SAN DIEGO–Josh Romanski’s two-way prowess earned him a spot on the preseason All-America team, and he showed why in San Diego’s first game Friday against Cal Poly. Romanski held the Mustangs to a pair of runs (one earned) on eight hits over six innings but left the game with USD facing a 2-0 deficit. No matter; he delivered a three-run homer off the side of Manchester Dorm beyond the right field wall in the eighth inning to give the Toreros a 3-2 win.
"He’s proven that he’s one of the best two-way players in the country, and he had a great summer with Team USA, and so far he’s off to a great start to the season," USD coach Rich Hill said. "On the mound, he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, I think he elevated some pitches–it’s not generally him. But the great thing about him today was his competitiveness. He gutted it out, the tighter the situation got, the more of a quality pitch he made. He just kind of bent but didn’t break, and kept us in the game."
Romanski worked in the 86-89 range with his fastball, which was fairly straight and up in the zone for much of his outing. He bailed himself out of a couple of jams with good 69-71 mph curveballs but struggled with his feel for the pitch in general, relying more on his changeup and cutter. A center fielder when he’s not pitching (and he’s even in the starting lineup in center in USD’s second game today against Fresno State, which starts in a couple of minutes), Romanski’s excellent athleticism also loomed large, as he fielded several bunts very well (even gunning out a lead runner at second base after fielding one bunt) and made a nice lunging grab on a ball to his left to end the fifth inning.
"I struggled on the mound a little early, gave up some two-strike hits that I felt like I shouldn’t have given up, I felt like I left the ball over the plate a little bit, maybe a little up," Romanski said. "I threw pretty much all day without a breaking ball, I was struggling to throw it for a strike, but I just think I went out there and battled. That’s what our pitching staff’s about–you’re not going to have your best stuff every day, you just have to go out and minimize big innings, and that’s what I was able to do."
The Toreros struggled all day against Cal Poly starter Eric Massingham, who effectively spotted an 86-89 mph fastball that touched 90-91 and mixed in an occasional breaking ball and changeup. But in the eighth inning, he could not sneak a fastball past Romanski down and in.
"I was just looking for a fastball I could hit hard, really," Romanski said. "He was living off his fastball all day, so I thought I was going to get another one, and luckily I was able to put a good swing on it."
One thing that might go unnoticed in this win was the strong performance of the San Diego bullpen. Freshman lefthander Sammy Solis looked very good, allowing just one hit and one walk over two shutout innings. He commanded his 89-91 mph fastball well and mixed in a good changeup. Closer A.J. Griffin followed him and worked a flawless ninth, ending the game by doing something no USD or San Diego State pitcher had been able to do yet in two games: retire Poly center fielder Logan Schafer. Before Griffin got Schafer to ground out to the mound, Schafer had recorded eight consecutive hits, going 4-for-4 with two RBIs against the Aztecs yesterday and notching four more hits including a double today.
The Mustangs have now dropped a pair of competitive, winnable games in two days.
"We’ve got to learn how to win one-run ballgames," Cal Poly coach Larry Lee said. "It’s a real competitive field, and we just need to go toe-to-toe with these teams, and we’ll be better for it in the long run."
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