Laxer Transitions To Closer Role

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Josh Laxer
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Josh Laxer
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

April 11, 2014

By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com

OXFORD, Miss. -- In the second game of last Saturday's doubleheader, Auburn loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning. Ole Miss, clinging to a 5-1 lead and in search of the weekend sweep, turned to hard-throwing right-hander Josh Laxer.

Accompanied by Eminem's "Square Dance," on his way out of the bullpen, the starter-turned-closer proceeded to strike out the next three batters in order and worked a perfect ninth to close out the 5-1 win and earn his fourth save of the season.

"Going in after three walks, coach basically told me to pound the strike zone and that their hitters were taking, which they were, which I'm happy they did," Laxer said. "They sat up there and took fast balls. I threw it to them, and I'm glad I got outs for my team."

"I'm proud of him," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You can see the competitor but you can also see the confidence. He's had some adversity, but he's battled through it."

Laxer, a 20th-round selection of the Washington Nationals in the 2011 MLB Draft, spent his first two seasons as a midweek starter and middle reliever. This past summer, he played summer ball with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League where he posted a 2.88 ERA through 25.0 innings of relief.

He moved to the bullpen toward the end of the fall and stepped into the closer role after the South Carolina series, where he earned his first career save in a 6-4 win in game one. Game two wasn't as successful though, as Laxer allowed three runs -- two of them earned -- on four hits in a 5-4 loss.

"Coach Bianco talked to me after my second outing there, which was kind of rough," Laxer said. "He sat me down and told me if I wanted to be the guy that comes in there at the end that I'm going to have to have a short memory and can't let things drag on to the next game. That's when I realized he wanted me to be the closer this year, and I'm trying to embrace it the best I can."

The Madison, Miss., native has gone on to save three more games, including two SEC games against Missouri and most recently Auburn, which pitching coach Carl Lafferty said speaks to his maturity as a junior in his third year in the program.

"Since he's been here, he's always had quality stuff," Lafferty said. "For guys, it clicks for them at different times in their career, whether it's confidence, experience or maturity. Josh has come into his own this year, and he's been terrific."

Coming out of the bullpen that late, Laxer said, his key is to pound the strike zone and dominate with his best two pitches, his fastball and slider, which Lafferty said has made strides and become a quality pitch.

"There was a lot of adrenaline when I went out there," said Laxer about his first save opportunity against South Carolina. "I have learned how to use that adrenaline. I try to fill up the strike zone when I'm out there, and I have had success while doing that. As long as I'm filling up the strike zone, things usually look good."

"It's a great fastball," Lafferty said. "You're talking a fastball that can get up to 95-96 mph. When you're talking about that kind of velocity and commanding it in the bottom part of the strike zone on both halves on the plate, it makes for elite closer stuff."

Laxer has commanded his best two pitches to the tune of a 27-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, to go along with a 1.77 ERA and .216 opponents' batting average through 20.1 innings this season. As he continues to grow into the closer role, his approach will remain the same.

"Keep pounding the strike zone," Laxer said. "Confidence is key out there toward the end of games. As long as you believe in yourself, you can really just get outs. Put the ball where you want to."

Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller

Ole Miss Gear
    Facebook
    Twitter
    • Loading Tweets...
      1 second ago
    Blog
    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 4

      Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 4 - ULL (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.In case you missed it, The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 1, The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 2 and The Season: Ole Miss... read more

    • Freeze Talks Open Date, SEC West

      Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' open date and return to action on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Memphis.Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:50:18 mark. For the... read more

    • NASCAR's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Visits Ole Miss

      Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - Football

      NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team. Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 8-14)

      Monday, September 15, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewSept. 8-14, 2014Volleyball- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1... read more

    • Historic Start to the Football Season

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Football

      After a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, released on Sunday.  Despite breaking into the top 10, the Rebels remain fifth among Southeastern Conference Western Division... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Sept. 14

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Athletics

      This is the third installment of Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss Sports. This week... read more

    • Three Rebels Net First Goals of the Season

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Soccer

      Leading 1-0 after controlling the play for much of the game, Ole Miss opened up a 3-0 lead on Middle Tennessee with a pair of goals in the final minute of the first half on the way to a 4-0... read more

    • Golson's Buy-In Pays Off

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Senior cornerback Senquez Golson has come a long way since he was a freshman.  That season, he was most notably on the receiving end of a highlight reel juke from Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Three years later, as part... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss-ULL Motivational

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss vs ULL Official Team Motivational from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-ULL

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday. Wearing the Bull's-Eye After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll,... read more

    • Thompson Lifts Rebels to Historic Start

      Friday, September 12, 2014 - Volleyball

      With a chance to make history, Ole Miss dropped a first set for the first time this season. The Rebels answered the bell winning the next three sets to defeat Jacksonville State 3-1 and improve to 10-0 on the season,... read more

    • VIDEO: Return of The Grove

      Friday, September 12, 2014 - Football

      read more

    • Rebel Nation Remembers Stan Sandroni

      Thursday, September 11, 2014 - Football

      Rebel Nation goes into its home opener Saturday excited for the return of football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but also saddened by the loss of one of its most renowned voices.Stan Sandroni, 64, passed away of a heart attack late Wednesday.... read more

    • Freeze Talks Schedule, Areas for Team to Improve

      Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' home opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.Freeze's time... read more

    • Former football player releases Chucky Mullins book

      Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - Football

      Former Ole Miss football player Jody Hill has partnered with Square Books in Oxford to launch his book, "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect," celebrating the life and impact of his Ole Miss teammate Chucky Mullins. Hill will be signing copies... read more