By TREY MONGRUE
Whether it has been a sweeping slider from Matty Ott or pinpoint precision by Chris Cotton, the closing pitcher role has been very beneficial for Paul Mainieri and LSU in recent seasons. This year has been no different with junior Joe Broussard getting the ball on the mound in the ninth inning.
After missing all of last season due to Tommy John Surgery, Broussard has shown no bad signs since his return, having recorded seven saves this season while leading a stout LSU bullpen with a 0.57 earned run average in 17 appearances.
His latest save was his toughest yet as Mainieri brought him on with no outs in the eighth inning and the Tigers holding on to a 2-1 lead over Mississippi State. Broussard held firm, allowing no runs on just one hit and the Tigers won the game and the series in dramatic fashion.
Following his heroics, DIG caught up with LSU’s latest shutdown closer.
DIG: Were you a little surprised that you were called down to the bullpen a little bit earlier than when you have been usually called on in games this season?
Joe Broussard: Coach talked to me before and he gave me a little heads up, telling me that he wanted to win this game with whatever it takes. Of course, I was willing to do whatever it takes. I would have even gone three innings if that is what it would’ve took.
DIG: You’ve been the closer role for quite a few games now and have succeeded. Do you feel completely comfortable with it at this point?
JB: Each time I go out there, I feel like I get a little more confident, especially if I’m succeeding. So far, it has all been going great for me and I feel like I have a lot of confidence each time that I step on the mound.
DIG: Considering how good some of the previous closers at LSU have been, do you feel any added pressure?
JB: I went to high school with Matty Ott and I roomed with Nick Goody during road games two seasons ago and of course I got to see Chris Cotton, so I knew how good all of those guys were. I’ve waited for my time and I’m willing to do what it takes.
DIG: Do you feel like the approach to pitching as a closer is different than that of a middle reliever or starter?
JB: Not really, I feel like it’s the same old, same old. I just pound the zone, keep the ball down and let the defense behind work. You do that and you are going to have success no matter what inning you are pitching.
DIG: How would you describe your season as a whole so far, it being your first year back since the surgery?
JB: It has all been great for me so far, but I always put the team first. All I’m trying to do is go out there when called on and try to give my team a chance to win. I just want to put zeroes on the board and let the offense take over.
DIG: Coming back from that, what has this journey been like for you?
JB: It’s been a long road, I’ll tell you that. Doing the rehab was not fun and there was a lot of ups and downs. Last year, when we went to Omaha, I didn’t get to play but instead I was watching from the stands. I just put work in and did everything that I could to get back out there.
DIG: Before the season, your coach mentioned that, behind Aaron Nola, you had the best ‘stuff’ among the pitchers. When your coach says that about you, what does that do for your confidence?
JB: It’s a big booster when the boss says something like that about you. It also makes you what to go out there and prove him right and not let him down. I’m willing to take that challenge.