Injury transforms former Highlands pitcher Alworth
Highlands graduate and Bethany junior baseball standout Tyler Alworth is used to being the workhorse of his team’s pitching staff.
After all, he was one of Highlands’ bright spots during his senior year. When he took the mound, the Golden Rams always had a chance to pull out a win.
Alworth took that same mindset to Bethany, where he made quite an impression his freshman season when the right-hander took the mound in eight starts. But it was the final start on the road at Thomas More that changed the way he pitched forever.
Alworth’s fastball that consistently hit the upper 80s had fallen off dramatically and resembled more a changeup. It was hitting the mid-60s. Something wasn’t right.
“I remember, I came out of the game and I worked rehab with the J-Band and I couldn’t pull them apart with my shoulder,” Alworth said. “I didn’t really notice it at the time. We were getting outs. The adrenaline kicked down. I started doing rehab and that’s when I really felt it. When I was out there I just thought I was tired. It was the last game of the year, and I thought it was normal wear and tear.”
The normal wear and tear turned out to be labrum tear. In medical terms, Alworth suffered a superior labral tear from anterior to posterior. In layman’s terms, he would need surgery and spend a significant time rehabbing the injury.
Looking back, Alworth could see the signs.
“Between being a starter, throwing 90-100 pitches, and playing shortstop during the week and at practices, it was a lot of wear and I was afraid to tell coach that my arm hurt,” Alworth said.
Alworth took a medical redshirt and sat out his sophomore season. He stayed close to the team.
Alworth stepped in as the Bisons’ first-base coach and after the season returned home to help coach his younger brother Dylan’s Little League team. It was during this period when Alworth’s transformation began to happen.
“When you’re not playing, you get to see stuff from a different side,” Alworth said. “It made me a well-rounded ballplayer because of it. Things happen. Deal with it, and move on.”
Enter first-year coach Justin Thomas.
Thomas took over for longtime Bisons coach Rick Carver last November. Knowing Alworth was coming off a torn labrum, Thomas was cautious as to how he used Alworth but knew when the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder took the hill, good things were going to happen.
“I told him at the beginning of the year, I’m looking for him to be a wild-card for us,” Thomas said. “After seeing him display his abilities in practice and once we got going into the winter (workouts), I was impressed.”
Alworth transformed himself from a power pitcher who threw heat into a finesse pitcher who concentrated on hitting his spots. It might have taken a tough injury, rehab and being away from the game for nearly two years, but Alworth had learned the art of pitching. It was all about finesse and pitch location and not about trying to power the ball past the hitter.
“He’s a fastball, curveball, changeup guy,” Thomas said. “Depending on the day, he has a good split curveball, too. He’s a good pitcher. I had to be cautious on how I used him because he was bouncing back from surgery.”
Alworth returned to form this season. He finished the year with a 5-1 record, a 3.79 ERA and tallied 21 strikeouts through 40 1/3 innings pitched. He helped Bethany (27-16) tie the program record for wins in a season and put the Bisons back into the Presidents Athletic Conference postseason tournament for the first time since 2014.
Bethany also reached the PAC championship game for the first time since 2001 where the Bison fell to the Washington & Jefferson, 8-1, to end the season.
“It was memorable season with us being one of the first teams in a long time getting in the tournament,” Alworth said. “Coming back from injury, I learned it’s not all about gassing people out and more about hitting your spots.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.