Get the latest Syracuse news delivered right to your inbox.
Subscribe to our sports newsletter here.
With runners on second and third base, Clemson’s Ansley Gilstrap worked a 3-1 count against Alexa Romero. Romero’s pitch was outside the strike zone on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, putting Gilstrap on first and loading the bases. Not even four innings into the contest, Romero walked her fifth batter of the game — her second of the inning. Syracuse trailed 3-2, putting the graduate student in a tough spot.
Romero was able to strike out the Tigers’ top hitter, Valerie Cagle, swinging to end the inning. But the damage had already been done. Johnson’s full-count walk had cost Romero and the Orange (19-21, 11-18 Atlantic Coast), as she later scored on an RBI single into right field by junior Cammy Pereira. SU’s offense, which has struggled all season, had mustered two solo home runs in the first three innings, but Romero’s control issues on Friday ultimately cost Syracuse the first game of the four-game weekend series against No. 13 Clemson (34-8, 27-4), losing 4-2.
“That game is super frustrating on our end,” head coach Shannon Doepking said. “Being able to hang with the No. 1 team in the conference is always a great game for us but … in order to win games like this, we have to do the little things well.”
For most of the season, Syracuse has been strong at doing some of those little things — not committing fielding errors or walking an excessive number of batters. Romero leads the Orange in every notable pitching category, but her five walks against the Tigers on Friday were a season-high and her most since last February. She walked hitters in three of the first four innings, with Johnson’s fourth-inning free pass proving to be the deciding run in the two-run loss.
After communication issues between Romero and her catcher, sophomore Geana Torres, plagued SU against Virginia Tech — a game in which Romero allowed five runs and two home runs in a 8-1 loss — Doepking opted to have pitching coach Michael Steuerwald call pitches from the dugout instead of Torres.
Doepking made the decision knowing the potency of the Tigers’ offense — which is second in the ACC in batting average — and knowing that Friday was the first game of the series, she said postgame. The Orange wanted to figure out Clemson’s game plan, specifically which side of the plate they swing best at and which side they are prone to chasing, she said.
The Tigers’ Cagle outdueled Romero, though, giving up just five hits and two runs while striking out 10 SU hitters over the same seven innings. Cagle entered the weekend leading the conference in both wins (24) and ERA (0.95). The Orange were able to get on Cagle early via solo home runs by Neli Casares-Maher and Paris Woods.
Romero attempted to throw her pitches near the corners of the plate, hoping to get Clemson to chase for swings and misses, Doepking said. Instead, she missed with pitches not even close to the plate, such as the 1-2 pitch in the top of the seventh inning that sailed over the head of Casey Bigham and went all the way to the backstop, moving two runners up. Doepking said the game plan heading in was to get Clemson to chase, and she was pleased with the job Romero did.
“I thought Lex threw well,” Doepking said. “Some of the pitches got away from her but … we went in with a game plan of dancing around and getting them to chase, and I think for the most part, some of them did a really good job of not chasing.”
The eight Tigers whom Romero struck out were still her most since April 9 at Boston College, when she struck out 12 over eight innings of work, showing that she was still able to get Clemson to chase at important parts of the game. In the top of the second, holding onto a one-run lead with two runners on base, Romero fell behind two balls to none on Bigham. Torres and Steurewald had already gone out to talk to the pitcher, with Romero having already walked both Marissa Guimbarda on a pitch on the outside corner and Grace Mattimore three batters later. Romero was able to bounce back after the mound visit, striking out Bigham with a high riseball to end the inning, allowing the Orange to cling to their lead.
If Syracuse is able to clean up some of the little things — like issuing five walks to a top-15 team, as Romero did Friday — SU will have a better opportunity at picking up marquee wins against teams like Clemson, or other conference foes it could face in the ACC Tournament next week, Doepking said. The Orange are not satisfied with close losses, knowing that executing the smaller parts of the game will help them moving forward, she said.
“That was a game that could’ve gone our way if we cleaned some stuff out,” Doepking said. “Hopefully it showed them that we can hang with these guys. Hopefully we can gain some confidence.”
The post Alexa Romero walks 5 hitters in 4-2 loss to No. 13 Clemson appeared first on The Daily Orange.