Ask any New Hampshire high school baseball coach to identify the team to beat in Division I this season and you’ll likely hear the same answer: Londonderry.
The Lancers have two of the best pitchers in the state, and returned six starting position players from a team that earned the No. 1 seed for last year’s Division I tournament.
“The bullseye is on Londonderry,” Alvirne coach Mike Lee said. “They’re definitely the team to chase. Head and shoulders above the rest.”
Of course coaches were saying the same thing about Londonderry at this time last year, and the Lancers failed to win the state championship. Exeter, the No. 11 seed, upset Londonderry 3-2 in the Division I title game.
The Lancers are scheduled to begin their 2014 season April 17 at Manchester Memorial.
“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’s no denying the talent on Londonderry’s roster. Despite losing staff ace Ryan Moloney, who’s now making significant contributions for the University of Massachusetts baseball team, the Lancers have two senior pitchers who will give them an advantage on the mound for most games: lefthander Rob Del Signore and righty Tom Corey.
Del Signore, who will play for Southern New Hampshire University next season, was 6-0 with two saves and a 0.81 ERA last season. Corey, who is headed to Franklin Pierce, was 6-3 with one save and a 1.07 ERA.
“We lost a big arm in Ryan Moloney, but we do have two pitchers who will give you a chance to be competitive every week,” Demas said. “We’re probably a little more concerned with the offense.”
Del Signore plays first base when he’s not on the mound, and hit .384 with a team-high 21 RBI 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.
Each of those six players is entering his third season on the varsity roster.
“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.”
It should be a focused team as well. The loss to Exeter in last year’s title game -- Londonderry beat Exeter 16-0 during the regular season -- likely means the Lancers won’t look past any opponent this season.
“If anything, while it hurt at that point, it was a very teachable moment,” Demas said. “We didn’t show up to play and look what happened.
“I think these guys expect to have a lot of success, but they should know they can’t just show up and win. They have to outwork everybody.”
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.