Matt Clingersmith has built the Niagara County Community College baseball program into a regional contender. Saturday, though, his team showed it wasn’t quite ready to step up to the national level.

The Trailblazers, ranked No. 8 in the latest national Division III poll, dropped a pair of games — 2-1 and 8-2 — to sixth-ranked Herkimer County Community College.

“This was a wake-up call for us,” said Clingersmith, a Niagara Falls native. “Maybe we needed that. This shows we need to come to play every game, not just when we feel like it.”

In the opener, Matt Whidden struck out nine in a complete game effort but got little offensive support. On three occasions, NCCC (25-5 overall) left multiple runners on base.

“We couldn’t get that key hit to break through,” Clingersmith said. “The bats are a little cold right now.”

In the second contest, the Trailblazers’ defense failed them. NCCC starter Chris Carden (Niagara-Wheatfield) went five innings, allowing eight runs — only two of which were earned. Dave Haseley (Niagara-Wheatfield) finished the game for the Blazers with a pair of scoreless innings, while Brett Backes (Newfane) and Evan Baglieri each had an RBI.

“They didn’t really beat us, we beat ourselves,” Clingersmith said. “Defensively, we looked a little shell-shocked out there.”

NCCC, which plays a double dip against the visiting Toronto Mets at 1 p.m. today, is still unbeaten in conference play and has its eye on a rematch with Herkimer in the Region III tournament next month.

“I really think we’re better than them and I think we’ll show it at the end of the year,” Clingersmith said.

• The NCCC softball team remained winless after dropping a Western New York Athletic Conference doubleheader to visiting Erie Community College on Saturday.

In the opener, which the Lady Trailblazers (0-10 overall, 0-10 WNYAC) lost 15-4, Brittany Dibble (Niagara-Wheatfield), Michelle Schwegler (North Tonawanda), Lindsay Pierce (North Tonawanda) and Bev Nembhard each had two hits.

In game two, a 14-3 loss, Nembhard had three hits and Amanda Herrmann (North Tonawanda) added two hits, including an RBI triple.

“They’re giving 100 percent and trying really hard, but right now we’re out-manned,” said coach Bill Clingersmith, a Niagara Falls resident. “We don’t have the players right now to match up with the other teams. Better days are coming, though.”

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.