Baseball is a game of ups and down. For Sal Romano, it's about getting his pitches down while keeping tabs on his high intensity.
After making the right adjustments in a bullpen session, the Reds' No. 14 prospect allowed two hits over six scoreless frames Friday night before Class A Dayton dropped a 5-4, 10-inning decision at Great Lakes.
"He has a big frame, right around 6-5, he's a big kid, has big shoulders. And sometimes when you're young, you pitch up in the zone. You just have to be able to make adjustments as you go along, and he did that tonight," Dragons pitching coach Tony Fossas said. "It was a very good start for the beginning of the second half. He had everything going, pitching down in the zone, good use of all his pitches."
After allowing 10 runs over 10 1/3 innings in his previous two starts, Romano worked with Fossas on pitching down in the strike zone. The adjustments paid off as the 20-year-old right-hander struck out three and faced only two batters over the minimum.
Romano allowed a one-out triple in the bottom of the before retiring the next 15 Loons.
"Starting pitchers, I always say, they need to be able to pitch in tough situations in the game, and that was one of them," Fossas said. "He was able to get a ground ball and then strike out the next guy. After that, he was able to cruise by and he didn't walk anyone."
With the game scoreless most of Romano's start, Fossas emphasized how important it is for a young pitcher to perform well in close games. Dayton got on the board in the fifth on an RBI single by Daniel Pigott to put Romano in line for his fifth win.
With his limit set at 90 pitches, Romano reached around 82 after six innings, so the Dragons didn't want to send the 2011 23rd-round pick into an inning he couldn't finish.
"The manager and I, we have so much confidence in him and I wanted him to leave up 1-0 and think positive about the game," Fossas said. "I think it's very important for a young pitcher -- to be able to move up and secure a spot at the next level -- to be able to go out there and pitch six quality innings."
While the Dragons are working on getting Romano's pitches down in the zone, his intensity stays high. Fossas said the right-hander can sometimes be "emotional," and while Romano needs to control his expressive side, it can be an advantage for him on the mound.
"I think that when your demeanor is aggressive and you're fired up because you love what you do, I think it helps him a lot," Fossas said. "When you love the game like the way he does and you can be excited, it helps you go through the 27 starts of a long season."
After Romano exited, Great Lakes took the lead in the seventh on an RBI double by Joey Curletta and a run-scoring infield hit by Dodgers No. 14 prospect Jacob Scavuzzo. Avain Rachal's two-run double capped Dayton's three-run eighth, but Paul Hoenicke forced extra innings with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Brandon Trinkwon scored the winning run an inning later on a throwing error by shortstop Carlton Daal.