Romine a key to Thunder's success
TRENTON — Behind every great pitching staff lurks a skilled catcher, and the Thunder’s Austin Romine is no exception. If you ask him, he’ll defer any and all credit to the men on the mound, saying that his only role is putting the fingers down. Other than that, they did all the heavy lifting.
For proof, check out his quote from after Game 3 of the division series, when Manny Banuelos, in just his fourth start with the Thunder, turned in seven brilliant innings to close out the Fisher Cats.
“I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “I called exactly the same way the game has been called since the first time we played (the Fisher Cats) this season. When it came down to it, they executed. All our starters pitched out of serious situations, and that’s something they hadn’t been doing in the beginning of the year.”
Just as he’s been saying all season long, only the pitchers deserve the credit for a good game. In fact, Romine has downplayed his individual contributions all season long.
His pitchers, however, feel differently. Take Adam Warren’s story about a start earlier this season as an example.
“Every now and then, you’re going to feel strongly about a pitch,” he recalled. “I shook him off once, and then gave up a hit, and he was like ‘Why didn’t you throw the fastball?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I should have thrown that.’ It’s rare for me (to shake him off).”
Most importantly this postseason, Romine has shown an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion when it comes to his defense.
Romine threw out Darin Mastroianni, perhaps the league’s best base burglar, twice in the final game against New Hampshire, both in key situations. When you look at his numbers throwing out runners this season – which are way down from his first two seasons throwing out Mastroianni, who was caught just 10 times all season, was nothing short of heroic.
“Romine was excellent in throwing out Mastroianni,” manager Tony Franklin said, “just excellent. When you throw that kid out, you’ve done a very good job.”
The second time he caught Mastroianni came at second base. Mastroianni had a huge jump and looked to all the world to have the bag stolen easily. Some in the press box were surprised he didn’t simply put the ball in his back pocket. Throw he did, however, and it was perfect, a missile in perfect position for Mastroianni to slide right into the tag.
If the throw is anywhere else, the runner is safe. In Franklin’s view, it was the best throw he’d seen from his catcher all season.
“If it’s anyplace else, you don’t get him,” he said.
Romine, just like the rest of the team, seems to have risen to the challenge offered by postseason baseball. The perfect throw shows it, the way his pitchers have performed shows it, and the result of the series shows it.
The only question now is: Can he do it again? Franklin sure thinks so.
“When you see that one time, it’s there, and it’s a matter of will it be there all the time,” he says. “There’s good chance that, yes, it will be there all the time.”