Where would the Arizona Wildcats be without senior utility man Seve Romo?
“We wouldn’t have survived without him,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “Not only survived but won some games.”
Romo won’t make any All-Pac-12 teams. He won’t make many headlines. If it weren’t for injuries to others, he probably wouldn’t be playing very much.
But when those injuries happened, thinning Arizona’s infield, Romo suddenly became an invaluable role player for a team with legitimate postseason aspirations.
Romo, a target on Johnson’s recruiting radar over several coaching stops , has started at second base in each of Arizona’s past three games, all victories. He fielded the ball flawlessly, provided timely hitting and, most important, helped the Wildcats endure a stretch when they literally had no other alternatives.
“It’s my last year of ball,” said Romo, a fifth-year senior who transferred to Arizona in the summer of 2016. “I just want to win at this point. Whatever it is that I have to do, whether it’s pitching or DHing, first base, second base, shortstop, I’ll do it.”
How about all of the above?
Romo has started three times at second, twice at shortstop, twice at first and once at DH. He began the season as a relief pitcher and didn’t take any fielding or batting practice during fall workouts.
But Johnson knew Romo could be a fallback option if injuries struck. Johnson first recruited Romo when he was a 15-year-old at Servite High School in Anaheim, California. Romo played for current UA pitching coach Dave Lawn at Servite. Romo’s primary position was second base.
Johnson was the top assistant at the University of San Diego at the time. Romo committed to play for the Toreros. But by the time Romo got there, Johnson had become the head coach at Nevada.
Romo spent two seasons at USD before transferring to East Los Angeles College, where he posted a 1.58 ERA and a .277 batting average as a two-way player in 2016.
Romo’s father — a huge golf fan who named his first son Nicholas Seve Romo after Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros — reached out to Johnson, who had become Arizona’s coach in June 2015. Several years after their relationship began, Romo finally played for Johnson.
“And here we are, in 2018 – he’s helping us a lot,” said Johnson, whose team visits Cal for a three-game series starting Friday. “When we brought him to Arizona, the thought was that he could do a lot of different things. That’s exactly how it’s played out.”
Romo pitched in 12 games last season, posting a 9.00 ERA in 18 innings. He batted six times, getting one hit.
Romo made four relief appearances between March 3 and April 14 and did not allow a run in 4º innings. He started for the first time in the field, at shortstop, on April 7 against Oregon State when Jacob Blas (root canal) and Travis Moniot (back) were unavailable. Romo went 2 for 5 in a 15-4 UA victory.
With Moniot out for the season and Blas battling a knee injury, Romo has started six of the past seven games. He has eight starts in all, and the Wildcats are 7-1 in those games. He is hitting .289 with two doubles and six RBIs in 38 at-bats.
Despite a sore left hamstring that forced him to leave the April 30 game at Utah Valley, Romo has displayed adequate range at second base, along with reliable hands. He has yet to commit an error this season.
“He’s been doing a great job,” said Cameron Cannon, who has moved from second to short as part of the middle-infield shuffle. “He’s athletic enough to make the adjustment.
“What he’s doing for the team right now is really big.”
Romo probably won’t pitch again for the Wildcats. Then again, he never expected to be starting at second base.
“If I get the call,” Romo said, “I’ll be ready.”
- Several current and former UA baseball players participated in the Student-Athlete Convocation on Thursday morning at McKale Center, including 2012 College World Series hero Kurt Heyer. The players on the travel squad for the Cal series — catcher Ryan Haug and pitchers Tylor Megill, Jason Seever and Ryan Gowens — joined the team later Thursday. “It won’t impact anything,” Johnson said. “But I’m proud of them for the accomplishment. It’s a big deal.”
- Cal (26-19, 11-13 Pac-12) boasts the front-runner for Pac-12 Player of the Year in sophomore first baseman Andrew Vaughn. Entering Thursday night, Vaughn ranked first in the conference and second in the country in on-base percentage (.538) and slugging percentage (.855). He ranked second in the league and the nation in home runs (22). He led the league in batting average (.406) and ranked second in RBIs (53).
- Cal outfielder/reliever Tanner Dodson is 62nd in Baseball America’s top 500 ranking for the 2018 MLB draft. Dodson is batting .328 and leads the Golden Bears with 10 saves.
- Arizona (29-17, 10-11) will open the Cal series with junior right-handers Cody Deason (5-4, 2.36 ERA) and Michael Flynn (6-3, 3.95). Sunday’s starter is TBA.
- Deason threw a career-high 139 pitches against UCLA last Thursday, but Johnson isn’t worried about Deason’s ability to bounce back. The extra day of rest factored into the decision to let Deason finish that game despite his mounting pitch count.
- Cal’s scheduled starters are left-hander Matt Ladrech (6-4, 5.31) and righties Jared Horn (5-5, 6.14) and Aaron Shortridge (3-2, 2.80).