In 1987, Rene Romo helped the Tucson High School baseball team win a state championship before going on to a successful college career.
Nearly three decades later, his daughter, Jaelyn, is trying to carry on the tradition with the Badgers.
The senior catcher, a four-year player on Tucson’s softball team, is helping give the Badgers hope they can make a run at their first state title next month.
She also signed her national letter of intent Wednesday afternoon to play at New Mexico State next season.
Romo highlighted the nine-player signing day ceremony at Tucson High, which drew close to 100 supporters. The much sought-after player also drew interest from Oregon, Texas A&M and New Mexico, but picked the Aggies based on a better offer and a demanding-but-fair coaching staff.
“There is a whole concept of the game that I’ve been brought up with,” Romo said. “Under my dad’s wing, I’ve been coached a certain way, and right when I got to New Mexico State, it fell into the same category. It was just the perfect fit. They have a good program that is heading upward.”
Romo isn’t the only local player headed to Las Cruces, N.M. Sahuaro outfielder Amy Bergeson also signed to play for the Aggies. The two will join another pair of Tucsonans already on the roster: former Ironwood Ridge pitcher Makayla McAdams and ex-Badger Chelsea Dohrwardt, whose sister Priscilla is currently teammates with Romo.
“I’m not the biggest, the strongest or the fastest,” Romo said. “What separates me from everyone else is heart. They know I’m determined to work my way into the lineup. I have no doubt they’ll be happy with what they see.”
Now, Romo needs a state title to match her father.
Heading into Thursday’s game at Douglas, Romo led her team with 23 RBIs. The Badgers (16-8) were ranked 11th in Division II, having won five of their previous six games. She is batting .525 and recently moved from batting leadoff to the No. 3 spot in the order.
“I feel like I contribute more to my team,” Romo said of the move. “It’s the confidence of seeing my girls on base and being able to drive them in, and knowing I can and knowing that my hits help win games.”
Although the Badgers have struggled against Southern Arizona teams ranked in the top 10, they proved they belong in the conversation with some of the best when they beat Canyon del Oro 10-9 in March. Since then, the Dorados have won nine straight games and have earned the No. 3 ranking in the division.
Tucson has lost in the second round of the state tournament in each of the last two years. That has left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths, according to coach Danielle Rodriguez. But those two losses could be just the fuel they need to get back to the state finals for the first time since 1991.
For further inspiration, Romo can tap her dad’s knowledge about going on a tournament run.
“He’s been through it,” she said. “He knows what it takes for us mentally and physically to get there, and he’s tried to instill that in me, and I try to instill that in my team.”