BB Layne is looking forward to playing in the Cliff Webb Memorial Fourth of July Tournament as a member of the host team for the first time.

Last year, Layne was among four Boyd County High School players on the roster of the 18U Huntington Hounds.

Post 76 defeated the Hounds, 9-3, on the tournament’s final day to take the top spot with a 4-0 record.

A year later, Layne and Boyd teammate Austin Mullins are wearing Sixers uniforms as the longstanding event in Central Park approaches.

“I’m excited about playing that Fourth of July tournament for Post 76,” Layne said Friday afternoon. “We’ve been having a lot of fun. It’s kind of laid back, relaxed.”

And loaded with area talent. The Sixers had won 12 of their first 14 games entering Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader at Scott County.

“We’re having a good start so far, except for a few rainouts,” head coach Mike Delaney said. He prefers having Layne and Mullins on his side rather than facing them.

“It feels great,” Delaney said. “They kind of aged out on the Hounds. I don’t mind that a bit. I will take them anytime I can get them.”    

Layne has found a home in left field and batting second. The Glenville State University signee picked up where he left off after batting .376 and scoring 36 runs as a high school senior. Layne coaxed 20 walks and also racked up 12 hit-by-pitches.   

“BB sees lot of pitches,” Delaney said, “and even when he doesn’t get a hit he will foul off three or four. It’s always good to have people at top of the order that can see pitches and run the pitch count up.”

Mullins has taken his place in a quality and deep pitching staff.

“This is probably the most arms we’ve had over the last 10 years we’ve been doing it,” said Delaney, rattling off a list including Seth Wright (Lewis County), Mullins, Justin Manning (Russell), Robbie Francis (Ashland), Lawrence County’s CJ Fairchild, Jackson Feltner, Lucas Maynard and Tyler Maynard, along with Braydon Shore (Raceland).

Manning pitched the Sixers past the Hounds in last year’s Fourth of July Tournament matchup.   

Lawrence County is represented by five players from a team that won 35 games and advanced to the Semi-State round.  

“Overall, we’ve got a lot of baseball kids that really know the game,” said the Sixers’ veteran coach.

Post 76 opened the season with nine wins, including five during a tournament at Eastern Kentucky University.

Fleet-footed leadoff hitter Landan Swartz (Bath County) and Layne set the table for Feltner, Hunter Lacks (Raceland) and Fairchild. Feltner led the state with 14 dingers this spring and owns three so far for the Sixers.

“We have some pretty good sticks,” Delaney said.    

Austin Roe (Lawrence County), Swartz and Tyler Maynard have also homered, while Lacks hit an inside-the-park variety.

“Roe has been scorching hot all summer,” Delaney said. “In the tournament at EKU he was like 9 for 11.”

Roe and Raceland’s Brayden Kelly provide the catching. Tyler Maynard and Seth (Rony) Mills of the Rams alternate at shortstop.

“It’s cool to play on this team,” Layne said. “On the Hounds I was with guys from like (Cabell) Midland. But playing with guys from our region, and the 15th because we know them, it’s different. We like to joke around about things like how we did in games against each other.”  

 Beginning Thursday, Post 76 will welcome five teams to Ernie Chattin Field for four days of baseball. The home team faces Portsmouth Post 23 on opening night at 8 in the second game of a doubleheader.

Five games are on tap both July 5 and 6 in the pool-play format. Post 76 plays twice next Sunday to close out the schedule. The Sixers’ final opponent will be Kentucky Units — a summer college team with several local products.   

“It will be something new for the tournament,” Delaney said. “They will be older than anybody there.”

Post 76 won their earlier meeting this season 1-0 in Central Park.

“The field is probably a little stronger than last year,” Delaney added. “South Charleston is always good, and Shelbyville has one of the top post teams in Kentucky.”

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rstanley@dailyindependent.com