LONDONDERRY – Owen MacDonnell was the difference-maker on Saturday afternoon.
The Londonderry High School sophomore crushed the game-winning RBI single to center with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning to lift the Lancers to a thrilling 10-9 win over Winnacunnet of Hampton.
The Lancers overcame a 6-1 deficit during a 3½-hour afternoon of baseball.
MacDonnell was the complete package, finishing 4-for-6 with three singles and a double as the Lancers remain undefeated with a 3-0 record.
“I like the resiliency of the team,” Lancers coach Brent Demas said. “In the past few years, a Londonderry team would have crumbled or gone down. To be able to pull out a win like this, you cannot coach that, it is a testament to these kids.
“Owen pitched on Friday and threw 71 pitches and he was not sure if he was going to be able to play today. I said, ‘We have a small roster and you are playing first, can you give it a shot?’ And he said, ‘Yes, coach,’ and I am really glad he said, ‘yes.”
In the bottom of the 12th, Zack Luongo led off by reaching on an error by the first baseman and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. A single to short by Jack Dingman advanced Luongo to third before MacDonnell drove the ball up the middle, allowing Dingman to trot across home plate with the game-winning run.
Winnacunnet (0-2) jumped out to the early lead with a six-run fourth, as they took a 6-1 lead. The rally was highlighted by two-run doubles by Frank Chase and Drew Wyman.
A two-run triple to center by Brandon Fish in the bottom half of the fourth brought the Lancers to within 6-3 before Fish scored on an RBI single to right-center by Reece Manor. Then a two-out, two-run double by Luongo made it a one-run game, 6-5.
Londonderry claimed an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the fifth on a three-run single by Manor to right after Winnacunnet had made a pair of throwing errors.
It would have been easy for the Warriors to roll over, but Winnacunnet fired right back with a two-run sixth, with Jake Bullard knotting the game at 8-8, scoring from third on a wild pitch.
During the bottom of the seventh, Londonderry had a great chance to end the game with a runner on third and no outs, but Warriors coach Aaron Abood elected to play with five infielders and two outfielders. The plan worked as relief pitcher Brady Annis struck out three straight batters to get out of the jam.
“We got out of two or three jams with a runner on third and that was the winning run on third,” Abood said. “I pulled that fifth guy into the infield and made them hit the ball into the outfield and see what happens. We came through in those big spots, but you cannot keep doing that and expect to get out of it. Eventually they are going to get you.”
In the top half of the 11th, Bullard recorded a one-out double to the gap in left-center, then scored after stealing third and scoring on an infield error, putting the visitors in front, 9-8.
Fish refused to allow his team to wilt as he connected on a one-out, RBI single down the right-field line in the bottom of the 11th, scoring Nolan Lincoln with the game-tying run.
In the bottom of the 11th, Londonderry had the game-winning run thrown out at the plate and Winnacunnet saw the go-ahead run get gunned out at home in the top of the 12th, setting the stage for MacDonnell’s heroics.
“I asked Coach Abood if any of us want to win this game,” Demas said. “This game had a little bit of everything. Coach Abood has really turned Winnacunnet around. They are a young team and they are going to be legitimate for years to come.”