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Foothill League baseball preview: Allen Sarkissian, no need to wait

West Ranch’s Sarkissian, like more high school baseball players, got an early jump

Posted: March 18, 2010 10:30 p.m.
Updated: March 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch's Allen Sarkissian led the Wildcats with a .437 batting average in 2009 and won three games on the mound.

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Why wait?

West Ranch didn’t with Allen Sarkissian.

Now, three years later, the Wildcats are better for it.

Were they during his freshman season?

Maybe not so much.

“I was very tense,” says Sarkissian of his first varsity game as a freshman. “I couldn’t throw a ball. I couldn’t really throw the ball and hit (the first baseman) in the chest. ... I was like (former Major League second baseman) Chuck Knoblauch out there.”

That’s the error-prone former second baseman who once overshot his first baseman so badly that he hit a woman who was sitting in the stands at Yankee Stadium in the face.

Yet West Ranch stuck with Sarkissian and he has since blossomed.

Now one of the Foothill League’s premier pitchers and outfielders, Sarkissian can say he benefitted from the early experience.

“Even though I didn’t have the season I wanted to, I think it definitely made me a better player,” Sarkissian says. “The next year, I knew the game was faster. I knew how pitchers pitched.”

It’s nothing new.

Coaches have long given talented younger players an opportunity.

Locally, says Saugus head coach John Maggiora, it’s happening more often.

“We have six schools in the valley. In the (19)80s and ’90s, we didn’t have (freshmen playing varsity baseball) as much,” Maggiora says. “With six schools and the talent spread out, imagine our team and Valencia combined, I think the talent has drawn out a little bit. You have a kid who’s talented enough, you go out and play him. We played (Nick) Lombardi as a freshman. He was a little overmatched, but it paid off now,”

Lombardi batted .393 as a sophomore last year and is 12-for-19 so far this season.

“When you see kids come in and project them as the guy, you’re like, ‘You know what, he’s going to be with us eventually. Why not now?’” Maggiora says.

There are cases all over the Foothill League.

Valencia started Trey Williams as a freshman last year and he ended up being the only freshman All-Foothill League first teamer.

Golden Valley and Hart are both leaning on freshmen this year in their lineup in Riley Sherwood and Billy Fredrick for the Grizzlies and Luke Persico for the Indians.

There are some fears for coaches who bring freshmen up to the varsity.

“I think the biggest fear I have is I don’t like to see kids lose confidence,” says Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “When you bring a kid at such a young age and all of a sudden he goes into a slump or makes an error, he plays fearful. I haven’t seen that from our guy. There will be some trying times. His eyes will be wide open.”

Sarkissian’s batting numbers have risen steadily since his arrival in 2007 – from hitting .212 to .311 to a team-leading .437 in 2009.

West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill says Sarkissian arrived with a maturity that made it an easy decision to try him on the varsity as a freshman.

He says Sarkissian’s quiet nature and ability to show little emotion on the baseball field has helped make him succeed.

If it didn’t work out early, Burrill would have had to do something about it.

“If things don’t go well quickly, he’s quickly moved down,” says Burrill of young players who struggle. “I think a varsity player should only be on varsity if he’s having success.”

In fact, Sarkissian was sent down to the junior varsity during his freshman season.

His stay lasted one game.

“I think I went 4-for-4 (in the JV game),” Sarkissian recalls.

Sarkissian’s success can also be traced to his passion for the game.

He watches baseball on TV — more of a rarity with young kids.

“In HD,” he adds.

His brother, Pat, was a three-year varsity starter at Hart.

And he works at his game.

Burrill says Sarkissian’s anticipation in the outfield is nearly unparalleled.

On the mound, he has been dependable.

Though his ERA ballooned from 3.34 as a sophomore to 5.54 as a junior, he has started strong as a senior with a 1.56 ERA.

Yet Sarkissian hasn’t received the notice that others in the Foothill League have.

West Ranch’s 2009 team was one of the most offensive groups this valley has ever seen.

Nine players batted .350 or better.

No one was better than Sarkissian.

In four years, he has quietly developed.

In his senior year, he has a chance to do something special.

“He had a legitimate chance of leading us in every offensive and pitching statistic,” Burrill says.


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