Since walking away from Manchester’s New England Delta Dental Stadium having had to settle for the Division I runner-up trophy last spring, the Londonderry High baseball squad’s goal has been to get back to the divisional championship game this spring and walk away a champion.
And that was precisely what the fifth-seeded Lancers accomplished at the Queen City stadium last Saturday, June 14, by handing the rival, third-seeded Pinkerton Academy Astros a 4-1 defeat on a magnificent day for baseball.
Coach Brent Demas led his Lancers to a third state championship under his tutelage, and this win was powered by the strong pitching of recently-graduated senior Tommy Corey and an eight-hit offensive attack.
Londonderry plated two runs in the top of the third inning and two more in the fourth to hand standout hurler Corey
a nice advantage with which to work. Pinkerton didn’t claim a hit off the lanky right-hander until the latter half of the fourth inning, and the Astros notched their lone run in the bottom half of the sixth frame.
Pinkerton’s coach Steve Campo – himself a former Londonderry High baseball player – had his team finish up with five hits off Corey, who collected seven strikeouts and didn’t walk anybody.
“All of the guys worked really hard all season to get here, and I just had to go out and give it my best,” said Corey, who will attend Franklin Pierce University in the fall.
The Londonderry High baseball program collected Class I baseball crowns in both 1982 and 1983 under coach Mike Usenia, Class L titles under Demas in 2004 and 2010, and now a D-I championship under Demas this year.
“This is just a phenomenal group of guys,” said Demas. “We prepared hard coming in, they were ready, and all the hard work paid off.”
The talented, evenly-matched LHS and Pinkerton baseball squads faced off twice during the 2014 regular season, with each side collecting a 4-2 victory. So it was anybody’s guess whether the Lancers or Astros would claim the D-I title in meeting number three of the spring.
Londonderry scored the two runs it would end up needing to win the title contest in the top half of the third inning when it touched up Pinkerton starting pitcher Connor Donahue for three hits.
Number nine batter Ben Byerly started the run with a stinging lead-off triple, and he scored with one man out a few minutes later when Jimmy Zimolka rapped an RBI single. A moment after that, 2014 New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year Rob Del Signore launched a long double to center field to plate Zimolka and make it a 2-0 contest.
Demas’ dudes doubled their lead in the top of the fourth inning with three more hits, but they also ended up leaving the bases filled.
Byerly bashed a run-scoring single in the frame, and the second Lancer marker crossed the plate on a fielders’ choice off the bat of Zimolka. Londonderry also knocked Pinkerton starter Donahue out of the game in that frame, but reliever John Polichetti managed to strand three LHS runners on the bases and keep his team’s deficit at 4-0.
The PA crew ended LHS’s shutout hopes in the bottom of the sixth when Nate Rossi smacked a one-out double and Chris Gerossie followed with a single that plated Rossi. But that one run was all Pinkerton would manage on this big day.
The new champs finished up with two hits apiece from Del Signore and Byerly among their eight safeties.
The Lancers had driven into the championship round, thanks to a 6-0 drubbing of the ninth-seeded Bedford High Bulldogs in a semifinal-round tourney contest at Nashua’s Holman Stadium on Wednesday, June 11.
Del Signore put forth a masterful pitching performance, holding Bedford to a paltry two hits while striking out 11 of them and surrendering no walks at all. The 11 whiffs brought southpaw Del Signore’s season strikeout total up to a stellar 117.
“Rob was focused and used all his pitches effectively tonight,” said Demas.
There was no score until the bottom half of the fourth frame when the Lancers scored three times, with Corey making the biggest noise of the inning by ripping a three-run double.
Londonderry added two more markers in the bottom of the fifth and one more in the sixth to get to the 6-0 count with which it would win.
“Overall, it was a total team effort and one to build on as we head into the state title game against a very good Pinkerton team,” said Demas.
All in all, the Lancers raked a modest five hits, with Corey and Brett Evangelista each collecting two.