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Maestro on the mound

Former Alpena, U-M hurler entering Alpena Sports Hall of Fame

April 8, 2012
By JAMES ANDERSEN - News Sports Writer ( , The Alpena News

When Nick Alexander took the mound for the Alpena High School baseball team, it usually meant a long day for the opposition.

As a senior, Alexander helped the Wildcats win district and regional titles while finishing the season with a mind-boggling 0.49 earned run average in more than 70 innings of work.

Alexander graduated from Alpena in 1997 and earned six letters, four in baseball and two in football. His pitching prowess at Alpena and later at the University of Michigan will be recognized on May 5, when he will be inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame along with Matt Cameron, Craig Knechtel and Rex Ferguson.

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Nick Alexander became the first freshman to make Alpena’s varsity baseball team and went on to earn all-state honors as senior. At the University of Michigan, he set a record for appearances by a left-hander and was named the team’s most valuable pitcher as a junior. Alexander is one of four inductees in the 2011 Class of the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame.

"It's an honor and a privilege," Alexander said. "There are a lot of big names there and a lot of people I look up to. I'm looking forward to it.

It didn't take long for Alpena's coaches to notice Alexander, a southpaw, was an exceptional baseball talent. He became the first freshman to make the varsity team and by the end of his career with the Wildcats he'd earned all-state honors and was named to the Michigan State Baseball Dream Team.

Alexander's abilities didn't go unnoticed by college scouts and he received offers from a number of schools. Ironically, Michigan seemed to be one of the only schools not interested in him.

One weekend at Madonna University's Big Guns Tournament changed that.

"Michigan scouts were down there and they saw all the other scouts. They saw me and they're like, 'who is this guy?'" Alexander said. "Geoff Zahn was the coach at the time and he talked to my coach, Mike Caderette. The next day (Zahn) is at my house."

In his career with the Wolverines, Alexander made 61 appearances, setting a school record for appearances by a left-handed pitcher.

While he wasn't a flamethrower, Alexander was a very effective location pitcher, using his repertoire to paint the corners and had more than 100 career strikeouts. He started his college career as a reliever, leading the team in appearances as a freshman.

As Alexander grew older, his role expanded with the Wolverines and as an upperclassman he became a starter. In his junior year he won the Geoff Zahn Award, given to the team's most valuable pitcher. That season he was 4-2 in seven starts and led the team with a 3.10 ERA, finishing among the Big Ten's leaders in that category.

As a senior he was one of the Wolverines' three captains and was also one of three players to win the Wolverine Award for spirit and leadership.

"To be picked by the team is about the most humbling experience you can have. It's a different experience being a captain at the college level," Alexander said. "There's a fine line between coaches and players and you have to walk it carefully."

Had it not been for an injury, Alexander might have garnered more interest from professional teams. Early in his senior season, Alexander tore his rotator cuff and while he was able to come back and play, the interest from teams wasn't enough to convince him to pursue baseball any further.

When it comes time for him to give his induction speech, Alexander, who works for the investment arm of The Hartford, said he will be sure to thank all those who helped him get to where he is today.

"There are a lot of people who had a lot to do in me going to Michigan and my career," Alexander said. "I want to thank them for the opportunity to live the life I have now."



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