MURRIETA, Calif. -- As Sierra Romero
steps into the hitters circle, you can't help but notice that the pitcher appears a bit unnerved. Rightfully so, given the fact the senior from Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.)
has been tearing the proverbial cover off the ball this season.
Romero's opponent calls for time. The umpire obliges the request and a break in the action immediately follows. Seconds later, the opposing coach is meeting with his particularly indecisive player one last time, presumably to go over strategy for dealing with what comes next.
The plan is revealed after the first toss toward the plate. The goal is to pitch around Romero. She sees three consecutive balls. Signs point to the next offering being unhittable as well. The pitcher, however, makes a mistake and leaves the ball in the strike zone. Romero turns on the pitch and hits a towering home run to the deepest part of the park, over the center field fence.
The scenario has played out time and time again this year. No one has been able to figure out Romero this year. The Michigan commit has been seemingly unstoppable and emerged as one of the country's premier power hitters as a result. Not surprisingly, the Broncos have followed the lead of Romero to develop into a force to be reckon during all-important postseason play.
"A player like Sierra comes around once in a great while,'' Vista Murrieta coach Daniel Torres said. "Thing about her is, for all the individual success she's having, Sierra is humble enough to remember that softball is a team game. She puts her teammates first and foremost.''
Her unselfish approach to the game is unique in this day and age, indeed.
Nevertheless, Romero's demeanor has not prevented her from hitting a nation-best 21 home runs in 28 games with the Broncos (23-4-1 record) thus far. Heather Morales
from Indio (Indio, Calif.)
and Taylor Odom
from Goreville (Goreville, Ill.)
are close behind, tied for second with 20 homers.
Still, Romero has showed no signs of slowing down. She will be looking to add to her total on Tuesday in the CIF Southern Section playoff semifinals against Norco (Calif.)
"I try not to focus on the stats,'' Romero said. "For me it's about the team. If I just worry about what it takes to win on the field, things will care of themselves off the field. All I want to do is go out and play hard. Take care of business, that's the only thing I'm worried about now.''
"Really, I don't go out and try to hit home runs. I try to make contact, put the ball in play, move runners over. Good things happen when you do that kind of stuff. When people tell me know that I have 21 home runs, the most in the country, it's kind of crazy to think about.''
Romero does other things well, no doubt about it.
Her game is about as well-rounded as they come.
Romero leads Vista Murrieta in a number of different offensive categories. Her batting average is .489. She also boasts a .558 on-base percentage and .591 slugging percentage.
Reliable with the glove at shortstop, Romero's fielding percentage is .982.
"A lot of players in Sierra's age group have a tendency to peak at this stage, she hasn't though,'' said Mike Romero, her father and assistant coach for the Broncos. "She's still developing. I think some of Sierra's best softball is ahead of her, that's what I've been told by everyone."
Whether Romero continues to improve remains to be seen. If the past is any indication of what could be in store for the future, odds are, she takes her game to the next level.
Romero made an immediate impact with the Broncos as a freshman and has been a starter ever since. Along the way, she opened the eyes of some of the country's top scouts.
Romero was recruited by several schools, as many as 30 at one point. The most notable programs were BYU, Tennessee and Texas. Oddly enough, nearby Pac-12 Conference teams, including UCLA, did not express much interest. In the end, Michigan appeared to be the best fit.
One thing is certain, dear old dad doesn't stand much of a chance in a home-run hitting contest with his daughter. "I don't know,'' Mike Romero said. "I might be able to hit it farther, but would pull a muscle. She's more consistent when it comes to hitting the ball, she'd probably win.''
When it comes to winning, Romero is accustomed to favorable results. With her in the lineup, Vista Murrieta is a formidable foe, regardless of whether or not she sees good pitches.
"Sierra gets the job done, she's a great player,'' said teammate and ace of the Broncos pitching staff, Selina Ta'amilo
. "She has my back and the back of everyone around here. As a pitcher, there's no better feeling than having someone on your side that can deliver in the clutch situations. That's Sierra's role for us. She can change the momentum in the blink of an eye. With one swing.''
Romero has proven to be a game-changer this season, to be sure. Her nation-leading 21 home runs are a clear indication of that much.
With at least one game left, and possibly two if things go according to plan, it would not be the least bit surprising to see the total increase.
"I think teams are focused on stopping me, yes. Does it bother me? No, not really,'' Romero said. "I'm used to everyone pitching around me. It makes me work harder, focus more. If and when pitchers throw strikes, I try to make them pay.''