Sports 08-23-2016

The Best of the Best

Grand slam propels Nikolakakis to All-Tournament Team selection

By Cary Shuman

There is no bigger stage in Babe Ruth Baseball than the World Series and Anthony Nikolakakis brought his ‘A’ game to North Dakota. Make that A-plus.

Nikolakakis earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team for a potent offensive performance that was highlighted by a towering grand slam in a victory over the North Dakota state champions from West Fargo.

The 6-feet-2-inch, 210-pound first baseman for the Lynn Babe Ruth All-Stars belted a fastball well beyond the fence in left centerfield. He knew he hit it well, but raced to first base just as his coaches had instilled in him.

“I hit the ball well – it was a fastball low and in,” said Nikolakakis. “I thought it was gone, but I needed to run it out so my coaches wouldn’t be upset. Their crowd was silent – our crowd was going crazy. I was extremely excited.”

Among the crowd “going crazy” in Williston, N.D., was his proud mother, Elaine Nikolakakis.

“Watching all the kids play in the World Series was so amazing – and when Anthony’s hit went over the fence it was crazy, all the fans were on their feet,” said Mrs. Nikolakakis. “It was a thrill.”

Anthony said he appreciated his mother being at the World Series and for his parents’ support of his baseball career. His sister, Gianna Nikolakakis, a talented athlete, and his uncle, James Alevizos, were also big supporters throughout the journey.

“If it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be who I am,” said Anthony. “They’re the ones who put all the work in. I just play baseball. They pay for everything and drive me around.”

Nikolakakis finished the World Series with a batting average in the glitzy .500 neighborhood. He received a new bat following the championship game in recognition of his All-Tournament Award. A second bat with the “All-Tournament” inscription is on its way from North Dakota.

 The St. Mary’s High School junior was impressed by the level of talent on the All-Star teams that spanned from the East Coast to the West Coast.

“The level of competition was incredible – every team was really good. The pitching was very strong. It was just a really good experience.”

Nikolakakis has been a power hitter since his Wyoma Little League Days when he led the league in home runs as a 12-year-old. He made the finals of the Lynn Home Run Derby where Babe Ruth All-Star teammate Dayshon Anderson – who also hit a home run in North Dakota – edged him for the title.

One of his “best memories” of the World Series was making friends with the players from the other teams, especially the Torrance, California team that ultimately won the championship.

“Making new friends was great – and the grand slam was unforgettable,” said Nikolakakis. “The level of baseball we played at was something I’ll remember, too.”

Nikolakakis said he was surprised by the tremendous reception upon the team’s return to Lynn on Sunday.

“It was incredible – I wasn’t expecting that many people,” he said. “It was really nice to see everyone there – everyone who believed in us and watched us the whole way.”

He will miss the camaraderie of the team with whom he shared one of the greatest youth baseball achievements in recent Lynn history.

“I’ll miss being around my teammates. Those are like my brothers. I grew up playing baseball with them in Little League and it was a fun ride. I want to thank my teammates and my coaches. They pushed me to be better.”

He especially praised manager Leon Elwell – who was his Wyoma Little League A’s coach – and coaches Sean Leydon and Ryan Boisselle for their leadership.

“Coach Leon’s taught me everything I know for baseball,” said Nikolakakis. “He’s an awesome guy. He pushed me to work harder than anyone has pushed me before. He’s the type of coach who will tell you what you need to do and what you did wrong, but he never embarrasses you – he’ll pull you over to the side and make sure you understand what you need to do the next time.”

“Mr. Elwell did a great job with this team and he’s a great, great coach,” added Mrs. Nikolakakis.

After a couple of days off, Anthony Nikolakakis has resumed his athletic career, moving over to the gridiron for the St. Mary’s varsity football team. The outlook is very optimistic for coach Matt Durgin’s Spartans who made it to the state semifinals a year ago.

Perhaps there is another “grand” moment in the future for Anthony Nikolakakis and teammates on another bigger-than-big stage.

