High School Softball: Hamburg rallies around Hogan for perfect regular season
Lisa Palma realizes exactly what she has in Bridget Hogan. It was getting the supporting cast to rally around the junior’s elite ability that could potentially separate Hamburg from the pack. The Bulldogs’ head coach has received that type of effort and commitment from this year’s group.
While Hogan may be the subject of conversations around Western New York high school softball circles — arguably not even enough of those conversations, it’s her teammates that have helped become the guiding force to an unblemished 14-0 mark heading into the team’s regular season finale at West Seneca West on Thursday (May 17).
“This team has shown extreme confidence,” Palma said of Hamburg, which clinched the division title outright with a 2-0 win over Williamsville East on Friday (May 11). The Bulldogs then finished a perfect ECIC II slate at 12-0 with a 10-2 win over Iroquois on May 14.
“Obviously, we have a great pitcher in Bridget and everyone now has so much confidence behind her,” she added. “Last year, we didn’t have a lot of bat support. She had to deliver on the mound and be on at the plate. But this year, we’ve talked about needing110 percent from everyone on this team.”
Anyone who caught Hamburg in the second half of last season could see this was probably coming. After starting 0-5 during a rain drenched April last season, the Bulldogs finished off the regular season posting seven consecutive wins in ECIC I — playing up a division in 2011.
They reached the Class A-1 semifinals and actually led for much of that game until some of the youthful mistakes and lack of confidence reared its ugly head in an error-filled loss to Williamsville East. It was a huge learning experience for Hamburg heading into this season.
“It kind of came together at the end of last season but it wound up being a little too late,” said senior outfielder Melissa Roseman, who captains the team, along with Hogan, two of six starters returning from last season. “But the change in attitude is definitely carrying through into this season.”
Not once this year has Hamburg experienced a game-changing meltdown. In fact, the Bulldogs have trailed only once and that turned into an 11-4 win over Starpoint on May 4.
“Our intensity has changed,” said Hogan, a dominant force on the mound and the team’s No. 3 hitter in the order. “We’ve come together and we’re able to keep our heads in the game. We don’t let little things rattle us.”
As to be expected with a team that has gone this long unbeaten, Hamburg has had its share of close games, especially when division mates have gotten a second chance on the schedule. The Bulldogs have pulled out three one-run games, a pair of 2-1 wins against Iroquois and West Seneca East and a 3-2 11-inning victory over Williamsville East.
While allowing only 12 runs in 14 games on the strength of Hogan’s arm and consistent team defensive effort, Hamburg has found different ways to win ball games, most of which have come due to timely hits from players throughout the lineup. Palma also likes the way her players have given up their bodies and gone all out to make plays.
“Supporting Bridget has been the main goal this year and I think that’s been evident by us pulling out wins in the sixth inning, winning the close games or even coming back to pull out the wins,” Palma said. “Everyone has confidence in each other. In every game, someone different seems to step up.”
Junior shortstop Heather Tigue has continued to be a force at bat, hitting in the clean-up spot, along with a steady fielder. Palma credited junior catcher Sarah Mertowski for stepping up this season, calling effective games from behind the plate while at bat, being able to slap hit and bunt. She also came through with a sacrifice fly for the game-winning run in that win over West Seneca East.
Offensively, there have been a number of heroes at different times. The Medina sisters, Madeline, a first baseman, and Megan, at second, have both come through with game-winning hits this season. Roseman tripled to start off a three-run sixth inning in Hamburg’s 3-0 victory over Williamsville South on May 10. Hogan doubled to score her for the game-winning run.
Junior Kailee Ramaekers has homered twice this season at the plate. The outfielder also has pitched in several games this season and helped contribute to the incredibly low team ERA. Sophomore Allison Salerno has ably stepped in at third, one of the team’s few vacancies from last year. She went 3 for 4 in the team’s ECIC II finale.
Palma realizes her team is no longer fooling anyone. With a pair of wins over the likes of Williamsville South and East, two of the more sound WNY teams in all aspects of the game, Hamburg has become the team to beat in the upcoming sectional competition and will likely be a top seed in Class A-1.
“It’s about making the right plays at the right time,” Roseman said. “You always have to be anticipating and we have to be ready for anything that teams are throwing at us. We also need to keep the bats moving.”
If this past month has been any indication of what they’ll see in the playoffs, the Bulldogs will be in for a tightly-contested battle for a potential Class A crown.
“We know we can’t let down,” Hogan said. “We usually start slow but then we start to get it. We just have to start getting it a little quicker.”
