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
    • What They're Saying: Ole Miss-LSU Pregame

      Friday, October 24, 2014 - Football

      Ahead of a rivalry renewed on a national stage, complete with a visit of ESPN's "College GameDay" and the mystique of a Saturday night game in Death Valley, here's link roundup of videos and stories from local and national media... read more

    • Extra Emphasis on Special Teams Play

      Thursday, October 23, 2014 - Football

      Extra Emphasis on Special Teams Play Through the years, special teams play has provided a winning edge in the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry, and and you don't have to go all the way back to Billy Cannon's 1959 Halloween run. In... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 8

      Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 8 - Tennessee (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Freeze, Miles Talk Ole Miss-LSU Rivalry

      Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and LSU head coach Les Miles on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Baton Rouge.For the full SEC teleconference, go here.Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:06:12... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Oct. 13-19)

      Monday, October 20, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewOct. 13-19, 2014Football- Ole Miss rode its dominant defense to a 34-3 homecoming win over Tennessee on Saturday to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play.- The Rebels are 7-0 for just... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Oct. 19

      Sunday, October 19, 2014 - Athletics

      It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations surrounding the Homecoming festivities this weekend. Let's get into it:1. When "College GameDay" visits Baton Rouge,... read more

    • Winning Formula for Rebels is No Secret

      Saturday, October 18, 2014 - Football

      The winning formula revealed itself as it has throughout the season: a dominant defense and a mistake-free offense. The Ole Miss defense forced four turnovers, while the Ole Miss offense did not commit a single turnover in a workmanlike 34-3... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss-Tennessee Motivational

      Saturday, October 18, 2014 - Football

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

    • Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Tennessee

      Saturday, October 18, 2014 - Football

      Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss faces Tennessee for Homecoming on Saturday.'Third Down for What'Tennessee is very dangerous, Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze said, because its talented, particularly if it gets momentum and confidence during... read more

    • SEC Nation Talent Talks Ole Miss on Visit

      Friday, October 17, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from today's media opportunity with SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears discussing the show's visit to Oxford for the SEC matchup between No. 3 Ole Miss and Tennessee. Tessitore recalls calling the first college... read more

    • What They're Saying: Midseason Honors

      Friday, October 17, 2014 - Football

      At the halfway point of the regular season, Ole Miss is 6-0 for the first time since 1962, when it went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. It's No. 3 ranking in the national polls is its... read more

    • Rebels Slow Offensive Tempo

      Thursday, October 16, 2014 - Football

      With a dominant defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged he has changed his offensive philosophy and play-calling to limit negative plays and quick possessions. Ole Miss averaged the second-most offensive... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 7

      Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 7 - Texas A&M (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Freeze Talks Defense, Tennessee

      Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Oxford. For the full SEC teleconference, go here. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at... read more

    • VIDEO: Studio 18 Live 10.15.14

      Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - Athletics

      read more