2016 AYF Olympics: North Andover Wins First Ever Softball Game

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (A.W.)—You can label this the classic David & Goliath story.

'The challenge was up to North Andover, a small community in Merrimack Valley which had never prevailed on the diamond—ever in its brief but storied past.' (Photo: Tamar Kanarian)
‘The challenge was up to North Andover, a small community in Merrimack Valley which had never prevailed on the diamond—ever in its brief but storied past.’ (Photo: Tamar Kanarian)

On one side, you had a softball team from New York who, by virtue of its size and scope, was destined for victory.

The challenge was up to North Andover, a small community in Merrimack Valley which had never prevailed on the diamond—ever in its brief but storied past.

The task of stemming the tide and making amends fell solely upon the bats of these young yearlings who had nothing to lose—really—but everything to gain by it.

“The chapter had 13 members who were eligible to compete but by late summer, it was unknown just how many would make the trip,” said Greg Minasian, the team’s coach and advisor.

Ten members were 18 and under, making North Andover the youngest chapter of the lot.

What made things more difficult was the fact that four confirmed participants were working the summer at Camp Haiastan and ended up having no practices.

“As advisor, I started getting worried,” Minasian confessed. “We wound up with a dozen participants ready to go, participating in the swim events Friday night, following by the socials.”

The next day was softball with a 9 a.m. draw against the N.Y. Hyortiks. Would the Sassouns be ready? Only time would tell.

“I made out the lineup and positions,” Minasian added. “I had an idea from the previous year who to count upon but I was clueless to the surprises that stood ahead for this team.”

Newcomer Tyler Corriveau started the onslaught going with an immediate single, followed by a home run from chapter president Shahen Hagen on the second pitch.

The domino effect continued prodigiously with one hit after another with the girls adding their share of the offense from top to bottom

With smart base-running, the Sassouns went up 8-0, taking advantage of timely hits and some errant play by the Hyortiks.

“The performance of each player was courageous,” Minasian reported. “We were capable of winning and nobody was going to lay back. We simply hit our groove.”

It got better for North Andover and only worse for New York. By the third inning, the scoreboard read 10-1 and the mercy rule was within reach. Another nine runs cross the plate and before you could blink an eyelash, it was 20-1 with smiles and “Hye-fives” abound.

Minasian’s two children were vital cogs. Hitting clean-up, son Richard went 3 for 5 with a single, double and triple, only to be matched by his sister Ani, also with three hits.

The Mahlebjian brothers—John and Michael—also had their share of hits while Armen Almasian slugged a triple in the top of the sixth to end out the game. Defensively, the victors were solid across the board.

Without time to rest on their laurels, North Andover was called back into service an hour later for its second contest. The opponent here happened to be 3-time defending champion New Jersey. The Arsens grabbed a quick 5-0 lead and never looked back, nailing the final peg in the sixth inning.

The sister duo of Olivia and Lucille Barberian shared the catching responsibilities. Special kudos go out to team captain Mgo Kassabian for playing his final game as an AYF-er. His last hit was a prodigious triple that drew its share of applause.

“As we lined up to shake hands, we knew we had beaten a good softball team and lost to a far better squad,” Minasian compared. “We held our heads high and left the field with a sense of pride. No question about it. When it comes to softball, we’re a small chapter with a big heart.”

As for next year, the Sassouns are already looking forward to Racine and return to the softball diamond with even great gusto.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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