Remembering the lessons of a season ago could be what puts Hamburg over that threshold.
“We’d obviously like to win the whole thing but it’s one game at a time,” Roseman said. “We haven’t won anything yet. We have to keep our heads focused. We’re ready and excited.”
Raiders with plenty of positives from busy stretch
Eden has been consumed with games of late. Because of make-up contests and taking part in the 10th annual Immaculata Tournament over the weekend at the Town of Hamburg Recreation Center, the Raiders have played in nine games in just six days But they are certainly not complaining about the results.
The Raiders have strung together five straight wins, including two doubleheader sweeps, in ECIC IV play and went 2-2 and finished as Bronze Division finalists against some stiff competition in the tournament.
In its most recent action, on Monday (May 14) at Holland, Eden won a pair of five inning games, 19-1 and 12 -2. Senior Alexis Nasca hit two home runs, tripled, scored five times and knocked in six runs, while striking out five of the 10 batters she faced on the mound in the two games. Freshman Carly Nasca continued where her sister left off, striking out four. Jenna Phillips was 3 for 3 with three runs and two RBI, while Amanda Yuhas went 3 for 4 and called a solid game behind the plate in the opener. In the second game, Bri Boncal and eighth grader Jill Murray combined for five strikeouts in pitching a three-hitter.
In finishing third out of eight ECIC teams participating in the Immaculata Tournament, Eden defeated Lake Shore 7-3 and Mt. St. Mary’s 6-3 and fell to Mt. Mercy 5-3 before losing 12-1 to Nichols in the Bronze final.
Eden head coach Marisa Fallacaro said her team was led by the defensive efforts of her infield, featuring Jenna Phillips at short, Tori Schriener at third, Gabbie Torres at second, Boncal and Alexis Nasca at first and Yuhas catching. Of note, Phillips showed off her range with some impressive plays and threw out 13 batters over the weekend. Boncal and Alexis Nasca, who also split time on the mound, earned all-tournament team honors.
“It was great to go against some different schools and some different pitchers, and I was proud of the way my team played,” Fallacaro said. “In our two losses, we faced some experienced Monsignor Martin teams. Mercy has a great pitcher and Nichols could hit. In a few games, we struggled at the plate but were able to string together some nice at bats to get some runs in.”
The Raiders will be unable to win a third straight regular season division title. With one game remaining in its division slate, Eden, now 9-2 and second in ECIC IV, was unable to catch 11-1 Cleveland Hill. Eden looked to avenge an earlier-season loss to Lackawanna on May 15 in a game that will have seeding implications in Class B-1 for the upcoming sectional tournament.
Eagles win third straight, can tie for division title
North Collins bounced back from only its second division loss, 7-4 at the hands of Ripley on May 8, to win its last three CCAA IV games. To begin the final week of the regular season, the Eagles handled Sherman 18-9 on May 14. They had also beaten Brocton 5-4 on May 11 and Panama 12-3 two days prior.
North Collins entered its final three games, one in division, with an 11-4 overall mark and 9-2 in division play. With a win at West Valley on May 16, North Collins would have secured at least a tie for the division title.
In defeating Sherman, senior Hannah Renaldo pitched the complete game and finished 3 for 6 with five RBI. Also starring on offense in the win, Jessica Lawton was 5 for 6, adding four runs scored and five RBI, Rachel Gates was 4 for 6 with four RBI and Kayla Kron finished 4 for 5 with four runs scored. Christine Blidy added three hits, including two triples, and four runs scored, and Kylie Mathis and Ashley Trainor each contributed two hits, one run and a RBI.
The Eagles eked by Brocton behind Lawton’s complete-game, seven-hit effort, which included striking out eight and walking two. At the plate, she was 3 for 4 with a hone run and two RBI. Also in the win, Kron was 2 for 3 with two RBI and a run scored, while Blidy added two hits.
After that loss to Ripley, the Eagles responded at Panama, led by Lawton scattering nine hits in a complete-game effort on the mound. She struck out five, walked two and allowed three runs, while at the plate, notched two hits, a pair of runs and three RBI. Mathis finished 4 for 4 with three RBI and Kron was 3 for 4, including a double, with two runs scored and a pair of RBI. Nicole Torrey and Rachel Gates each had two hits in the game.
Section VI tourney slate
The Section VI Tournament seeding meeting was slated for Thursday (May 17) with pre-quarterfinal action for Class A and B scheduled for the next day (May 18) and Class AA, C and D to begin on Tuesday (May 22).