Javier De Alejandro wanted to provide more than just a solid performance for his team.
The Lethbridge Bulls starter went into the July 19 matchup with the Brooks Bombers wanting to do something special for his dad, Juan, who was celebrating his birthday.
However, the San Antonio, Texas product also wanted to keep it simple after the Bulls were riding a two-game winning stream.
“My mindset heading into the game was the same as every other game for me,” De Alejandro told Alberta Dugout Stories. “I knew I had to work hard to get ahead of each batter, locate and be efficient to give my team the best possibility to win a ball game.”
At 7:06 p.m., he delivered the first of just 105 pitches he would need to throw a no-hitter in a 7-0 victory.
“I can’t even explain how special it was for me to be able to have the performance I did on my dad’s birthday,” the 22-year-old said.
THE UNWRITTEN RULE
Through the first three-plus innings, De Alejandro sat down the Bombers in order before Stevyn Andrachick reached base with two out in the fourth inning.
Unwavered, the Our Lady of the Lake University hurler induced a ground ball out from Zander Bretza to finish the inning.
He would face just three batters again in each of the next few innings, thanks to a series of strikeouts, groundouts and flyouts.
“The moment I realized I was onto something was probably after my seventh inning, waiting to go out for the eighth,” De Alejandro said. “I was completely aware of what was going on, but I just tried my best to keep my composure and just continue to compete.”
His teammates and coaches were also aware of what was unfolding in front of them, doing their best to keep their composure as well.
Third baseman Torrin Vaselenak admits he realized what was happening in the fourth or fifth inning.
“It’s the unwritten rule that you don’t talk about the no-no while a no-no is ongoing,” he told Alberta Dugout Stories via text. “I don’t think anyone was talking about and I was trying not to even think about it.”
While keeping his pitchers healthy is always a top priority, head coach Chance Wheatley says pulling De Alejandro was never something that crossed his mind.
“You never want to take a guy out with a no-hitter,” he told the Lethbridge Herald. “He had a low pitch count, and I’m not going to take a guy out when it’s like that.”
DOWN TO THE FINAL OUT
While De Alejandro was taking care of business on the mound, his Bulls teammates were doing their best to support him offensively.
Highlighted by Western Canadian Baseball League All-Star Game MVP Kalem Haney’s 3-for-6 night and the first home run of the season from catcher Cardel Dick, the home team had built a 7-0 lead when their freshman southpaw made his way out for the ninth inning.
He got catcher Jake Ferguson to ground out to shortstop Nick Gravel to open the inning and then struck out pinch-hitter Peyton Starr to get back to the top of the order.
There waited WCBL All-Star Jeremiah Sanchez, who hit a home run in the mid-summer classic in Okotoks.
De Alejandro had Sanchez chase the first pitch for strike one, then threw two balls, a called strike and then another ball to get to a full count.
“My adrenaline was through the roof,” he admitted. “I throw a fastball on the top part of the zone, he swings and pops it up in the infield.”
De Alejandro looked up and says all he heard was the voice of his third baseman scream for the ball.
“It’s kind of funny, because I told myself before the last pitch that if there was a pop-up in the infield, I was catching it no matter where it was,” Vaselenak said. “A lot of guys have trouble seeing flyballs at night, but it’s usually never an issue for me so as soon as the ball was popped up, I knew I had it.”
The 5-foot-9, 140-pound De Alejandro says he knew the ball wasn’t going to drop, and raised his glove hand to the sky the moment the bat met the ball.
BEST FEELING EVER
Vaselenak came down with the ball right in front of Gravel, De Alejandro tossed his glove towards the third base line in celebration, and the dog pile unfolded at 9:48 p.m.
The 801 fans in attendance at Spitz Stadium witnessed a no-hitter that took just two hours and 42 minutes to complete.
De Alejandro’s final stat line reads nine innings pitched with no hits, no walks, no runs and eight strikeouts.
While he has had some great outings with the Bulls over the last two seasons, this one will obviously take the cake.
“Seeing my teammates rush to me after that last out was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” De Alejandro said. “I want to give a huge shout-out to my teammates who got behind me and fought for me.”
He has also been able to look at the replay shared on social media and admits it hasn’t totally sunk in yet.
“It gives me chills every single time I watch the replay – it’s super-surreal,” De Alejandro said. “I’m just happy to represent the Bulls organization, and go out and compete.”
On that particular summer night, he also got to call his dad after the game to talk about what can only be described as a remarkable birthday present.