NHIAA Baseball Preview: Target is aimed squarely at LondonderryBy ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader
April 11. 2014 11:56PM
The ScoopPlayers to watch: Cam Bath, OF (Monadnock); Dylan Blowey, P (Lisbon); Christian Bourgea, INF (Campbell); Tyler Brown, P/OF (Alvirne); Nate Corriveau, P (Bow); Eric Damphousse, OF (Bishop Guertin); Jake Damphousse, P (Timberlane); Dominic Deblaise, P/C (Winnisquam); Rob Del Signore, P/1B (Londonderry); Adam Dolan, P/INF (Windham); Connor Donahue, P (Pinkerton); Chris Farr, P (Pittsfield); Ryan Frank, P/OF (Pelham); Mike Gasper, C (Merrimack); Carmen Giampetruzzi, P (Trinity); Seth Learned, P/OF (Souhegan); Ben Mallet, P (Monadnock); Pat Martin, P (Wilton-Lyndeborough); Ryan McKenna, INF/OF (St. Thomas); Jake Nelson, P/C (Hopkinton); Alex Parenteau, P/OF (Keene); Josh Partridge, P (Concord); Kris Perkins, P (Pittsfield); Tanner Putnam, P/OF (Goffstown); Kevin Radcliffe, P (Farmington); Connor Sahlin, P (Campbell); Tyler Sanschagrin, P/C (Gorham); Colin Sullivan, INF/OF (Plymouth); Ryan Tanguay, P (Stevens).
Defending champions: Exeter (Division I), Portsmouth (Division II), Conant (Division III) and Pittsfield (Division IV).
Noteworthy: Of the four Players of the Year in 2013 (one in each division), Campbell of Litchfield pitcher Connor Sahlin is the only still playing NHIAA baseball. Sahlin went 6-0 with a 0.40 ERA against New Hampshire competition last season. He struck out 49 and walked seven in 34⅓ innings. ... All four state championship games will be played June 14 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. ... James Gaj (Nashua South), Paul Lemire (Trinity of Manchester), Jason Matthews (Windham) and Josh Heaphy (Conant of Jaffrey) are among the first-year head coaches this season. Lemire is in his second coaching stint at Trinity. Heaphy replaced Brian Royal, who resigned after leading Conant to the Division III title last season. ... Pittsfield’s Kris Perkins, who was the winning pitcher in last year’s Division IV championship game, allowed one run (unearned) in his final 47 inning last season. ... Alvirne of Hudson coach Mike Lee enters the season with 304 career victories. Lee is in his 32nd season as Alvirne’s coach. ... Hopkinton pitcher/catcher Jake Nelson is among the top high school prospects in New England. Nelson recently took an official visit to Vanderbilt.
Defending champions: Timberlane (Division I), Con-Val (Division II), Campbell (Division III) and Woodsville (Division IV).
Noteworthy: Farmington pitcher Jennelle Thompson pitched every inning for the Tigers last season. She also batted .529 from the leadoff position and was successful in 26 of 27 stolen-base attempts. ... Franklin has qualified for postseason play in each of the 17 seasons Skip Dubois has been the program's head coach. The Golden Tornadoes have reached the semifinals in 10 of those 17 seasons. ... Con-Val pitcher Courtney Fisher, a senior, will enter the season with 581 career strikeouts. ... Harold Sachs has a 540-75 record in 29 seasons as Salem's head coach. ... Former Souhegan coach Jim Rines is in his first season as Milford's head coach. Rines led the Sabres to five Class I championship game appearances and one state title (2003). ... Woodsville has made it to at least the Division IV semifinals in each of the last four seasons. The Engineers won the championship in 2010 and 2013. ... Glen Miller is in his first season as the head coach at Oyster River of Durham. The Bobcats have lost their last 98 games.
Opposing baseball coaches are calling Londonderry High School the team to beat in Division I this season, but the Lancers know how meaningless being the favorite can be.
Londonderry was the No. 1 seed for last year's Division I tournament, but No. 11 Exeter upset the Lancers, 3-2, in the Division I championship game.
"In terms of how people look at us ... we were the No. 1 team last year and look what happened," Londonderry coach Brent Demas said. "I think the returning players on this team are drawing a lot of motivation from last year. The sour experience of last year is sticking with these guys and it's driving them."
There are plenty of familiar names on the Londonderry roster. The Lancers returned two of the best pitchers in the state - left-hander Rob Del Signore and right-hander Tom Corey - and six starting position players from the 2013 team.
"The bullseye is on Londonderry," Alvirne coach Mike Lee said. "They're definitely the team to chase. Head and shoulders above the rest."
Del Signore, who will play for Division II Southern New Hampshire University next season, was 6-0 with two saves and a 0.81 ERA last spring. Corey, who is headed to Division II Franklin Pierce, was 6-3 with one save and a 1.07 ERA a year ago.
Del Signore will be at first base when he's not on the mound. He hit .384 with a team-high 21 RBIs last season. The other returning starters are catcher Colby Joncas (.367), second baseman Mike Ryan (.343), third baseman Jeff Kayo (.293), center fielder Zach Tavano (.286) and right fielder Brett Evangelista (.300). Evangelista led the team with 21 stolen bases last spring.
"We do have a lot coming back, and we played well last year," Demas said. "Experience is the strength of the team. We also have some young kids who are showing a lot of potential and they're learning from a great group of guys. We're going to be really competitive."
Portsmouth has won five of the last six Division II titles, but may not posses the dominant pitching it's had in recent years. Pitcher Rick Holt, who helped Portsmouth beat Goffstown in last year's Division II championship game, is now playing football at the University of New Hampshire.
Goffstown coach Adam Lawrence said Windham, which lost to Portsmouth in last year's semifinals, is the preseason favorite. Windham's Adam Dolan, a Division II All-State selection last year, will be among the top pitchers in the division this spring.
Goffstown junior Tanner Putnam will also be one of the best pitchers in Division II. Putnam pitched a complete game when Goffstown beat Sanborn of Kingston in last year's semifinals.
"Windham will be good because they were young last season," Lawrence said. "Portsmouth will be near the top because it's the Portsmouth program. I think Souhegan is another team that could be pretty good."
Souhegan of Amherst competed in Florida for four days (April 2-5) in preparation for the season.
Campbell of Litchfield and Monadnock Regional of Swanzey each return two all-state players from a year ago and figure to be the top teams in Division III.
Campbell will build around pitcher Connor Sahlin and shortstop Christian Bourgea. Sahlin was the Division III Player of the Year in 2013. Monadnock returns pitcher Ben Mallet and center fielder Cam Bath.
Bow, Stevens of Claremont and Pelham are among the other strong teams in the division.
Pittsfield looks like it will have a chance to repeat as the Division IV champion. The Panthers return their top three pitchers from a year ago: Kris Perkins (7-1, 0.79 ERA), Chris Farr (5-0, 1.97 ERA) and Jed Eastman (2-2, 2.33 ERA). Those three recorded eight shutouts last season.
"They're big strikeout pitchers," Pittsfield coach Rob Stockman said. "I really feel like I may have three of the top six pitchers in Division IV. It's a nice luxury to have."