Tonawanda News — The calendar has flipped to May, a time of year when Niagara County Community College baseball is beginning to define itself.
Coming off consecutive NJCAA Division III Baseball World Series appearances — including a heartbreaking 6-5 loss in 10 innings in the 2012 national championship game — the Thunderwolves are gearing up for another run.
Led by a pair of Division I Arkansas-Pine Bluff recruits in sophomore shortstop Chris Beer and freshman outfielder Russ McGibbon, NCCC is 27-13 overall and 20-4 in Region III with two regular season games remaining. They’ll be played as part of a home doubleheader today starting at 2 p.m. against the No. 3-ranked team in the nation, Onondaga Community College, who enter today’s game just one day after winning both games of a doubleheader against Broome Community College.
Then come playoffs, which the Thunderwolves are conversant with and, recently, even more successful in. NCCC’s quest for a third straight Region III title begins this Saturday and Sunday, when a best-of-three sub-regional series takes place.
En route to an improbable national runner-up finish in 2012, Niagara won seven of its final eight games just to claim the final regional playoff berth. The Thunderwolves would win regionals and last season, they captured a second straight regional championship and automatic NJCAA tournament bid. They marched into nationals on an eight-game winning streak and placed fifth.
There’s something about the final stretch of the season that raises the team’s play. But that’s not to cloud the good runs the Thunderwolves have constructed throughout whole campaigns the last few years.
“I think we’re going to be known as one of the powers in the region,” NCCC coach Matt Clingersmith said. “We’ve built and established that. We have that reputation and it’s been well deserved. The players follow and believe in our system.”