With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, the area’s top hitter, Lane Peace, stepped into the batter’s box to face the area’s top pitcher, Dillon Meadows, in a one-run game Friday.
The showdown between the Alvord slugger and Paradise ace came down to one pitch.
“Facing him with a full count, bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the seventh, it’s what you think of when you’re throwing in the bullpen,” Meadows said.
“I threw a fastball inside. It was the hardest I threw all night.”
Meadows’ fastball jammed Peace just enough to coerce a bouncer to first baseman Caiden Berry, who knocked the ball down and beat Peace to the bag for the final out in the 1-0 Paradise victory at Bulldog Field.
“It was one of the most nerve-racking games. I told myself to be calm and that I’ve been here before,” said Meadows, who struck out a career-high 16 in a three-hitter. “It’s the situation you want to be in. You want to pitch in these games and not 15-0 games.”
Paradise (16-5-1) moved to 5-2 in a tight District 9-2A playoff race. Alvord (9-12) fell to 2-5.
Peace, who came into the game batting .569 with four homers, including one off Meadows in the team’s March meeting, saw nothing to hit before that final at-bat in the seventh. He walked the first three times he faced Meadows, who admitted to pitching around him.
“I was not going to give him a fastball to hit,” Meadows said. “He’s a good hitter.”
But after a pair of walks around an infield hit by Jonathan Musgrave, Meadows had nowhere to put Peace when he came to the plate in the seventh.
“You can’t ask for a better situation than the bases loaded and Peace coming to the plate,” said Alvord coach Chris Staley. “He got an inside fastball that jammed him. He made a good pitch.”
Running hard down the line, Peace made the play at first close. He injured his ankle on the play and immediately went to the training room after the game.
Meadows was nearly untouchable all night, as Cassidy Patterson’s first-inning single was the lone ball to leave the infield. The other two hits were infield singles.
Meadows struck out the side in the third and fifth innings. He struck out two or more in every inning.
“With his velocity and a good curveball, he’s going to be effective,” said Paradise coach Mike Fehler.
Meadows did walk six, including the three free passes to Peace.
His counterpart, Patterson, was nearly his equal, holding Paradise to a single run on six hits. He only allowed three hits after the first inning and struck out four.
“You can’t ask for anything more from him. He hit his spots and changed up his speeds,” Staley said.
The Panthers managed to get the game’s lone run in the first inning. After Jarret Holt led off with a double and moved to the third on JD Pearson’s groundout, Meadows blooped a single into shallow right to bring home Holt.
Paradise got only one runner past second after the first inning.
“Our bats never came around at all,” Meadows said. “After the first inning, we thought we’d get a couple more runs. That turned out to be the winning RBI. It was a crazy game.”