After reaching the NJCAA Division III national championship in May, Niagara County Community College will enter as the top-ranked baseball team in the nation.
The NJCAA Baseball Coaches Association ranked the Thunderwolves No. 1 in the preseason poll Wednesday. They went 34-11 last season before falling to Tyler Junior College (TX) 5-4 in the national championship. It was the program’s first appearance in the World Series since 2017 and sixth overall.
Five of NCCC’s World Series opponents are also ranked in the top 10. NCCC beat No. 2 Rowan Gloucester (NJ), No. 3 Oakton (IL) and No. 8 Owens (OH) in last year's tournament, while No. 6 St. Cloud Tech (MN) knocked off the Thunderwolves in their opening game.
Herkimer, which NCCC beat in the Region III championship, will start the season ranked fifth.
The Thunderwolves must replace NJCAA Division III pitcher of the year Ryan Peterson and All-American outfielder Scottie O’Bryan. Both players are now on NCAA Division I rosters, as Peterson — an Orchard Park native — is now at George Mason University and O’Bryan is now at Virginia Commonwealth University.
NCCC is slated to open the season with a doubleheader against West Virginia Potomac State on March 18 in Keyser, West Virginia.