Robert Broom Sweeping Away Hitters For Mercer
In one of the biggest games Robert Broom has pitched in his career, he delivered unquestionably his best outing. The junior righthander struck out 12 batters in six scoreless innings, both career highs, to help lead Mercer to a 6-4 victory Tuesday at No. 1 Florida.
Broom throws from a sidearm slot and confounded the Gators after entering the game in the fourth inning for the Bears. He scattered three hits and a walk and allowed a runner to advance past first base just once.
Broom’s fantastic performance was exactly what Mercer needed Tuesday. After falling behind 4-1 in the first inning, the Bears battled back to take the lead in the fourth inning and Broom took it from there. He said he felt like he got stronger as his outing continued, and he finished the game by striking out four batters in the last two innings.
“From the get-go I was feeling great out there,” he said. “I think as the innings progressed, I just kept finding better command throughout the innings. I just trusted my stuff and located my pitches and if you do that things will go good for you.”
Things have generally gone well for Broom throughout his career. The junior is 8-1, 1.33 with 84 strikeouts and 19 walks in 54.1 innings across 22 appearances. During his career at Mercer, he is 20-6, 2.40 with 241 strikeouts in 176.1 innings in 94 appearances. He also found success in the Cape Cod League last summer, going 1-1, 0.44 with a 25-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and earning All-Star honors.
Broom has been a critical weapon out of the bullpen from the moment he stepped on campus at Mercer.
“His makeup’s outstanding, he loves the big environments,” coach Craig Gibson said. “One thing about him, the last few years, he’s been consistent for us and he was great in the Cape last summer.”
Broom isn’t imposing at a listed 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, and he isn’t overpowering, typically throwing his fastball in the mid to upper 80s with sinking action. He throws a frisbee slider and mixes in a changeup. He also will occasionally throw a fastball from a more over-the-top arm slot that gets a little more velocity on the pitch.
But, mostly, Broom relies on his feel for pitching and the deception his delivery creates to get outs. Florida outfielder Wil Dalton said the Gators had to tip their cap to him.
“He kept everybody off,” Dalton said. “He did it to righthanders, he did it to lefthanders, he did it to me, he did it to everybody in the lineup 1-9.”
Broom has been throwing this way since he was nine, when his father taught him. At Mercer, Broom is following in the footsteps of Cory Gearrin, another low-slot righty to come through the program.
Gibson, who also coached Gearrin, said Broom gets more sink on his fastball than Gearrin did.
“(Broom) gets a little tilt at the end and when people do tend to hit it, it’s a groundball pitch for him, so it’s hard to put multiple hits in a row against him,” Gibson said. “He doesn’t give you anything either. He makes you earn everything.”
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Gearrin was drafted in the fourth round in 2007 and while Broom won’t get selected that high, he will get a chance to prove his approach can work in pro ball.
But, for now, Broom will keep working out of Mercer’s bullpen, mowing through any lineup he faces. He did everything he could against the top-ranked team in the country, helping Mercer pick up its third straight win against Florida—a streak that dates back to 2006.
Now, the Bears will try to turn Tuesday’s upset into momentum they can carry into the stretch run.
Mercer (29-14) has won the Southern Conference regular-season title all three years it has been in the league. But this season it has had some ups and downs and is 8-7 in the SoCon, 3.5 games off the pace of first-place UNC Greensboro. If the Bears are going to make it four straight conference titles or return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015 by winning the conference tournament, they know they need to build on their momentum.
“I’ve tried to spark them in a lot of ways,” Gibson said. “I’ve been mean to them, I’ve loved on ‘em, everything. If this can’t spark you, I don’t know what can. But it’s just one of about 56-60 (games) and it’s certainly good to get a win in a good environment.”