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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Back for one last ride

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Photo by Cassie Stricker
SSP-18.jpg

Texas A&M recently tied the knot on this year’s recruiting class, but arguably its two best recruiting wins came well before National Signing Day.

Those victories came in the form of the pitching duo of Kaylor Chafin and Cason Sherrod, both of whom decided to return for their senior seasons in late June, following the Aggies’ run to the College World Series. 

“It was gigantic without a doubt,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “For them to choose to come back after being drafted and have another opportunity to compete to get to Omaha and play for a national championship says a lot about our program and their belief in what’s going on around here. It means the world to us as a staff and certainly our program.”

The decisions did not come without stress, though. 

When Chafin, drafted by the Mets in the 32nd round, was hugging his teammates after the Aggies’ disappointing loss to TCU in Omaha, he thought it would probably be his last time wearing the maroon and white.

After Chafin got back to College Station, he was still uncertain about his future. His parents were driving home from Nebraska and told him to spend some time alone and ponder what his next move would be. Chafin, an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, unsurprisingly went fishing to clear his mind.

Meanwhile, Sherrod was meeting with the Kansas City Royals, who flew down to meet with him for coffee in the Dallas area to make a last-ditch negotiating attempt. When it looked like the Royals would not reach the dollar amount Sherrod had in mind, he sent a text to Chafin.The two had become close friends during their time spent hanging out in the bullpen throughout the 2017 season.

“Hey man, I noticed you haven’t signed yet. What are you thinking?” Sherrod asked.

Chafin replied, “I don’t think I’ll be going.”

“Well,” Sherrod texted, “there’s a good chance I won’t be going either.”

Shortly after that, Chafin visited Childress at his home and told him his intention to come back for his fifth year. The next day, Sherrod followed suit, as evidenced by the ‘Choo-Choo’ tweets put out by the team’s Twitter account in consecutive days. 

“Getting drafted is one of those things that you’re very thankful for and very humbled to get the opportunity to play professional baseball, but you have to think about what’s better in the long run,” Sherrod, the Royals’ 13th round draft pick, said. “To me, an education from A&M is better in the long run, so I wanted to come back. I know I haven’t left my mark here at A&M and I wanted to come back and have a good year.”

Chafin said he was not completely 

sold on playing professional ball yet.

“I didn’t want to be there wasting a year when I could be here winning a national championship, which is what we plan on doing,” Chafin said.

The two announcements were exciting news for the Aggies, considering they lost their two best starting pitchers, Brigham Hill and Corbin Martin, to the MLB Draft. Losing Chafin and Sherrod as well would have put immense pressure on the incoming class of freshman pitchers. Now, the two veterans will be there to contribute on the field and also, maybe even more importantly, in a leadership position.

“I think it helps, not even on the performance side, but I think it helps more on the maturity side,” Chafin said. “I’ve been as low as you can get and then last year with the success that I had, I can tell you where you’re headed with the decisions you make. Cason and I have tried to help with that role of not coaching them baseball-wise, but telling them that the small decisions you make on and off the field will make the biggest difference in your playing career.”

On the mound, Chafin went 7-2 with a team-leading 2.33 ERA in 33 appearances. He struck out 72 and walked only 16 in 77.1 innings. 

Sherrod, for his part, went 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA and four saves in 43.2 innings of work.

“They were great leaders last year from a performance standpoint, but they’ve done a great job this year leading the pitchers throughout practices,” Childress said. “They’re always communicating and helping these young guys get up to speed because they’re going to be depended on as well.”

Both worked as starters during the fall, but Childress indicated that Sherrod will anchor the bullpen in 2018 and Chafin’s role is still up in the air. Chafin was fantastic as a starter in the fall scrimmages, but the southpaw was so valuable as an X-factor out of the bullpen that the coaching staff is still considering how they want to use him.

“You have to consider everything,” Childress said of the thought process behind the decision. “You have to think about the personnel on the mound you have around him and how it best fits together for us to go out and pitch at a high level for 27 innings a weekend.”

Regardless of the roles each pitcher ultimately fills for this year’s Aggie baseball team, each will be expected to carry a heavy workload in what A&M hopes is another deep run into the postseason.

“They understand that they didn’t come back just to get back to Omaha,” Childress said. “They came back for an opportunity to get back to that point again and then to play better when they get there.”

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