Melton worked throughout an entire summer, using his friends’ righty gloves in the outfield so he could also be a right-hander.
Despite pitching about 10 mph slower with his right hand, he said he’s just as confident throwing that way. Best of all, it makes him all the more versatile, so he can avoid ever having to sit.
“I’m just really competitive,” he said. “If I’m sitting on the bench, I feel like I can’t help my team as much.”
Over 28⅓ innings this season, Melton has a 1.24 ERA and 43 strikeouts. At the plate, he’s batting .392 with 16 RBI and 19 runs as one of the top hitters in the IAAM.
“Dylan Melton is a legit talent,” Coach Chris Garber said. “He likes to compete every day, and he likes to do it in different ways.”
His reputation is well known. In an April matchup with his former school, Gerstell Academy, Melton got on base in his first at-bat. That was enough for the Falcons: Intentional walks were ordered for his next three plate appearances.
As a competitor, he was upset, but Melton enjoys that level of respect.
“I was definitely a little bit angry. Luckily I was pitching that game, so I got to take a little bit of my anger out on the hitters,” he said, laughing.
Melton struck out eight in seven innings of one-run ball. Take out one part of his game, and he’ll use another.
It wasn’t until after DeMatha’s 13-11 win over The Heights on April 26 that Stags Coach Dave Mitchell grasped the magnitude of the game for him and his family.
Mitchell was coaching against his former team — and his younger brother and best friend, Howard. As Dave and Howard met for a hug on The Heights’ field in Potomac, flashbacks of competing against each other in their Bethesda home’s backyard flooded their minds.
“We hang out pretty much constantly,” Dave, 36, said of him and his 34-year-old brother. “We think the world of each other. We want to beat each other, but we also love each other very much.”
Dave began coaching at The Heights in 2010 but jumped at an opportunity in June to coach one of the D.C. area’s most accomplished programs. When he departed, he recommended Howard, an assistant, take over. The brothers, who played at The Heights in the mid-2000s, coach together for Next Level Lacrosse, a local club team.
DeMatha (10-7) enters the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament this week as the third seed; The Heights (11-5) is the fifth seed. On the field after last week’s game, Dave told Howard he was proud of him.
“The emotion that goes into it is not just winning or losing but also winning or losing against a sibling,” Dave said. “It’s certainly a little bit different.”
It can take a fair amount of time for a high school coach to instill a philosophy or playing style. With graduation and transfers, every roster is different and every season provides a ticking clock for the coach to try to set things up. If, by the time the postseason arrives, you have not gotten everyone on the same page — well, your playoff hopes are slim.
Last season, Loudoun Valley’s Sean Welge realized he did not have the time to get his team going. The season was condensed, and the playing environment was fraught. It wasn’t the best atmosphere for building a culture.
“What was noticeably absent for us last year was that we didn’t play what I would consider ‘Valley soccer’ — the style we’ve built up over the last however many years,” Welge said. “Good or bad, we tend to play the same way with the same philosophy, and that was not quite there last year because we didn’t have a chance to implement it over time.”
Welge describes that style as one that requires constant defensive pressure and a lot of off-the-ball movement on offense. It can take time to get used to — time that wasn’t provided during a season he described as “show up and play.”
But the Vikings returned a lot of contributors from last spring’s team, and the group is finding its way to a fully formed identity. With more time together, the Vikings are a contender at 8-2.
“It’s a night-and-day feeling from last year. The kids are much more relaxed,” Welge said. “We’re probably about two weeks away from putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.”
After finishing second in the Maryland 4A tournament last year, Churchill is set on returning for another shot at a state title. Not only did the Bulldogs (11-0) return individual champion Nathan La, they added a newcomer who can challenge him.
La, the team captain, has had to work hard just to show he deserves the No. 1 spot. Freshman Bert Mackey has proved to be a legitimate contender.
“He’s been killing it,” La said. “I think the only reason I was able to beat him in practice was a little bit more experience, a little more knowledge of the game. It’s kind of my pride as well — don’t want to lose to a freshman after winning states. … So that was definitely stressful.”
La credits his experience for his success, developing integrity with his line calls and resilience when facing a tough opponent. It’s something he hopes the entire team will continue to build among its young players.
“I’ve kind of been able to realize, ‘Okay, maybe I don’t need to hit the ball as hard as [my opponent] does, or maybe it’s okay if I’m losing a few games, it’s okay if I’m not holding serve right now,’ ” La said. “Being able to adapt to a situation is kind of what I’ve been able to get used to over time.”
After its last regular season match against Poolesville on Tuesday, Churchill will begin the county tournament next week before heading into the regional and state championships.