NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Bobby Romero wanted nothing more than to make his final pitch of the regular season memorable.
With the tying run on third base and two outs, the junior hurler coiled back and recorded a strikeout to put an exclamation point on Hoover’s 4-3 Pacific League home victory against cross-town rival Glendale on Friday afternoon.
Hoover (8-11, 5-9 in league) and Glendale (5-16, 2-12) will not qualify for the postseason next week, but one wouldn’t have noticed Friday.
Both teams encountered their share of turmoil. Glendale had some injuries to a few key players, while Hoover’s season was filled with tragedy after assistant coach Brandon Villalobos died in dune buggy accident in Hesperia on April 11 and former Coach Jim Delzell died May 2.
Romero (3-1) wanted to wrap up the season with a quality performance in honor of Villalobos and Delzell.
“I wanted to win for both of them,” said Romero, who struck out a season-high 12. “I knew I had confidence in myself that I could.
“I also had confidence in my teammates, and I knew they wouldn’t let me down.”
Romero, a right-hander who normally is the team’s starting catcher, saw the Nitros close to within 4-3 on a triple by Kevin Perez with one out in the seventh.
Then Romero needed to be sharp to withstand the Nitros, who suffered an 8-3 home loss to the Tornadoes on April 24.
Romero got Ian Conover on a sharp grounder to shortstop Levi Factora with the infield all the way in before striking out Alex Berry.
“I told the guys that it’s their last game at home, and they were able to come through,” Hoover first-year Coach Tito Cruz said. “They showed up to play and they wanted to win.
“Glendale battled. The last inning is always the hardest.”
The Nitros took a 1-0 lead in the first on a run-scoring single by Bennett Koss.
The Tornadoes then received RBI singles from Mike Dorado and Kevin Wong to make it 2-1 in the second. Hoover then pushed across two more runs to extend the lead to 4-1 on a run-scoring single from Cameron Doran and an error by the right fielder.
Glendale closed to within 4-2 after the Hoover center fielder dropped a fly ball with the bases loaded in the fourth. However, the Nitros couldn’t cut into the deficit anymore at that point.
“We wanted this and we had the tying run on third with one out [in the seventh],” said Glendale Coach Jon Keefer, whose team stranded nine runners. “Unfortunately, it’s the way it ended for us.
“It’s been a difficult season, but we’ve got almost every returner back for next year. I think we will be a little more solid next year.”