FARGO-Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks starter Tyler Alexander set out this season to break an American Association baseball record for strikeouts.
Alexander struck out 10 batters Monday night to lead the RedHawks to a 7-0 victory against the Lincoln Saltdogs in the first game of a doubleheader at Newman Outdoor Field.
Those strikeouts helped Alexander eclipse the league single-season record for strikeouts. The left-hander has 159 strikeouts to date with one more scheduled start this season. Former RedHawks pitcher Brandon Mann held the old record with 157 in 2015.
"I was thinking about it a lot," said Alexander, who was one shy of the record in 2016 with 156 strikeouts. "I was close to it last year."
Saltdogs starter Shairon Martis helped lead his team to victory in the second game. Martis pitched six strong innings as Lincoln earned a 7-1 victory that snapped F-M's six-game winning streak. The Saltdogs scored five runs in the sixth inning to break open a tie game in the nightcap. Both games were seven innings.
With the doubleheader split, the RedHawks (53-40) extended their lead in the wild card to one game over Kansas City (52-41) and Gary SouthShore (52-41). Both the T-Bones and RailCats lost their games Monday. All three teams have seven games to play in the regular season.
In Game 1, Alexander fanned Lincoln leadoff hitter Joe Robbins in the sixth inning to set the strikeouts record. After the record-setter, the game was halted briefly to acknowledge the accomplishment. Alexander hugged third baseman Josh Mazzola and catcher Charlie Valerio near the pitching mound. Alexander also tipped his hat to the crowd a couple times.
"I wanted to do it in front of the home fans," Alexander said. "It was emotional at first, but I just had fun with it. ... It was awesome to do it with Charlie behind the plate."
Alexander allowed four hits and walked none in seven innings to earn the shutout victory. Alexander set the F-M career strikeouts record earlier this season and now has 426 with the RedHawks.
"He's been phenomenal all the way through. The best part about what he's done this year is he's matured at a pitcher," RedHawks interim manager Michael Schlact said. "For Alexander to go out there and strike out that many guys in a season and still have another start is just a testament to his arm."
The RedHawks took control in Game 1 by scoring four runs in the fourth inning. K.D. Kang sparked the inning with an opposite-way home run to left field. Mazzola capped the rally with an RBI double that gave F-M a 6-0 lead. That was more than enough run support for Alexander, who improved to 7-6 this season with a 2.13 ERA.
"The strikeout thing is behind us now," Alexander said. "We want to make this playoff push because we've got the team to win it."