MARSHALL – Ronald Tipton came back home four years ago to build a program.
Not just any program, his program.
The 1996 Madison graduate has seen it through, coaching up his first freshman class along the way. Tipton and the Patriots (7-2, 4-0) came into Tuesday as the first-place baseball team in the Western Highlands Conference.
As best as Tipton can tell, Madison baseball hasn’t enjoyed this kind of status this deep into conference play since at least the early 1990s. Maybe even longer.
“I’m having the time of my life. This is a hometown job for me,” Tipton said.
“I saw it coming with this group. They’re special. But at the same time, you don’t know if it’s going to click or work out the way you had hoped. A lot of the good things that they do come from experience. They battle back and they don’t fall apart when things don’t go their way. It’s definitely cool to see a Madison baseball team play with that kind of mindset.”
Tipton had been a longtime assistant coach at Reynolds prior to his hire at Madison in December 2012.
There was no shortage of things to fix, starting with the Patriots’ field. The off-campus facility sits adjacent to the Madison County Fairgrounds. And to say it needed a complete renovation when Tipton came on board is putting it mildly.
The team itself took some time and elbow grease, too – Madison went 3-20 in Tipton’s first season.
Flash forward to Monday and the Patriots have more than doubled those number of wins. And there are still 15 games left on the regular-season schedule.
Junior right-hander Hunter Burnette surrendered a leadoff single to Enka (5-7) and then little else. The right-hander proceeded to weave a complete game 13-strikeout, one-hitter as Madison beat the visiting Jets, 4-2, in cold, blustery conditions.
Burnette mixed his fastball with a slider, curveball and changeup.
“To do some things that maybe Madison County baseball has never done before makes us all feel good, Burnette said.
“Every win is a confidence boost.”
Leadoff Zak Morrow scored half the Patriots runs Monday and was 1-2 with a pair of walks. Jordan Baker had two RBIs and provided the game’s only extra-base hit with a sixth-inning double. Cleanup hitter Trystan Jones went 1-2 with an RBI.
Madison was scheduled to host Mitchell (3-6, 2-2) on Tuesday night.
Seniors for the Patriots are Jones, Morrow, Zach Massey, Jared Rogers, Marcus Fisher, Ty Roberts and Dillan Worley.