On a cool night in the season opener Tuesday, Dillon Meadows lit up the radar gun at 89.
“He was in the upper 80s,” said new Paradise coach Mike Fehler. “As the season goes along, he’ll pick up a few miles per hour. He’s got a live arm.”
It’s that live arm that has an offer on the table from TCU for the Paradise junior and made him the Wise County MVP last year after posting a 2.70 ERA and 6-2 record with 103 strikeouts.
Meadows knows his ability to throw in the 90s is rare.
“I’ve been blessed with this arm,” Meadows said. “I take it for granted a lot, and I shouldn’t.”
Meadows, a three-sport athlete, broke in with the Panthers as a freshman. He threw 59.1 innings, posting a 2.36 ERA, going 7-4 with 63 strikeouts. He also hit .439 with 32 RBIs on his way to earning the Wise County and 10-2A newcomer honors.
Last year, he took over as the team’s ace and led the Panthers to a runner-up finish in district. This year, he’s expecting bigger things.
“I’m real excited for this year,” he said. “We’re young and have a new head coach. He’s made us more disciplined, and that’s how we are going to win games.”
After his two promising seasons and his commitment to TCU in June, he knows the microscope will be on him all year.
“There’s definitely an eye on me,” Meadows admitted. “By committing to TCU there’s another huge weight on my back.”
On the mound, Meadows knows there’s a lot more to pitching than throwing hard. He said he’s really working to fine tune his mechanics.
“It’s not all about rearing back and throwing as hard as you can,” he said.
Fehler said he’s also working with Meadows on how to approach hitters in different situations.
“He’s got a lot of talent. Understanding the game is what he needs to learn the most,” Fehler said. “He’s working on his off-speed pitches.”
Along with the live arm, Meadows brings a tough-nosed, bulldog mentality to the mound. He’s also not willing to back down to any hitter.
“I’ll pitch to anyone,” he said.
That confidence bleeds over to his teammates.
“Kids look up to him,” Fehler said. “When he’s on the mound, they expect to win.”
The Panthers have won all but six times when he got the decision in his two high-school seasons. Meadows has sat down 165 hitters himself via the strikeout.
“I love strikeouts,” he said. “I love sending kids back to the dugout.”
Along with his pitching ability, Meadows is a weapon for the Panthers at the plate. He hit .464 last year with 28 RBIs. He’s got loftier goals this year.
“My goal is to bat .500,” he said.
His other goal is to earn an all-state award, which his 90-plus MPH fastball may make a reality.
TOP RETURNING TEAMS
Note: The Bulls return just three starters from last year’s 9-3A championship team. Shortstop and pitcher Alex Samples will be leaned upon as the team’s leading returning hitter and pitcher.
Note: The Dragons lost several key seniors from last year’s district runner-up. Chico does return last year’s All-Wise Newcomer, sophomore Jaston McBee, and six other players that hit better than .300 last season.
Note: New coach Mike Fehler returns the ace of the staff, Dillon Meadows (6-2, 2.70 ERA), along with All-Wise catcher Skylar Black and sophomore John Bridgeman (.328 and 20 RBIs) from last year’s 9-2A runner-up.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
John Bridgeman, sophomore, Paradise
Note: In his freshman campaign, Bridgeman hit .328 with 20 RBIs. He also posted a 5.40 ERA with 24 strikeouts.
Skylar Black, junior, Paradise
Note: The Paradise catcher hit .320 with 28 RBIs last year and belted three home runs.
Cain Lowe, senior, Decatur
Note: The 9-3A catcher hit .287 last year to earn 9-3A honors.
Dillon Meadows, junior, Paradise
Note: The TCU commit posted an ERA of 2.70 last year, while striking out 103.
Jaston McBee, sophomore, Chico
Note: The Dragon outfielder hit .394 in his first high-school season and drove in 27.
Alex Samples, senior, Bridgeport
Note: The versatile veteran shortstop and pitcher will take over leadership of a young Bulls squad. He batted .362 last season and posted a 1.02 ERA, going 6-3.