FARGO, ND – On a night filled with pomp and circumstance, Tyler Alexander and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks rose to the occasion and defeated the Grand Prairie AirHogs 7-1 before a sellout crowd on 5,002 onlookers.
Thursday night marked Military Appreciation Night at Newman Outdoor Field and featured Country-Western icon Lee Greenwood, who sang his famous hit God Bless the USA and the National Anthem. After a dramatic entrance and touching pre-game ceremony, it was time to play baseball.
If all of the on-field events weren't enough, RedHawks starter Tyler Alexander dealt with distractions of his own. Alexander awoke this morning feeling ill. He had a case of the sweats resulting in a lack of sleep, and he came into team facilities throughout the day receiving treatment in an attempt to get on the mound. Of all the distractions surrounding tonight's game, Alexander commented, “I didn't know if I was going to take the bump tonight to be honest. But at the end of the day it's just baseball. Whether I”m sick or feeling well, or if there is one or 5,000 fans in the stand, I still need to go out there and perform my best.”
Battling severe cold symptoms, Alexander turned in perhaps his best start of the season. In fact, he managed to go the distance and spun a gem, allowing just one run on two hits with a pair of walks and eight strikeouts. He faced the minimum of three batters in seven of the nine innings while facing just 30 batters the entire game. Alexander retired 16 'Hogs in a row from the fourth inning all the way through the second batter in the ninth when he walked Ronnie Richardson with a full count.
The RedHawks got to Grand Prairie starter Blake Oliver in the second inning. Joe Dunigan, Ryan Pineda and Joe Staley led off the frame with three consecutive singles. Staley's plated Dunigan and Pineda would advance home on a sac fly from Taylor Oldham making it 2-0.
Fargo-Moorhead would add a run in both the third and fourth innings. Zach Penprase would lead off by lining a single in the third and would advance home on a throwing error. In the fourth, Ryan Pineda would lead off with a single and would eventually make it to third with the bases loaded. Tyler Peterson would ground into the 6-4-3 double play but Pineda would cross home making it 4-1 after four innings.
Grand Prairie would score their lone run in the top half of the third. Jordy Hart led off with a single down the line in right and would advance to second and third off of a Robi Estrada walk and a Josh Eatherly fielder's choice. Designated hitter Jamodrick McGruder then sent a blooper to left that dropped in front of Chad Mozingo. Mozingo fired to second creating a 7-4 fielder's choice but Hart crossed home for the 'Hogs.
Grand Prairie starter Blake Oliver started the sixth inning on the bump, but Fargo-Moorhead saw to it that he be relieved later in the frame. Pineda led off with a double to right followed by a Joe Staley single up the middle.Taylor Oldham then walked on five pitches loading the bases signaling the end of the night for Oliver. Two batters later Drew Muren sent a sac fly to right scoring Pineda making it 5-1. Zach Penprase stepped to the dish next with runners on first and second. Staley and Oldham would advance to second and third on a wild pitch from reliever Jason Jarvis and Penprase made the AirHogs pay. He sent a two RBI double to the alley in right-center extending Fargo-Moorhead's lead to 7-1 and scoring the last runs of the ball game.
Alexander (1-4) earns his first win of the season despite having the lowest ERA of all starters in the RedHawks rotation at 2.68. The left-hander went the distance as well back on July 12th vs Ottawa, but dropped a tough 1-0 decision to the Champions. He continues the streak of quality outings for RedHawks starting pitchers, as they have recorded quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER or less) in 14 of the last 18 games.
Blake Oliver (5-6) takes the loss for the AirHogs and sees his ERA increase to 4.59 in a game where he went five innings allowing seven runs (five earned) on ten hits with a pair of walks and a pair of strikeouts.
Fargo-Moorhead improves to 23-40 with the win while Grand Prairie drops to 22-42 with the loss. The two teams will return tomorrow night at for the series rubber match with the 'Hawks sending Taylor Stanton (3-1, 3.94 ERA) to the hill while the AirHogs will counter with Zach Dando (3-5, 4.00 ERA). The game is set to start at 7:02 with the gates opening at 6. All games can be heard on 740 AM The Fan with Jack Michaels and Scott Miller.