After driving its way to the New Hampshire 9-U state baseball championship last summer, a now older and battle-tested Londonderry 10-U all-star squad snared the state crown one level up last weekend at the state tournament in Lancaster.
The locals played four opponents, beating all four, and hoisted the state championship trophies after winning the title game on Friday night, July 7.
The squad, which is led by head coach A.J. Marsh and his assistants Dave Hamilton and Brian Belanger, now rolls into the regional tournament this weekend in Marlborough, Massachusetts The team’s roster includes Devin Boles, Carter Browning, Ryan Williams, Brady Gillis, Jayden Hamilton, Boden Belanger, Ryan Perry, Jonathan Wilson, Frankie Jarek, Zach Mantegari, Casey Marsh, and Cole Metivier.
In bagging this state title, the Londonderry 10-U crew became the first LAFA squad to ever win back to back state crowns. The last time a Londonderry 10-U squad won a state title was in 2001.
The locals overpowered their first two opponents at the state tourney over Fourth of July weekend, hammering the Berlin/Gorham and White Mountain squads by double digits.
In its tourney opener on Saturday, July 1, the Londonderry crew drove its way to a 15-1 victory.
In that win, which only lasted five innings thanks to the mercy rule, Boden Belanger drove in five runs on three hits to lead the locals.
Belanger drove in runs on a single in the first frame, a triple in the fourth, and a double in the fifth.
Londonderry drove out right from the get-go, bagging a lead in the first thanks to Belanger’s run-scoring hit and a three-run home run by Jayden Hamilton to left-center field.
The locals plated five runs in the fifth inning thanks to a single by Mantegari, a double by Belanger, a single by Hamilton, and a double by Casey Marsh.
Londonderry amassed 20 hits in the game, with Mantegari, Belanger, Boles, Jarek, Marsh, Metivier, and Hamilton each knocking multiple.
Where pitching was concerned, Hamilton was on the hill for the first four innings and he held the opponents to two hits while striking out six batters. Browning came on in the last inning and struck out the side.
The next morning, against the Mount Washington contingent, Londonderry tallied another blowout. This time the victorious performance was a shutout.
Pitchers Wilson and Gillis were nearly unhittable in helping their side to a 13-0 success.
Wilson got the start, going five innings and striking out 10. Gillis then came in to close out the game and ended up throwing only nine pitches to get the last three outs, striking out two batters.
Londonderry secured the victory thanks to a huge, seven-run sixth inning. That frame was big thanks to a triple by Belanger, a double by Hamilton, a single by Ryan Williams, a double from Gillis, and a home run by Boles.
The winning side finished with 15 total hits, with Mantegari, Boles, Williams, Belanger, and Hamilton all smacking two or more. Williams, Boles, and Mantegari each laced three. Williams drove in four runs, Boles banged home three, and Gillis tallied two RBI.
The locals’ play in the tournament then resumed on the evening of Wednesday, July 5, with Londonderry advancing to the championship round with an 8-4 besting of Keene in the winners’ bracket final.
Unlike in its first and second games of the tournament, this battle was more back and forth for the Londonderry entry. But, the locals finished with the win.
Londonderry struck first with a pair of runs in the second inning thanks to a RBI smacks by Wilson and Gillis.
Keene answered with four runs in the bottom of the third to go up 4-2.
Londonderry remained poised, responding with three runs in the top of the fourth to snag a lead it would never lose.
The runs reached home, thanks to a sacrifice fly by Gillis, a fielder’s choice off of the bat of Boles, and a double by Browning.
The locals then flashed the leather in the bottom of the fourth to keep Keene from responding, with perhaps the biggest defensive play coming at the plate.
On that play, Ryan Perry fielded the ball in the outfield and fired it to his cut-off man Hamilton. The shortstop then threw to catcher Belanger. The Keene player had no choice but to slide into Belanger, who put down the tag to register the exciting out.
Londonderry then gave itself some breathing room by scoring three more times in the fifth to make it an 8-4 game.
In that frame, two markers scored on wild pitches.
The local crew’s defense then did some more stellar work in the bottom of the fifth, spinning a double play in keeping Keene scoreless.
Victorious Londonderry finished up with 11 total hits, with Marsh, Metivier, and Williams each collecting two of them. Pitchers Hamilton and Gillis combined to strike out seven batters over six innings.
The Londonderry boys then found themselves facing a seacoast contingent in the title round, with that opposing entity needing to find a way to defeat the undefeated locals twice to take the state crown. But Londonderry only needed one game to snag the title.
That contest was played last Friday night, July 7, and the local hardball crew ended up handing its opponent a 9-4 defeat to win a second consecutive state title.
The score was knotted up at 3-3 going into the latter half of the fourth frame, and Londonderry outscored its opponent by a 6-1 margin the rest of the way to win yet again.
Wilson, Gillis, Perry, and Hamilton handled the pitching quite ably once again, and their offense supported them with more than enough runs on a total of 10 hits.
The Londonderry offense exploded for six runs in the latter half of the fifth inning, doing the scoring which would decide this big game.
The big hits for the locals in that decisive frame came from Hamilton and Boles, the latter of whom stroked a two-run double. Boles ended up leading the state champs with three hits, and Mantegari and Hamilton each collected two.
The locals’ first two games in pool play at the regional tourney in Marlborough have them facing the Rhode Island entry on Saturday and then the host Marlborough contingent that night. Then, on Sunday, Londonderry faces off against the Connecticut champions at 2:30 in the afternoon. Rankings after pool play will then determine the schedule for the ensuing single-elimination championship round of play thereafter.