Ashland Post 76 will host the Kentucky American Legion District 4 Tournament at Ernie Chattin Field in Ashland’s Central Park starting today at 5 p.m.
The double-elimination tournament includes host Ashland, Morehead Post 46, Shelbyville Post 76 and Latonia Post 203. Morehead and Shelbyville open up the tournament at 5 p.m. with Ashland and Latonia following at 8.
The tournament champion and runner-up will advance to the state tournament.
Mike Delaney, Post 76 coach and tournament organizer, said the spots in the state tournament could go to any of the four teams.
“We’ve played Morehead close in a double header and won both of those,” Delaney said. “And we split with Shelbyville winning two each. Both are really good teams. This thing is up for grabs really ...We’ve got to come out and play and see where the chips fall.”
Post 76’s first game is against Latonia, the only district opponent Ashland hasn’t seen this year. Delaney hasn’t even heard much about the opponent except for one key factor in their game.
“I’ve heard they hit the ball pretty good and that’s about all I’ve heard about them,” Delaney said. “I haven’t seen them play so we’re going to have to go out there and play and just feel them out.”
Lewis County ace, and All-Area selection, Sammy Holder will take the mound for the Sixers to open up the tournament.
Along with Holder other arms that could see action for Post 76 include Greenup County’s Seth Boyle and Zach Hutchinson, Ashland’s Cameron Fritz, Aaron Elam and two-time Area Player of The Year Logan Salow.
“I’m counting on (Holder) to come up big but we have some arms ready in case he doesn’t,” Delaney said. “I think before we started the summer (pitching) was a strength. The competition is a little better than high school, but you have to locate your pitches and compete on the mound.
“But we’ll have to score six or seven runs to win.”
Offensively, Post 76 has a .320 team batting average over the summer, and is led individually by Elam (.407), Holder (.400), Russell’s J.D. Pridemore (.355) and Lincoln Trail College’s Connor Robinson. (.343.)
The Sixers are averaging almost seven runs a game with top RBI guys in Robinson (27), Elam (21), Boyle (20) and Lewis County’s Nick Thompson (18).
Delaney said his team has been scoring runs all season, but to move on to state they’ll need to pick up on the offense and hold other teams with their defense.
“We’re going to have to score some runs and stop some rallies,” Delaney said. “It will take two pitchers to win it, but this is going to be a step above high school. Teams are going to send nine guys to the plate who can hit. Pitching is going to be big, but it’s going to come down to playing defense and scoring some runs.”
One of the toughest things for a summer baseball team is trying to play a game at full strength.
Post 76 itself has dealt with vacations, injuries and illness this summer. The past two weeks, the Sixers haven’t had Salow (vacation) and Boyle (illness).
“It’s been a crazy summer though to get everyone here,” Delaney said.
The Sixers will have everyone on their roster during the district tournament, except Robinson who will be out of town on vacation.
Another factor working against Post 76 will be that the Sixers haven’t played an actual game since a doubleheader against the Huntington Hounds on July 15.
The Sixers were supposed to play the South Charleston and Ironton American Legion teams, but had to cancel because both teams had to make up district games.
“We have had some guys gone so it worked out well, but I would rather have played,” Delaney said. “But we’ve been practicing well, so hopefully we’ll play well.”
The District 4 tournament will continue on Tuesday and the championship game will be held on Wednesday. Admission for the tournament is free.
Kyle Hobstetter can be contacted at email@example.com or at (606)326-2658