Joe Broussard finds a home as LSU’s powerful closer

As he surfed Twitter on Monday, Joe Broussard’s account began to receive a wave of notifications.

That’s what happens when word leaks out that your last fastball Saturday against Mississippi State clocked in at a cool 96 mph.

The tweet from Nolan Cain, LSU’s director of baseball operations, took off on the social network and sent Broussard’s phone abuzz.

“Twitter told me,” a smiling Broussard said Monday, “multiple times.”

Broussard entered this season as somewhat of a mystery man. His health — he had offseason surgery — was a question. And his experience — he hadn’t thrown in a game in 18 months — was an issue.

No one quite knew his role in the LSU bullpen.

Everyone knows now.

He’s the one who throws the cheese.

“His velocity,” pitching coach Alan Dunn said, “is strong.”

Entering LSU’s game with Lamar (18-14) on Wednesday, Broussard has developed into the Tigers’ hard-throwing closer, a guy who’s already racked up seven saves. That’s tied for third-most in the Southeastern Conference.

He’s used a mid-90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball to baffle hitters, especially in the ninth inning.

His digits in the final frame of games are sizzling. Broussard, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gretna native, has gotten 27 outs in 12 ninth-inning appearances. He’s faced 29 batters, striking out nine of those, walking one and allowing just three hits.

Broussard hasn’t allowed a hit in nine ninth-inning appearances, a streak that dates to early March.

What does shortstop Alex Bregman think when Broussard trots to the mound from the pen?

“Game over,” Bregman said.

Broussard talks like he pitches — fast. He works quick, too.

He’s thrown 103 pitches in the ninth inning this season. Hitters see an average of 3.5 pitches from him.

“It’s a great feeling when everything falls into place,” Broussard said, “and I can close the game.”

Closer isn’t something completely new to Broussard. He says he spent his career bouncing around in different pitching roles — starter, setup man, middle reliever and closer.

He has finally slid into a permanent slot a year after spending a season watching from the rehabilitation room.

Broussard had Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2012 after injuring the arm during summer ball. He missed all of last season. He watched teammates celebrate four separate championships, win a record number of games and advance to the College World Series.

“The worst part was staying in the training room and doing those bands every day and just looking out on the field and watching everybody else compete and you’re just sitting there,” Broussard said. “You think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ ”

A year later, he’s in the midst of replacing Chris Cotton as LSU’s go-to closer. Still, Cotton’s school-record-tying 16 saves are a ways away, but Broussard has put himself in position to challenge the mark.

He does it with an unusual vertical throwing motion, hitters and coaches say.

Broussard is the opposite of a sidearmer.

Bregman helps in understanding just how over-the-top Broussard’s arm motion is.

“His ball comes out from behind his head,” Bregman said. “It’s so straight downhill, it’s hard to hit.”

Broussard never changed the arm motion, even after surgery and rehab. His upper body rocks back as he leans back to make the toss. That arm comes whipping from nearly behind his head, as if it were a sling shot band.

“You’re born with a certain arm slot,” Broussard said. “That’s just what God gave me. I’m trying to take it and run with it.”

And that tweet Saturday? It was of interest to him, indeed.

Broussard said he had never been recorded throwing so hard.

“He’s become,” Mainieri said, “a bonafide SEC closer for us.”