The Lynn Babe Ruth players and coaches boarded a bus today for a nine-hour ride to Jamestown, N.Y., seeking to do something that no local team has done in 35 years: win a world championship.
The Lynn contingent, led by coaches Al Donovan and Leon Elwell, tuned up for the Babe Ruth World Series with an indoor hitting session Monday night at Extra Innings in Middleton. Lynn qualified for the World Series by winning the New England regional championship last Tuesday at Fraser Field.
“We played a talented Cape Cod team in the regional final and we were able to win with some phenomenal pitching, great defense and timely hitting,” said Donovan, who is also the head baseball coach at Salem State University.
Starting pitcher Devin Curley was masterful in the New England tournament and received the MVP Award. AJ Luciano continued his torrid .400-plus hitting from his high school season at Lynn Classical.
“AJ has been hitting the ball really well,” said Donovan. “Jo Moreta and Anthony Nikolakakis have done a great job and Zach Elwell had a big hit in a winners’ bracket game. It’s been a great team effort.”
Donovan said he had high expectations for the team when it first convened last November.
“Coach Elwell and I thought we had some talented players and he [Elwell] had the core group from the  World Series team,” said Donovan. “There’s been a lot of synergy and the kids get along very well.”
Nine players from Elwell’s Lynn 15-year-old All-Star team – AJ Luciano, Christian Burt, Dayshawn Anderson, Zach Elwell, Danny Lilja, David Barbard, Anthony Nikolakakis, Kevin Durant, and Brett Bucklin – are making their second trip to the World Series. That team finished fifth in country.
Luciano, who will be attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy, said he’s looking forward to competing against players from across the country.
“I’ve been looking forward to it all weekend,” said Luciano. “I can’t wait to get on the bus and get to New York. I think we can win it all. The keys are pitching and good defense and timely hitting.”
Anderson is very excited about the trip to the World Series.
“We’re all looking forward to the tournament,” said Anderson, whose mother, Tawnya Smith, will be in Jamestown. “When we played in North Dakota, I met some new people and we competed against some really good teams.”
Donovan said he could sense the excitement and feel the energy among the players.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” said Donovan. “It’s very impressive that Lynn has a team in the World Series again.”
Nikolakakis excited to be be back in the World Series
Anthony Nikolakakis has one of the best memories from the Lynn Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Star team’s appearance in the 2015 World Series: a grand slam home run and an All-Tournament Award.
Nikolakakis hit his towering grand slam against the West Fargo, North Dakota team in the host team’s home ballpark.
The big, right-handed hitter was asked about his home run outlook for the 2018 Babe Ruth World Series
“Honestly, hitting a home run in the World Series is not foremost in my mind,” said Nikolakakis, the son of Taki and Elaine Nikolakakis. “I’m just focused on getting the job done as a team, not individually. Yet, it would be awesome to hit a home run, but as long as we come home with some hardware, it’s doesn’t matter how I play.”
Nikolakakis, who will attend Plymouth State University (N.H.), said “it’s awesome” to play in the World Series for a second time.
“It’s definitely cool to do it once, and being able to do it twice is just a blessing, especially with the group of guys we have now,” said Nikolakakis. “We have a really talented, hard-working group, kids that want to be here and compete, and that’s what drives us. We’re all excited.”
Nikolakakis and his St. Mary’s High School teammates on the Lynn team, including Kyle Oullette, Josh Mateo, Lou Vidal, and Colin Reddy, will not be attending the Spartans’ breakup banquet Tuesday night. But the 6-foot-3-inch slugger has a heartfelt message for coach Derek Dana and the school itself.
“I want to say thank you for the best four years of my life. Thank you to Coach Dana for helping me and shaping me in to the person I am and the player I am. And thank you to the school itself for getting me ready for college.”