Chambless returns in Aggies' win

It's been more than a year since Jordan Chambless was on the mound at Olsen Field. But on Tuesday night, his absence came to an end, albeit a short outing. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp visits with Chambless and head coach Rob Childress (AUDIO INCLUDED IN STORY) as the Aggies pick up their eighth straight victory with a 5-1 win over Nicholls State.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—It only lasted four pitches, but 371 days after being sidelined with a season-ending shoulder injury, Texas A&M reliever Jordan Chambless returned to the mound for the Aggies Tuesday night, drawing a standing ovation from the 2,884 in attendance as the Aggies improved to 8-2 on the season with a 5-1 victory over Nicholls State.

Chambless returned to the mound with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, and struck out Nicholls State's No. 3 hitter Keith Kulbeth with a first-pitch slider followed by two fastballs to set up the 1-2 pitch. Kulbeth went down swinging at a slider, earning Chambless another round of applause from the fans.

"I really didn't expect (to throw a first pitch slider), I don't think I've ever thrown a first pitch slider, but he has a lot of confidence in that pitch and so do I," said a somewhat emotional Chambless after the game, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Friday—exactly one year after learning the news that his season was over. "It felt amazing (to be back on the mound). I cried the day I found out I tore it, but today I was overjoyed to get out there and compete again. It was amazing."

Chambless said that he didn't feel any pain, but that may have been a result of him being so wound up about returning to the mound.

"I was pitching more off of adrenaline tonight than anything," he said. "I had a hard time getting loose, but once I got out there, I didn't feel anything."

As reported by Aggie Websider on Monday, A&M head coach Rob Childress said after the game that he was hoping to get Chambless back on the mound in the mid-week series against Nicholls State for one or two batters while the base paths were empty. That mission was accomplished on Tuesday night.

"It was good to get him back. He's worked awfully hard to come back," Childress said. "He needs to get out there and compete, that's who he is. That's the kind of guy we need in the back end of the bullpen for us and I think he's going to fit in nicely with a couple of other guys. You add him in the mix with a Travis Starling, Kevin Cravey and Hank Robertson, that's pretty fun to have back there."

Chambless' second fastball was clocked at 89 mph, which is not quite as powerful as the 94-96 mph heater that he threw before the injury, but it's also an improvement from the 85-87 mph fastball that he was throwing this fall.

The decrease in velocity has forced the hard-throwing right hander to focus more on mechanics than he ever had before in his career.

"I haven't been able to throw so all I've been able to work on is mechanics. I'm sure I'll watch video and find something wrong, but I felt good about (my mechanics) tonight" Chambless said. "It's just repetition and trying to repeat the same motion every time. Before (the injury), I didn't have great mechanics, I just went out there and threw as hard as I could. If I can get some mechanics, hopefully it will help me out."

Now that his mechanics are better than ever, Chambless said he is just trying to regain the confidence that he once had as a dominating pitcher in high school.

While Chambless' return drew a standing ovation, it wasn't the only standing ovation of the night.

Sophomore starting pitcher Carson Middleton, who transferred to A&M this year from McLennan College, threw a whale of a game for Childress and the Aggies, allowing four hits and one run in a career-high 6.2 innings of work. He struck out six batters after jumping ahead with a first pitch strike to 20 of the 26 batters he faced.

Middleton is now 2-0 in two appearances this season for the Aggies, with a 0.77 ERA and an opponents' batting average of just .171.

Hank Robertson came in for the top of the ninth inning and struck out the side to secure the win for Middleton.

The A&M pitching staff combined for 10 strikeouts for the third time this season. The Aggies' pitching staff has recorded at least eight strikeouts in nine of their 10 games this season. The only game that they failed to record at least eight strikeouts was the seven-inning game against Northern Colorado.

"I thought Carson Middleton was outstanding, everyone we ran out there tonight was outstanding," Childress said.

The Aggies are averaging 9.5 strikeouts per game through the first 10 games of the season, and have a 3.17 strikeout to walks ratio.

The A&M bullpen continued it's dominating performance on Tuesday night as well. The pen has a 1.80 ERA, an opponents' batting average of .201 and has allowed just one of the 17 runners its inherited to score this season.

As dominating as the Aggies' pitching staff was once again, things weren't quite so good for the Aggies at the plate Tuesday night with the exception of Dane Carter and Ben Feltner.

The Aggies combined for five runs on eight hits, but only two of those runs were earned. Carter recorded four of the Aggies' eight hits and Feltner added two bunt singles.

The Aggies jumped out to an early 5-1 lead after the second inning but then Nicholls State starting pitcher found his groove, retiring 19 of the last 21 hitters he faced in the final six frames for the Aggies.

"He was really pitching off his fastball and we just didn't take advantage of it," Childress said. "He did a nice job of settling in when he was down and kept his team in the game."

Despite the strong performance from Fisher, Childress said that he was disappointed with the approach at the plate by most of the A&M hitters who were not able to add to their early lead and take control of the game.

"Here we are again the same game we played Sunday, we get off to a fast start but we aren't able to put anyone away," Childress said. "At some point it's going to catch up to us. We've got to learn to have that instinct that when we get up, we're going to go ahead and take the game. We didn't do it. Being down 5-0 early, it kind of sucked the life out of their dugout but after the fourth or fifth inning it doesn't feel as bad as it did in the second inning. That was disappointing."

The Aggies will go for their eight straight win tomorrow night against the Colonels when the two teams return to action at Olsen Field, with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m.


Rob Childress interview

Jordan Chambless interview

Carson Middleton interview

Dane Carter interview

A&M – Shane Minks (2-0, 1.29 ERA, 9 K, 5 BB)
NSU – Ryan Harding (0-2, 9.82 ERA, 4K, 4 BB)

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