OMAHA–Wes Roemer will leave Cal State Fullerton as one of the most decorated players in the school's illustrious history. The 2006 Big West pitcher of the year and first-team All-American became Fullerton's all-time strikeout leader when he caught Scott Santschi looking on a fastball in the seventh inning of Saturday's game against Oregon State. But for all of his impressive accomplishments, Roemer is in danger of finishing his career without a College World Series victory on his resume.
"I'd easily trade the strikeout record for a win, I wasn't really keeping track in my mind," Roemer said. "But it is quite an accomplishment for myself to have that record, I did pass a couple of really good pitchers in (Kirk) Saarloos and (Adam) Johnson this year. If I have the kind of career those guys had, I'll be happy. But I would easily trade the strikeout record for a victory."
Roemer fell to 0-2, 5.23 in his CWS career in the 3-2 loss to the Beavers. In three starts in Omaha over the last two years, the righthander has allowed 26 hits and seven home runs. Five of those long balls came in two starts last year against North Carolina, but the Beavers hit two more Saturday. Other than Mike Lissman's solo shot in the first inning and Scott Santschi's solo shot in the seventh, Roemer pitched pretty well Saturday, striking out seven without walking a batter. He used his fastball to get most of the strikeouts, five of them looking. He now has 368 whiffs in his three-year career, which will end after this season when Roemer signs with the Diamondbacks, who drafted him in the supplemental first round (50th overall).
The Beavers certainly knew they were going against one of the nation's best, and in a way that might have helped them."I knew Wes Roemer was going against me, so that just took my nervousness away, because I love competing, and I loved competing with him," Oregon State starter Jorge Reyes said.
"Roemer's so tough, he's just a warrior," added OSU coach Pat Casey. "Wes Roemer, he smells the blood. If he's got you shut out the first three or four innings, he's a monster. So we were happy to get a couple of runs on the board early."
Roemer has always been able to smell the blood, and his competitiveness is the true key to his success, even more than his pinpoint fastball command. He is undersized and does not have overpowering stuff, but he makes up for it with his toughness. But sometimes his animated mound presence comes off as a little too cocky.
"He gets himself in trouble sometimes because he's so confident in himself, so prideful in his team that he'll pop off to certain people and say things that you take the wrong way," Cal State Fullerton coach George Horton said. "I love Wes Roemer. He's a guy that will rub you the wrong way, but if you really dig into the onions of his personality, our players love him, our coaches love him. He's a guy that you'd want to be in Iraq fighting for your life with Wes Roemer next to you. I wish he would curtail some of the stuff that irritates people, because he's really not that kind of kid, he's really a good kid."
Roemer has come a long way since arriving at Fullerton as a brash freshman who told older teammates he was going to strike them out in intrasquads.
"I think sometimes with young people that's a mask that he wants to be accepted by those older guys," Horton said. "He's proud of this, he's proud to be a Titan. I was coaching pitchers at the time, and I finally said to him, 'That's not the way to earn respect. You keep your mouth shut, you get them out in scrimmages, and they'll figure out who you are.' And he did that. There are times when he gets his adrenaline going where he'll shoot off in the dugout or pop off to someone. I wish he didn't do that, but it's just a young person expressing his emotion, being successful. It's for the right reasons, just done the wrong way."
Roemer is just an expressive guy. After Evan McArthur's ninth-inning pop-up to left field appeared to end the game, Roemer squeezed a towel around his head and stormed toward the back of the dugout; when the ball was dropped by left fielder John Wallace, Roemer ran back to the edge of the dugout with his eyes wide and his mouth agape. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just Wes Roemer.
"I like to keep a strong presence on the mound, and I think that kind of helps me in the long run," Roemer said. "A few people say I might go over the top, but I feel it's kind of how I pitch out there."
It's been a lot of fun to watch Roemer pitch over the last three years. I enjoyed seeing the ubiquitous Cheez-It box that followed him around in the dugout during the 2006 College World Series, and I'm glad to hear Roemer has embraced new superstitions in 2007–peanut rallies and hot tamale rallies. It's a shame he is still winless in the CWS, because his performance today was probably the best outing by any starting pitcher yet in the 2007 CWS. He might have been out-pitched for six innings tonight by Reyes, but the OSU freshman had to leave the game with a calf tweak before the seventh, while Roemer made it through eight innings, allowing just three runs (two earned).
"I'll take this effort tonight," Horton said. "I thought last year was uncharacteristic of Wes, but you saw Wes Roemer tonight."