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The Battalion

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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Mr. Reliable: Kaylor Chafin flourishing as lockdown reliever for No. 24 Texas A&M

Kaylor+Chafin+threw+2.1+innings+and+gave+up+five+hits.+%28Part+1%29
Photo by By Lawrence Smelser

Kaylor Chafin threw 2.1 innings and gave up five hits. (Part 1)

Death, taxes and outstanding relief appearances from Kaylor Chafin.
Those have become the three certainties for the Texas A&M baseball team as the Aggies prepare for Arkansas in what will be the last SEC series of the regular season, especially as Chafin has emerged as one of the steadiest and most effective relief pitchers in college baseball.
Watch him pitch just once, and it’s easy to see him as a soft-tossing left-hander who relies on deception and smarts to get batters out. But while he does have impeccable control and a nice feel for pitching, he also possesses an electric repertoire that can unexpectedly overpower opposing hitters.
“The dude is just a gamer,” says A&M sophomore starting pitcher Stephen Kolek. “You watch him pitch and I don’t think he’s getting too many scouts excited but he just finds a way to win and I love that about him. His stuff has gotten a lot better this year — he’s worked really hard to get a lot better — and just seeing him do well, I’m glad for him.”
Chafin does not light up the radar gun — he usually sits 88-to-91 mph with his fastball — but he complements his fastball with a sharp curveball and a devastating changeup. In the past he had thrown both a slider and a curve, but in the offseason he worked with head coach Rob Childress to eliminate the slider and focus on perfecting his curveball.
Now that he does not have to work on two different breaking balls and worry about confusing the arm slot for each one, his curveball has developed into a nearly unhittable pitch.
“One wasn’t great,” Childress says, “and we just decided to make one great.”
For the season, Chafin is 7-1 with a team-best 1.76 ERA. He has struck out 57 in 56.1 innings while only surrendering 38 hits. Opponents are hitting a paltry .191 against him in 2017 and he has been the guy Childress trusts most out of the bullpen for much of the season.
“The kid’s a stud, he’s unbelievable,” says A&M second baseman Braden Shewmake. “He’s awesome to play behind. We know when we bring him out of the ‘pen he’s going to do his job, he’s going to throw strikes. Not many people have put him in play but when they put him in play it’s not going to be hard contact.”
At the beginning of SEC play, when Childress was tinkering with the pitching staff and ultimately inserted Corbin Martin into the starting rotation, he says he didn’t consider giving Chafin that role because of how good he had been in relief.
“He’s been gigantic,” Childress says of Chafin. “The numbers that he’s put up are incredibly special. I think he has just grown up as a young man, matured and handled everything in stride. His success is a result of him growing up.”
Chafin came to Texas A&M in 2014 and used his redshirt season to get acclimated with the program. Then he went to Blinn College in 2015 to get some innings under his belt and returned to College Station for the 2016 season, where he was used sparingly in what was a loaded Aggie bullpen.
This season, Chafin says the key for him has been trust. Trusting himself to make the pitches he needs to make, trusting that his teammates are going to make plays defensively behind him and trusting that Childress will call the right pitches.
“Just staying within myself, trusting the defense around me and not trying to do too much,” Chafin says. “Just going on the attack and knowing that if I just do what I can do, the defense has my back the whole time. I’m just trying to get it back to the offense so they can score runs.”
That trust has yielded fantastic results for the 5-11, 180 pound southpaw, especially recently. Chafin has not allowed a run since March 26 and, since the beginning of April, he has struck out 28 batters and allowed only six hits in 24.1 innings.
Shewmake, A&M’s freshman sensation, noticed Chafin’s potential in the fall when he had to face him in intrasquad scrimmages. Out of all the pitchers on the Aggies’ loaded staff, including prized arms like Brigham Hill, Corbin Martin and Mitchell Kilkenny, Chafin stood out from the rest.
“In the fall I hated hitting off of him — he was one of my least favorite pitchers to face,” Shewmake says. “He throws everything where he wants to and it’s very, very sneaky quick. It gets on you quick and the curveball is big and sharp — everything he throws is just unbelievable.
“I can tell you left-on-left is not fun facing Kaylor Chafin.”
What makes Chafin truly special is his ability to pitch multiple innings at a time. Most relievers struggle to go through the opposing lineup more than one time because they don’t have enough different offerings to keep hitters off-balance in multiple at-bats, but Chafin’s three-pitch mix allows him to pitch as long as necessary and maintain his effectiveness.
Chafin, who pitched mostly as a starter at small-town Sweeny High School and Blinn, burst onto the scene early in the season at the Shriners College Classic in Houston, throwing 6.1 innings of relief on two days’ rest against top-ranked TCU. The junior was saddled with the loss after he gave up a run in the 15th inning of that marathon contest, but for a guy who hadn’t pitched much in maroon to that point in his career, it gave him a significant confidence boost that he has managed to maintain since then.
“I feel like I got a lot of confidence from that game,” Chafin says. “I was able to get things rolling a little bit.”
His endurance has been on display several times this season, including the 3.2 innings he tossed against Auburn on April 9. His best outing of the year, however, may have been against Missouri. After Martin ran into trouble in the fifth inning against the Tigers, Chafin entered the game and proceeded to retire all 14 batters he faced, eight of which came via the strikeout.
“He’s got unbelievable stuff and he’s got unbelievable durability,” Shewmake says. “He can throw one inning or four innings and he’s the same velocity and he’s got the same stuff all four innings. He’s very versatile and we’re super glad to have him.
“Kaylor could be a starter if we needed him to be. He would have no problem doing it and he would do awesome.”
For now, though, Chafin is happy to be the consistent presence in the bullpen that Childress can go to in any situation. Chafin can enter the game in the later innings in a traditional setup role, or Childress can call on him in the fourth or fifth inning and count on him to not only get out of that jam, but also pitch several quality innings after that.
“It just depends on what the team needs at the time,” Chafin says. “If we need five innings to get to the closer or one inning, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
The Aggies and Razorbacks square off in a three-game series starting Thursday. The series opener is slated for 6:30 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network +. 

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  • Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics.

    Photo by Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

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