Jun. 2—There’s nothing more dangerous than a Thunderwolf with its back against the wall.
Niagara County Community College baseball won two more games elimination Tuesday in the NJCAA Division III World Series, earning a date in the national championship against Tyler (Texas), the same program that beat the Thunderwolves in the 2017 national championship.
NCCC (34-10), the No. 4 seed, opened Tuesday with a 7-6 win over No. 3 Oakton. Zach Evans gave the T-wolves an early lead, scoring on an error in the second inning. Chris Tani led off the third with a triple, then scored on another triple from Cal Brazier. Cole Laskowski knocked Brazier in with a single, advanced to third on an Evans single and scored on a Howard Stuckey sacrifice fly, opening a 4-0 lead.
Oakton (32-21) responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, but Tani plated Scottie O’Bryan with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth to push NCCC’s lead to 5-2. Oakton pulled ahead with a four-run fourth, but the Thunderwolves tacked on two more runs courtesy a Joey Battaglia double in the fifth off reliever Aaron Vertuno (1-1).
NCCC ace Ryan Peterson (10-1), knocked around in Saturday’s tournament-opening loss to No. 5 St. Cloud Tech, shut the door from there, allowing just three hits over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
The win set up a night game with top-seeded RCSJ Gloucester, and the T-wolves’ bats stayed hot in a 10-3 win. O’Bryan opened the scoring in the first, coming home in an error on a pickoff attempt that sent Tani to from first to third. Tani followed him home on a Brazier single.
Tani knocked in a third run in the second, scoring Lance Baldensperger on a sacrifice fly. Gloucester (36-6-2) got a pair in the top of the third on a two-run double, then tied things in the fifth by scoring a run on a double-play.
NCCC turned up the clutch meter in the fifth, scoring five runs with two outs and chasing starter Rich Racobaldo (6-1). Evans reached on a fielder’s choice, Stuckey singled and Baldensperger scored both with a triple. Matt Ferris walked to turn the lineup over, and O’Bryan knocked Baldensperger in with a single. Gloucester pitcher Joe Marino then tossed a pair of wild pitches, plating Ferris and then O’Bryan.
That was more than enough for the NCCC pitching staff. Niagara Wheatfield product James Filippelli got the start, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. Joey Kench (1-0) shined in relief, allowing just one hit and one walk in 4 1/3 innings.
NCCC will have to beat Tyler (39-16) twice for the title, as the No. 2 seed is undefeated in the double-loss elimination tournament. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 tonight, and should the Thunderwolves win, Game 2 will be played at the same time Thursday.