The Southern Standard wants to take the opportunity to highlight the standout Warren County athletes. Partnering with R3 Logistics and Mud Bums Family Sports Grill, we will be honoring a Pioneer of the Week throughout the 2022-23 school year. Our honorees from March 12-18 is Pioneer pitcher Baler Melton.
Until the first pitch is thrown, a coach can never know for sure how their team will react to opening day. Phillip King was no exception when he sent his Pioneers out on the diamond for the first time last Monday, but he had a little bit of reassurance. At the very least, Warren County had Baler Melton and Moore County didn't.
The junior hurler had a sensational debut to 2023, dominating on the mound and at the plate to lead Warren County to a 9-5 victory over the Raiders. Melton earned the win by throwing six strong innings and striking out nine and also led the team with three hits and four RBIs on the road.
"Baler pitched a great game," said King, who noted that Melton "just missed" hitting a bomb later in the game while piling up runs for the Pioneers.
Warren County has had huge graduating classes each of the last two seasons, leaving King to start from scratch every spring. Melton was one of the few mainstays from last year's squad though, something King knew would be a big boost once the real games started.
Melton cut his teeth in the rotation last year, ultimately ascending to the No. 2 spot by district games. He's taken over the lead role this year and looked comfortable getting the ball on opening night. He scattered five hits over six innings and only surrendered two earned runs (Moore County capitalized on three errors to plate two more runs in the fifth inning).
Melton may have been even better with the plate. He slotted into the clean-up spot and played the role to perfection, ripping a two-run single in the first, breaking a 2-2 tie in the fifth with another RBI single and capping the Pioneer scoring with an RBI double in the sixth that got stuck in a banner at the top of the fence.
He finished off an impressive start to the first week with two more hits and three RBIs in Thursday's 15-2 win over Jackson Northside.