Pitcher undefeated through first 5 starts

North Alabama ace Tyler Joyner lobs a pitch against Bellarmine Feb. 10 at Mike Lane Field. Joyner has amassed a 1.88 earned run average en route to a 5-0 start.

by Baseball Beat Writer Nick Griffin

he North Alabama baseball team is off to a 12-6 start in 2017, including 6-2 in Gulf South Conference play. The Lions owe their success largely to junior pitcher Tyler Joyner.

Joyner is 5-0 in his appearances this season, including a team-leading 1.88 earned run average. He has received the GSC Pitcher of the Week award twice thus far, and he also received HERO Sports’ HERO of the Week after a nine inning outing against Shorter Feb. 25, where he struck out 11 Hawks and allowed one hit.

After spending his first two seasons at Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton, Joyner transferred to UNA this season.

Joyner said his time at JDCC yielded a proving ground where he could hone his skills in between high school and his current baseball home in Florence.

“In junior college, I really struggled with walks and areas like control,” Joyner said. “Coach (Matt) Hancock really came in and we went through some mechanic work, and the biggest thing so far has been throwing strikes and being able to command each pitch.”

Joyner attended high school at W.S. Neal in East Brewton, where he played multiple positions on the baseball team including catcher, first baseman and third baseman. Joyner primarily was a pitcher, where he set a record for innings pitched with 57.

Joyner said he has made several adjustments in his game from his time in high school so that he can keep pace with the college hitters he has to face every week.

Lions head coach Mike Keehn said his well-rounded mechanics and physical prowess have aided Joyner in the transition to UNA.

“With him, he’s got a good fastball, and he really throws downhill because of how tall he is,” Keehn said.

The biggest transition to playing for the Lions has been the lack of swings at the plate, Joyner said. Joyner posted a .451 batting average throughout his high school career.

“Every competitive baseball player wants to have their opportunity to bat, but I understand that there are people here to hit, and I realize I’m nowhere near the best option for the team,” he said.

When not on the pitcher’s mound, Joyner said he is normally studying. He majors in Mathematics, and is a member of the National Honor’s Society and Mu Alpha Theta.

Joyner said he looks to parlay his academic success into a job at the local Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Brewton.

Joyner said while focusing on pitching at UNA has prepared him for the higher level of hitters he is facing.

“These hitters here are very patient,” Joyner said. “You really have to throw a good pitch. They’re not going to chase your pitch very often, so you have to throw your best pitch in the zone every time.”

The Lions will return to Mike Lane Field March 11-12 to face conference foe Lee in a best-of-three series.