Tyler Alexander Sets Strikeout Record - Sussex County Miners
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Tyler Alexander Sets Strikeout Record

Tyler Alexander Sets Strikeout Record

Tyler Alexander Sets Strikeout Record

 It was the season opener at Skylands Stadium, and lanky lefthander Tyler Alexander was on the mound for the homestanding Sussex County Miners.

     “I felt good warming up before the game,” he said. “It wasn’t just one pitch, I felt everything was working.”

     Facing the Tri-City ValleyCats, it was the first game for both teams in the newly expanded Frontier League.

     Alexander started the first inning with a harmless fly to right, followed by a single. The next batter hit a grounder to Trusty Trey Hair at second base, who tagged the runner and threw to first baseman Audy Ciriaco for the inning-ending double play.

     It looked like a routine beginning to what might have become a routine night.


     The first clue came in the top of the second inning, when Alexander struck out the side.

     It turned out to be a beauty of a ballgame, a real treat for true aficionados, with the Miners leading a 1-0 cliffhanger heading into the ninth inning.

     Alexander was brilliant, setting an all-time Miners record with 12 strikeouts, while issuing zero walks in 8 1/3 innings of work.

     “Having good control was a key,” he said. “I started some guys with a heater up and in, then I had some success with breaking balls to lefties and with my fastball to both lefties and righties.”

     The only thing he didn’t have was offensive support.

     In the top of the ninth inning and still leading, 1-0, the 29-year-old from Tampa gave up a single and a triple and, all of a sudden, Tri-City had tied the score.

     The Miners bullpen took over and yielded a run-scoring single, and the Miners wound up losing the game, 2-1.

     Despite the score, Alexander made a definite statement to Miners fans and the entire league – he means business.

     “He’s going to have a big year,” said manager Bobby Jones. “He’s got some special talent.”

     And Jones would know. Not only is he a former big-league lefty, himself, but he also managed Alexander when the hurler played for the Miners in 2018, going 6-0 in seven starts, striking out 49 with 17 walks.

     “He’s a different pitcher now,” Jones said. “He’s turned a corner in his career. He’s more mature. He’s more in charge.”

     Alexander was drafted out of Florida International University by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 27th round of the 2013 draft. He moved to independent ball in 2015, playing three seasons for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, of the American Association, before heading east to play for the Miners in 2018.

     In 2019, he played at the Double-A and Triple-A levels with the Oakland A’s organization, then the Covid pandemic put the minors and the independents out of business for all of 2020.

     Now, back in Sussex County, Alexander put on a virtuoso performance in his first outing in front of an opening-night crowd of 2,176.

     “He was really throwing,” said Miners general manager Justin Ferrarella. “I can’t wait to see his next game. He’s going to be exciting to watch this year.”

     But, strikeout record or not, Alexander remained low-key and humble as he looked ahead at the new season.

     “I just want to feel like me again after all this time off,” he said. “That night, I had that feeling. If I can stay healthy and have that feeling each time out there, then there could be some good results.”

     Were there any pre-game rituals or superstitions? Not really. He eats whatever he wants about five hours before gametime, but he does make sure to eat a bowl of fruit roughly two hours before his first pitch.

     He also has the luxury of having his family here for the summer with him – fiancée Samantha (who works remotely online), four-year-old daughter Angela and 10-month-old son Desmond.

Another Tyler?

     Here’s a wild coincidence: 

     On the same night that Alexander rang up 12 whiffs for Sussex County, another Frontier League pitcher named Tyler Thornton struck out 12 batters for the Windy City ThunderBolts.

     Thornton’s team was hosting the Joliet Slammers in a Central Division game at Ozinga Field in Crestwood, Ill., 25 miles southwest of Chicago.

     A 6-foot-4, 240-pound righthander, Thornton pitched seven innings and left the game with a 5-0 lead, before the Bolts won their season-opener, 7-1.

Mother Nature Rules

     The weather in Illinois was certainly better than here in the Garden State: Those Bolts went 3-1 in their first four games of the year, while the Miners and ValleyCats could only take the field for opening night, before Mother Nature rained out the entire weekend slate. That left the Miners and Cats as the only teams in the league with just one decision each.

     After a doubleheader on Memorial Day, the Miners travel to Little Falls to face the New Jersey Jackals in a three-game series at Yogi Berra Stadium, then return to Augusta to host the New York Boulders for the weekend of June 4-6.

     The ValleyCats were scheduled to head for Pomona, N.Y., to face the Boulders after giving their new manager – former big-leaguer Pete Incaviglia – his first win against the Miners.

By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Trentonian.