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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, June 02, 2018 1:00 am

Archers senior credits maturity

Infielder/pitcher likes underdog role

JOSH PATTERSON | For The Journal Gazette

He's no “new noodle.” No, that sort of treatment's reserved for Thomas Romero's opponents.

While the South Side senior stands unlikely to see a noodle-armed reliever in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Regional at Loeb Stadium, either against Carroll in the opener or in a potential championship game against Fishers or Zionsville, that won't stop Romero from offering that welcome to any pitcher entering the game.

“I started saying it, then the team started saying it,” Romero said. “When there's a new pitcher on the mound, we started saying it and it just stuck. It's something fun to say.”

Romero, called a “vocal leader” by coach Sheldon Van Pelt, does plenty of talking on the field, barking words of encouragement to teammates or setting up defensive alignments.

But the first-team All-SAC third baseman also lets his glove and bat speak for him.

“He works hard,” Van Pelt said. “He came in his senior year and really just turned it on. It was a complete turnaround with this kid. He really grabbed hold of what he was shown and took it to heart.”

As a sophomore, Romero worked his way from the reserve squad to the varsity, ultimately earning the program's Most Improved Player award. He repeated the feat as a junior, receiving the award for a second straight year – an uncommon trait for that type of award.

His work ethic carried him to greater heights this season, splitting the Archers' MVP award with Lee Barrera. And it was Romero and Barrera shouldering the load in South Side's unexpected sectional title, with Romero pitching 62/3 innings in an upset of No. 4 Huntington North, then Barrera throwing a complete game to lift South Side over No. 13 Homestead in the championship.

With wins over those two vaunted opponents, Romero explained he and the Archers are fully onboard with the underdog role. South Side enters regionals at 14-12, with every other regional foe having won at least 22 games.

“Knowing we had to go through (Huntington North and Homestead), it was just a boost of confidence that our team can actually do it,” Romero said. “(Van Pelt) said we weren't supposed to be here.

“We just go out and play, to be honest. Knowing we can beat a top-ranked team just gives us confidence that we can beat anybody at this point. We feel like if we're on our game that day, we can beat anybody.”

Baseball will continue to take Romero places, as he's signed on to play at Ivy Tech. It's also provided Romero an avenue to mature, something Van Pelt, who lives just down the street from Romero, sees from his ballplayer and his neighbor.

“He's grown a lot, he's grown as a young adult,” Van Pelt said. “He's very humble and very competitive.”

Alongside that maturation, Romero stands appreciative of baseball offering him perspective – not just how he's grown, but also how he fits in society moving forward.

And the chance to greet the “new noodles.”

“Knowing I can actually play another game of baseball, to go out and throw a ball, that's just humbling,” Romero said. “Just knowing I'm living, just knowing I'm alive is just humbling.”