As a freshman, Bridget Hogan led Niagara as the on All-MAAC all-star for her performance at the plate and in the infield during the 2014 season. Photo courtesy of Niagara University.
When Bridget Hogan was in high school looking for a place to play college softball, she thought that school was somewhere down south, hundreds of miles away.
Little did she know, at the time, that the perfect place for her was Niagara University, not even 40 miles from where she played varsity softball at Hamburg. And it almost had everything to do with her mother, Beverly, and father, Jim.
“I was looking to go down south to play softball, and then I changed my mind last minute for that particular reason,” said Bridget, who finished her freshman season at Niagara this past fall. “My parents didn’t want me to stay, but I knew I couldn’t last without them.
“My No. 1 fan is my mom and I definitely need my parents to be there with me through it all. If I didn’t see them in the stands I’d freak out. It just gives me a sense of confidence to look in the stands and know they’re there.”
Beverly and Jim were there every step of the way during Bridget’s first year of college softball. They watched their daughter accomplish feat after feat on her way to garnering All-MAAC second team honors in 2014.
Bridget was the only Purple Eagle to be selected to an All-MAAC softball team this spring. And she could not have done it without her two biggest fans supporting her every single game.
“I think there were 48 games that we had and they were at every single one,” Bridget said. “That’s the major reason why I wanted to go to Niagara, because I’m such a family person that I needed them or I would be a mess probably.”
Bridget Hogan was a mainstay in Larry Puzan’s starting lineup since day one. The third baseman started all 48 games for the Purple Eagles and ranked first in most offensive categories.
“She’s got a good poker face for a young freshman coming in,” said Puzan, NU’s head softball coach. “She’s a quiet kid but she’s very business-like and a very hard worker. She just came in willing to learn. You can tell she came in playing for playing time and getting into the starting lineup, even as a freshman.”
Hogan’s 20 RBIs, nine doubles, .313 batting average, .435 slugging percentage, .369 on-base percentage and 64 total bases were all first on the team. Her 71 assists were tops on Niagara while she tied for the high in home runs with three.
She also was second on the team with 46 hits and 11 walks.
“She definitely progressed from where she was at the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year she was much more patient at the plate,” Puzan said. “She waited for the pitcher to make a mistake instead of chasing pitches out of the zone.”
Hogan said that she became comfortable with Division I softball after February’s Phoenix Opening Tournament in Elon, North Carolina. The Purple Eagles played four games in the North Carolina tourney, where Hogan did enough damage in Elon to garner Rookie of the Week honors for the first week of the season, batting .357 with five RBIs, five hits, two doubles and a homer. She even added a stolen base.
The fourth and final game of the tournament was when Hogan hit the scene. Down 2-0 to Saint Joseph’s (PA) in the top of the sixth inning, Hogan sent a two-run homer over the left centerfield fence to take the game into extra innings.
Her RBI single in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner for the Eagles, which went on to win the ballgame, 5-2, for the team’s first win of the spring season.
“I wasn’t doing very well in the first three games, so it was my first big hit as a freshman,” said Hogan, who was a designated hitter at the time.
Just over a week later was when Niagara took a five-day trip to Winter Haven, Florida for the Rebel Spring Games.
The Purple Eagles played eight games in that tournament, enough for Puzan to solidify Hogan in the heart of his lineup and start her at third base for the remainder of the season.
“By the time we were done with our Florida trip she pretty much solidified herself, especially in the batting lineup, as a player we needed to have in the lineup to help us,” Puzan said. “She had her struggles as any freshman would to adjust to Division I pitching, but she also had quite a few successes along the way.”
A two-time Pitcher of the Year at Hamburg, Hogan was too talented of an infielder to stay in the dugout all year with three pitchers returning to the roster, including Jennifer Sansano, who became the first NU player to be honored as the MAAC Pitcher of the Year in 2013.
“Pitching-wise, Bridget’s going to be a really good pitcher,” said Puzan. “We had two senior pitchers this year, so it wasn’t a pressing need to have her step in and be a dominant pitcher at this time.”
Hogan made 10 appearances on the mound at Niagara as a freshman. She recorded 17 strikeouts in 42.2 innings and hopes to continue the success that Sansano and Kim Bryson were able bring the program during their time in purple.
“I’m looking forward to pitching more and fill Jen Sansano’s shoes. I’m just trying to follow in her footsteps,” she said.
Thanks to the seniors, sophomores such as Sydney Smyers and, of course, her parents, Hogan’s transition from high school to college softball was not as stressful as she imagined when she first stepped foot on campus last August.
Realizing that at one point in her life she actually wanted to study far from home is staggering for Hogan to even think about nowadays, especially when she’s able to catch that familiar face at her home games every time she hit the field.
“My dad won’t stand near anyone. He’ll stand in left field and I’ll always look back and he’ll give me a nod,” she said.
“It’s just good to have him around all the time. It’s just always good to be able to come home when I’m overwhelmed at school. It was just a good decision in the end.”