Notre Dame alum Austin Dill goes pro, signs with PaddleHeads

Notre Dame alum Austin Dill signs his professional contract to pitch for the Missoula PaddleHeads of the Pioneer League.

Austin Dill never expected this journey to go this far.

Undersized and unnoticed, college baseball was never seen in the Sikeston native’s future during his playing days at Notre Dame. Only a small NAIA school in Springfield, Missouri gave the slim pitcher a chance.

It paid off, as Dill finished his collegiate career with the Evangel career strikeout record, throwing 338 punchouts in 297.2 innings over six seasons with the Valor.

“They gave me a shot on a $1,000 scholarship as a JV player, and I just kind of ran with it,” Dill said. “Being there for six years, I just felt like I couldn’t ever repay them for what they did for me so playing for them every year was a blast.”

Now his career continues in the professional ranks. Dill recently signed with the Missoula PaddleHeads of the Pioneer League, which is set to start the 2023 season on Tuesday with him on the Opening Day roster.

The Pioneer League used to be a short-season Single-A league affiliated with Minor League Baseball prior to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. It now operates as an independent MLB Partner League in which players can parlay their success into a minor league contract with an MLB organization.

The Pioneer League has featured a handful of players from the Heart Conference, where Dill pitched with the Valor. During a game against Central Methodist, he earned the respect of their head coach, Nate Breland who offered to help Dill make it to the next level.

“He had said he would reach out to the PaddleHeads for me and try and put in a good word,” Dill said. “Coming from an NAIA school like Evangel, where it’s a small Christian school, you don’t get a whole lot of looks from scouts of professional teams. Especially when you don’t make the conference tournament and you don’t go deep into the playoffs, it makes it pretty tough. I’m very grateful that I’ve had people in my life that have done favors for me and you talk on my behalf, which I really appreciate.”

It wasn’t until last year that he truly emerged as Evangel’s ace. After spending much of the first three seasons in the bullpen and spot starter, Dill posted a 3.14 ERA with a 9.29 K/9 rate in 2021 and a 3.58 ERA with a 10.27 K/9 rate in 2022. This past season he threw 104 strikeouts in 68.2 innings over 12 starts and recorded a 2.36 ERA.

Dill also pitched for the Capahas during the summer. He won the 2020 St. Clair Division Pitcher of the Year for posting a 1.67 ERA.

“The past two years Evangel has been really beneficial for me in terms of just kind of growing into my body more,” Dil said. “Every year I’m playing baseball it feels like I’m getting better, either physically or mentally. I’m learning new things I never knew about. I would say I’m more of an offspeed kind of pitcher. My Velo right is like 89 to 91mph. I’m not a guy that throws 95-96mph. I rely a lot on locating my fastball and hitting the spots, but also using offspeed pitches to where when I throw a changeup or a slider that makes the fastball look five times harder.”

Dill wants his journey from Notre Dame to Missoula and beyond to be an example of the power of faith.

“I hope that the kind of story that I’ve had is an example of what God can do in someone’s life,” said Dill. “He took a 125-pound kid coming into college, who had a JV scholarship. No one thought twice about him coming into college, and with the help of God, and with the help of my family and my girlfriend and teammates, without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at without every single one of them, especially without Christ.”

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