Big player, bigger game

Darin Kilfoyl has been on a tear this season.

The Academy at the Lakes junior right-hander is sporting a 1.84 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched — statistics buoyed by an incredible performance on March 3, when the 6-foot-8 flamethrower fanned 19 batters in a complete game, one hit shutout against Victory Christian (Lakeland).

“All my stuff was working,” said Kilfoyl, who once recalled throwing a one-hitter (which turned out to be a home run) in Little League. “I was throwing really, really hard in that game…and the batters couldn’t catch up to it.”

Equipped with a four-pitch arsenal — fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter — the rangy righty has the ability to keep even the area’s top hitters off-balance.

Academy at the Lakes junior ace Darin Kilfoyl is in the midst of a breakout season, sporting a 1.84 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. The 6-foot-8 right-hander is drawing interest from several Division I college baseball programs. (Courtesy of Thomas Haslam)

Academy at the Lakes junior ace Darin Kilfoyl is in the midst of a breakout season, sporting a 1.84 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. The 6-foot-8 right-hander is drawing interest from several Division I college baseball programs.
(Courtesy of Thomas Haslam)

Despite having a sturdy assortment of pitches, Kilfoyl powers the strike zone mainly with his fastball, which ranges from 86 mph to 88 mph.

His pitch speed has jumped considerably since his sophomore year, when inactivity and recovery from a broken leg led to his primary pitch topping out at “only” 79 mph.

“Before last season…I hadn’t done anything for a few months, so all my (pitching) mechanics weren’t how they were supposed to be,” Kilfoyl explained. “I went back to my pitching coach after the school season last year and got everything back set. In the summer, I was getting back into the low 80s, and at the end of the summer, I was throwing mid-80s; it’s been going up since.”

His performances on the mound have started to catch the eye of several Division I college programs from all over the country.

Blue bloods like the University of Virginia and the University of Florida have shown interest in the towering righty. Academic powerhouses like Dartmouth University and Stanford University are also intrigued by Kilfoyl’s size, potential and GPA.

“They said they know that I can already get so much better because of how big I am,” Kilfoyl said about college coaches’ interest. “They also like that I have really good grades, so the academics will help their team GPA, or help me get more scholarship money for school.”

His high school coach, John DiBenedetto, noted Division I coaches were fascinated by Kilfoyl’s stature and his ability to further develop.

“He’s still extremely raw,” DiBenedetto said. “He can grow; he’s going to get better. That’s the scary part about it. He’s finally starting to grasp certain things…on the mound, where he’s starting to thrive.”

Kilfoyl’s long stride and release point from his 6-foot-8 frame makes it difficult for opposing batters to catch up to his pitches or make solid contact. As opposed to shorter pitchers, Kilfoyl’s length allows him to release pitches closer to home plate from the mound, causing throws to jump on hitters more quickly.

“When I was at the (University of) Virginia camp, coaches were saying how because of my length and how weird the (pitching) angle was, my fastball — even though it was only about 84 or 85 when I was there —played out at 89 to 90,” Kilfoyl said.

Currently, Kilfoyl is working to fine-tune his accuracy, and improve his athleticism with the hope of getting stronger to increase his velocity. He said coaches at the Academy have given him tips along the way that have helped him “a lot” in those areas.

This summer, Kilfoyl will have the opportunity to showcase his skills in travel ball. The pitching standout is set to play for the Atlanta Blue Jays, an elite travel club for 15 year olds to 18 year olds.

The experience should buoy Kilfoyl’s development and help him become noticed by more college programs, especially since he plays prep baseball at a smaller school.

Since it’s inception in 2003, the travel club, led by Anthony Dye and Steve Loureiro, has produced several first round picks in the MLB Draft, including Tim Beckham (2008), Delino Deshields Jr. (2010) and Touki Toussaint (2014). According to its website, 90 percent of Blue Jays’ players have either received collegiate scholarships or signed to play professional baseball.

“Their (travel club) is different…because they have only one team per each age group,” Kilfoyl said, “because they want to focus on those players and get those players to be the best they can be, whereas other (travel clubs) will have multiple teams for their different ages.”

Kilfoyl is also a standout basketball player for the Academy (9.1 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game in 2015), but said he prefers America’s pastime, knowing his college future is likely tied to the latter sport.

“Baseball has the edge. I feel a lot more confident, and I feel I know the game of baseball much better than basketball, because I started basketball later,” said Kilfoyl, who’s major growth spurt occurred after he started high school. “Baseball is just who I am and what I excel at.”

Published March 30, 2016

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