07/08/2018 11:49 AM
By Matt Smith
July 8, 2018
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Halfway through his first season, AirHogs starter Meng Weiqiang is transitioning well to the American Association and is already finding success on the mound.
The 29-year-old has proven to be the most effective starter on the team, pacing the starting rotation in wins (3) and earned run average (3.91). He and former Colorado Rockie Tyler Matzek are tied for the team lead with 46 strikeouts this year.
Even more impressively, the star on the mound has also taken his turn with the bat this season. He has served as a designated hitter, outfielder, and/or pinch hitter in 20 different games this year, taking 68 at-bats.
“All of the Chinese professional players are enjoying the independent league," said Meng. "All of the American players can effectively help us get better and better.”
Meng began his international baseball career in 2012 in the Asia Series, helping Team China to the championship round. From there, he has represented Team China in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the 2013 East Asia Games, the 2014 Asia Games, the 2015 Asian Baseball Championship, and the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He has played professionally in China for the Guangdong Leopards.
Now, in 2018, he and his teammates from Team China are playing in the American Association as part of a historic partnership between the Texas AirHogs, Shougang Sports, and the Chinese Baseball Association. His pitching prowess has translated well to the American game.
"Meng has tremendous poise. He's got uncanny poise," said AirHogs assistant pitching coach Kevin Joseph. "It really helps him to compete in difficult situations and to prevail."
That poise was on full display when the righty pitched the AirHogs to a series-opening win in Sioux Falls. He notched ten strikeouts vs. the Canaries, a season-high for all Texas pitchers while limiting the home squad to two runs and four hits in over five innings of work.
“My confidence in my pitching that game was very high. I was able to attack the batters inside the corners. Especially after two strikes, I noticed my changeup and slider were very effective,” said Meng.
"It was my best start of the year. My pitching velocity and control were the best they have been all season long during that game.”
The right-hander has now gone at least five innings in eight of his nine starts this season and has allowed three earned runs or less in seven of them. He and the AirHogs – powered by Beijing Shougang Eagles continue to make major strides, taking the series in Sioux Falls after his dominant start and earning another series victory July 2-4 vs. the Cleburne Railroaders.
The team travels to Gary and Wichita this week and will return home July 16 for a doubleheader vs. the Chicago Dogs. Tickets for all home games are available. Visit AirHogsBaseball.com for more information. For the latest news, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @TXAirHogs. Media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[FRONT PAGE PHOTO CREDIT KAREN HARMON]