St. Mary’s star Nikolakopoulos sidelined for the soccer season

By Cary Shuman

Mia Nikolakopoulos was projected as one of the best girls soccer players in the region this season, but the St. Mary’s High School standout will miss the entire 2016 campaign as she recovers from knee surgery.

A junior and a two-year starter for the Spartans, Mia had surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee on Aug. 12. Her father, Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef, said that his 16-year-old daughter will have six to eight months of rehabilitation before resuming her soccer career.

St. Mary’s coach Jim Foley said the loss of Nikolakopoulos is a tough one for his team.

“Mia is a junior captain and brings so much to the team – her overall skill, her outstanding leadership,” said Foley. “She’s a tremendous player. It’s a big loss. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that at least she’ll be able to come back for her senior year.

Arriving at St. Mary’s as a fundamentally strong and gifted youth soccer player, Mia has been a major contributor to the Spartans’ program since starting her very first game as a freshman. She became a versatile midfielder and league MVP candidate under the guidance of Foley and was poised to take on the esteemed role as a non-senior captain.

“Mia relished in the fact that she was a captain and going to be mentoring some of the younger players on the team,” said Taso.

For her club team, the Aztecs, Mia has excelled in multiple roles as a defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder, and forward.

“Mia has a very odd skill in that she’s a lefty dribbler but she shoots in the right, so it’s very hard to defend that,” said Taso.

Outside of soccer, Mia just received her learner’s permit in July and she will become a licensed driver early next year.

“She’ll be able to drive herself to practice,” said Taso.

Joe Gill serves as umpire-in-chief at Babe Ruth Softball World Series

By Cary Shuman

Joe Gill can relate well to the magnitude and prestige of the Lynn Babe Ruth 15-Year-Old All-Star team’s trip to the World Series in North Dakota.

The 25-year-old Lynn resident and St. Mary’s High School 2009 graduate was the umpire-in-chief at the 14-Under Babe Ruth Softball World Series held July 26-Aug. 2 in Jensen Beach located on the East Coast of Florida.

Gill was in charge of the scheduling and administration of the entire umpiring staff at the 14-team national softball tournament. Gill also personally umpired 15 World Series games. He was making his fourth appearance at a Babe Ruth Softball World Series, his third as the crew chief.

Reflecting on the Lynn Babe Ruth All-Stars’ appearance in the Baseball World Series, Gill said, “They made an outstanding run, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The coaches and the players did a great job. I think one of the most important things they did and I don’t know if they realize it, but they brought this community together. The City of Lynn always supports its youth. You had a full hall at Gannon cheering on these guys and they were greeted by a whole bunch of Lynners when they arrived home.”

Gill said while the team displayed its outstanding skill and were goodwill ambassadors for the city, “They did an even better job of bringing the community together for the common good.”

Though he was a soccer standout at St. Mary’s, Gill has fond memories of his days on the diamond.

“I played Babe Ruth Baseball in Lynn so I know the hard work that [President] Jim Beliveau and his organization do for every kid in the program,” said Gill. “When I realized my talent level was not as high as most, that’s when I switched to being an umpire.”

Gill has been a certified umpire for nine years. In addition to his work at the World Series, he umpired close to 100 high school and youth softball and baseball games this season.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing – it’s a hobby more than anything,” said Gill, who is a legislative aide on Beacon Hill to State Rep. Daniel Cahill. “Professionally I really like where I am.”

A former soccer captain at St. Mary’s, Gill will return as an assistant coach of the St. Mary’s varsity boys soccer team that reached the state championship game last year.

“Mike D’Agostino was my AAU and high school coach, so to team up with him is great,” said Gill, a graduate of St. Anselm College who holds a Master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University. “We have a lot of alumni who have gone on to play soccer in college.”

Gill hasn’t ruled out a softball coaching position in his future. “The only issue with that would be that it would take me off the field as a an umpire. A softball coaching job would have to be a perfect fit because I enjoy umpiring. It’s something I’ve worked hard at over the years.”

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