Romero vs. Romero a 'super nervous' outing for Mom

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Melissa Romero is careful to sip from both straws as daughter Sierra plays for Michigan and younger daughter Sydney plays for Oklahoma. Those teams meet Saturday night in the Women's College World Series.

Oklahoma City — This is a confusing — but extremely happy — day for Melissa Romero.

Her oldest daughter, Sierra, Michigan’s senior standout second baseman recently named the National Player of the Year, Sydney, her second of four children and a freshman third baseman at Oklahoma, will play against each other Saturday night in the teams’ second Women's College World Series game.

“My stomach hurts so much,” Romero said early Saturday while clutching Michigan and Oklahoma insulated cups, opting to sip from both straws at the same time to not show any favoritism.

The second-ranked Wolverines, the national champion runner-up last season, will face the Sooners at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The teams are among eight playing for a shot at a national title.

This is the second time the teams have faced each other this season. Michigan defeated Oklahoma, 16-9, in late February at a tournament in Palm Springs, Calif. That was different, though, for Melissa and husband, Michael, because of the stakes.

“I’m super nervous,” Melissa Romero said. “When we played in Palm Springs, even though it’s a game, it’s more casual, you know what I mean?

“Right now as it gets closer to game time I’ll get more nervous than I am already, but I’m excited. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You have the eight best teams here that played their hearts out to get here and just so happens Michigan and OU are playing each other, and we know there’s going to be someone who wins this game and someone who loses, and that’s part of the game. That being said, I’m just proud of both of the kids no matter what happens. We’ve already told them that. You just go out there and leave it on the field and the better team is going to win at that particular time.”

What she has settled is her attire.

Romero will wear a white tank top split down the middle with a Michigan logo and Sierra’s name in it on one side, and an OU logo with Sydney’s name on the other. The back of the shirt features Sierra’s No. 32 and Sydney’s No. 2. She will carry cutout signs featuring the heads of both of her daughters, and not missing any details, Melissa will wear one Michigan flip-flop and one Oklahoma flip flop.

Where she and her husband will sit is another matter. They’re considering seats in the middle of the stadium, but they also have tickets in both team sections. One option is to run from side to side depending on which team is on offense.

“My husband I know will sit for a few minutes, but he’ll be up and down,” Melissa said. “If Sierra for example comes up and grounds out, he’ll move and go somewhere else thinking it will change the mojo.”

Sierra Romero is a senior and this will be her last shot to win a national title with the Wolverines. Admittedly, that has leaked into Melissa’s thoughts and she considers the emotions she will feel tonight.

“I can’t lie, it does,” Melissa Romero said. “It kind of pulls at my heartstrings a little. Sierra’s been here three times in her four-year career. Last year was a heartbreaker against Florida and to get back here again and be so close again to winning a national championship for Sierra’s team is a big deal.

“And not to take anything away from OU and the seniors they have on their team. The seniors are amazing. You want to see them both do well, but ultimately there can’t be two national champions. There can only be one, and I’m going to be biased to my daughters. Sierra, I would love for her to win a national championship and go out like that with her team. That would be the icing on the cake.”

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Oklahoma reached the World Series before Michigan, which needed a late-game rally to beat Missouri in the second Super Regional game last weekend to advance.

“Once OU was in, I remember talking to Sierra out at regionals and she said, ‘Mom, we have to do this, because if we don’t, I’ll never hear the end of it if we don’t make it and Sydney’s team is in it,’” Melissa said. “When Michigan won, she was like, ‘Whew, I’m so glad now because now that pressure’s off.’”

Michigan softball second baseman Sierra Romero (32), third from left, is surrounded by family members, from left, brother Michael Romero Jr., age 12; father Michael Romero; uncle Mario Romero; mother Melissa Romero; sister Sophia Romero, age 10; stepmom Carolina; and grandfather Humberto Romero, on Michigan's Senior Day.

The sisters are extremely close and communicate frequently. Sierra initially wasn’t certain whether she should text Sydney this morning and wish her luck because of the importance of tonight’s game, but ultimately she pressed send. The team hotels are directly across from each other, and earlier in the week Sierra said she was thrilled Sydney reached the World Series as a freshman just as she did.

One sister will be on the winning side, of course, and the other on the losing, and Melissa knows the challenges the aftermath will hold.

“But at the end of the day when it’s all said and done and it’s all over and the dust settles, it all comes back to what we’ve always talked about and that’s just our family,” she said. “It’s family and the friendships we’ve built over the years. Once this is done, we may talk about it for a couple of weeks because of the hype and the excitement, but then you get back to reality. It's about what’s really important and that’s your friendships. We’ve built lifelong friendships with many people throughout this sport.

“It’s going to be that bittersweet moment where one is going to be sad, one is going to be happy, but they’re going to be happy for each other. But they’ve always shown that on and off the field, they want the best for each other.”

For Melissa, it’s also personally bittersweet.

“I never thought I would have two kids in the College World Series,” she said. “The hardest thing for me, I wish my dad was here to see everything taking place. Growing up as kids, my dad played baseball and he’d always told me, ‘One day, Melissa when you have kids, I can’t wait to be there.’ Dad passed away when I was 16, so he never had the opportunity to be here for them and see that, but I know he’s probably smiling.”

Her daughters are very different personalities. Sierra, she said, is very intense, although she has a silly side, but Sydney at her core is carefree. Nothing bothers her, her mother said, and their playing styles are completely different.

The parents have made certain to always manage the situation, constantly telling Sydney she doesn’t have to live up to her older sister’s very high bar that includes career national records, multiple conference Player of the Year awards, and, of course, the national Player of the Year honor.

“She’s been the face of our program really since she walked in the door, and we certainly have surrounded her with a lot of great softball talent, as well,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said this week.

OU coach Patty Gasso said this week she has reiterated the same message the Romeros have sent to Sydney – be you.

“I think it’s hard to be Syd Romero when you have the best softball player in the game as your older sister,” Gasso said. “Sierra is a phenomenal athlete, and when you’re the younger sister, it’s hard to live in those shadows. I think Syd felt a lot of pressure throughout the season to do that. And we just kept trying to let her know we love Syd for Syd, not because you’re Sierra’s sister. And I think she started to embrace that a little bit.

“Everybody in the world has enjoyed Sierra and watching her phenomenal four years at Michigan … but I think for Syd’s future, it’s almost a good thing that Sierra’s graduating so Sydney can be Sydney and not the sister of Sierra.”

Melissa said Sydney understands that message.

“She’s happy and proud of what Sierra has accomplished and Sydney is not Sierra and Sydney can only do what Sydney can do,” she said. “She knows she doesn’t have to go and try and break Sierra’s records. What I love is they support each other, and you can see it, it’s evident.”

For their mother, the stress of anticipating tonight’s game has mangled her insides, but she is thrilled both of her oldest children are playing on the sport’s biggest stage.

“It couldn’t have been scripted better any other way,” Melissa Romero said. “Somebody’s going to win, somebody’s going to lose, and it’s going to come down to the better team winning. In the end, I’m going to be emotional because I’m going to be happy for one and sad for the other. It’s going to be rough tonight, but it’s OK.”

Then she thought about it for another moment and seemed to reconsider.

“I may need therapy,” she said, and burst into laughter.

Check that, it was probably nervous laughter.

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis