters, against a combined two strikeouts. They yielded eight runs, all unearned, curtesy of an error by the starter, on seven hits.
And all of this came just over two hours removed from the fifth member of the five-player staff, Alexa Romero, throwing a no-hitter.
The Orange pitchers will get their chance at redemption tomorrow with two more games, first facing Tulsa (10-6, 0-0 American Athletic) at 12:30 p.m. and then Illinois (11-3, 0-0 Big 10) at 4:30 p.m.
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