Wednesday November 28, 2012 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Bridget Hogan signs her National Letter of Intent to Niagara University, while surrounded by her mother, Bev, and father, Jim, who are seated, and standing from left, Hamburg assistant coach David Vesneske, Hamburg head coach Lisa Palma, high school principal Michael Gallagher and athletics director Greg Witman. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)
It did not go over well when Bridget Hogan’s mother, Bev, wound up having a trip planned for the same day the Hamburg junior was to pitch in a sectional semifinal last spring.
Bridget’s parents, including her father, Jim, have been a fixture at her games during high school and since she began playing travel at the age of 8, so the thought of missing a game, especially with Hamburg on the cusp of advancing to a Class A final, did not sit well with both mother and daughter.
So, Bev put off her flight, which was to leave that day for Las Vegas, and as usual was there for her daughter as she played in one of the biggest games of her career, to that point.
Bridget made it worthwhile, throwing a shutout and extending the season for what would become the longest run into the playoffs for any Hamburg softball team.
“My mom actually wasn’t going to come to one of my playoff games last year and it didn’t turn out too good,” Hogan said. “She had to change her flight.”
So, it was no surprise Bridget decided to stay home when deciding on where to play in college. This way, her mother and a close-knit family in the Western New York area would continue not to miss any big games.
Hogan signed with Niagara University on Wednesday (Nov. 14) on National Letter of Intent Signing Day in the library of Hamburg High School. She received a full scholarship to attend Niagara.
The location was a very important part of the decision for Hogan. Although she has some family down south and looked into the possibility of going to school down there, being close to home was what she called “a necessity.”
“Family is a huge part of my life,” said Hogan. “I did think about going south but I changed my mind. I went for a visit at Niagara and loved the team, loved the coach, loved everything about it. It just felt right.”
Hogan first spoke with Niagara over the summer after a tremendous junior season, in which she led Hamburg to a state final after the program won its first Section VI title. She hit clean-up for Hamburg and pitched to an incredible .024 earned run average and struck out the first 52 of 72 batters she faced last year.
In the Far West Regional game, Hogan knocked in both two of Hamburg’s runs and on the mound, was virtually unhittable until late in the game. The Bulldogs held off Pitt-Sutherland in a one-run game on a relay from the right fielder to the shortstop, who then throw out a runner at third for the game’s final out.
“It was an amazing run last year. We hope to do the same this year but obviously get into that (state final) game and win it,” said Hogan, who’s also been a part of a Section VI title-winning team as a staring defender for the Hamburg field hockey team last year. “I may have done it with my hitting and pitching but that last play of the (Far West) game was not me at all. It was our right fielder, shortstop and third baseman that ended that game and won it for us.”
Bridget Hogan puts the ink to the letter of intent which commits her to play softball at Niagara University. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)
Hamburg head coach Lisa Palma credits Hogan with helping put Hamburg softball on the map at a school most known for its lacrosse. Palma said she has gotten offers to play teams from throughout New York and the Eastern U.S. region thanks in large part to Hogan.
“She’s such a big part of this program and helped build it,” said Palma of Hogan, who has been the team’s starter since her freshman season. “People rally around her. Her teammates that came today, support her and that’s an awesome testament to her and her friends for them to be part of her life.”
Hogan’s arrival in the program began shortly after Palma took over the varsity. Palma said she feels blessed to have been able to coach Hogan and get to know her parents who are dedicated to looking out for their daughter.
She noted that less than one percent of all high school athletes will earn a scholarship to a Division I school, which makes this signing seem that much more special.
“For her to come through when I’m blessed to be a coach at this level is very rare,” Palma said. “I was able to be part of it when I used to coach lacrosse with a different athlete and I never thought I would see another athlete like that and then here comes Bridget.”
Hogan remembers at the age of 10, her pitching coach, who had played at Canisius, telling her she could play one day at the collegiate level. Since then, several different coaches told her the same – she had the power to make it big.
During last year’s run, Hogan not only received media attention but also looks from coaches throughout the college ranks. Surprisingly, though, when looking into the possibility of playing high level softball down south, Hogan was met with the stigma that players from New York and the northern Far East could not play softball at the same level of homegrown southern players. She’s ready to prove that wrong playing at Niagara.
“That was one of the major things – obviously when your school makes it to states, they’re going to look at you,” said Hogan, who also plays travel for a nationally competitive Team Mizuno squad. “Travel is also a huge part of scouting.”
Just as important as ability, Hogan credited staying mentally strong, especially as a pitcher, for her success.
“You just have to have the mindset of a pitcher,” she said. “You can’t break down; you’ve got to keep a straight face. If someone hits a home run off you, you have to come right back and get them out next time.”
Palma also admires not only the athlete, but the student and person Hogan has become. She noted that Hogan is very mature and quite well spoken. Once on the field, there are not many other players at this level more driven to succeed.
“She is so determined and dedicated,” Palma added of Hogan. “She’s a consummate leader and will do everything in her power to win. She does not like to lose. She will make her team better and drive everyone to give 100 percent.”
Palma couldn’t help but be excited that Hogan will also be attending her alma mater, where she also played a Division I sport in the spring — ironically, though she now coaches softball, back then it was for lacrosse.
“When she told me she was looking at Niagara, I was like, ‘really’ and ‘whew.’ I’m so excited to have her go there and I know exactly what she’s going for — the camaraderie. I know exactly what the university is like and she’s going to be an incredible fit,” Palma said. “I think Niagara is making a big commitment and Bridget is going to excel at it and make Niagara that much better. I can’t wait to go see her games. I’ll be right there watching with her mom and dad.”
Along with family and friends, Hogan’s past travel league coaches, who also had a big hand in her success, were invited to the signing as well. She had five of those travel team coaches in attendance, which translates into not only a lot of support, but also that she has played for many different teams as part of the path to this point.
“I think that every team that I’ve been on, only good has come out of it,” Hogan said. “I have met so many new people and I love them all. I didn’t have one bad year. I couldn’t have done it without their support.”