New Era Diamond Girls - Cotton 99s pose with their banner and trophies after winning the Aunt Rosie’s International Fastpitch Tournament on July 20. Contributed photo.
The first few swings that Heather Haberman made took the softball straight down the first base line in foul territory during an at bat against the West Seneca Sting a few weekends ago.
It was July 20, Haberman’s 15th birthday, and the New Era Diamond Girls catcher was just trying to get on base in the semifinals of the 14U Aunt Rosie’s International Fastpitch Tournament.
Once she straightened it out, Haberman sent the pitch right over the centerfield fence, traveling over 225-feet for a solo home run.
“Honestly, I was just trying to get on base and hit a single,” said Haberman. “So that was quite a surprise for me.”
Haberman’s homer was second on her list of instances that took place on her 15th birthday this summer. A few hours after, her New Era Diamond Girls Cotton 14U team won the championship game of the 14U Aunt Rosie’s tournament, defeating Amherst Lightning Stone, 10-4, in the finals, which took place at the Northtown Softball Complex.
The finals was played at 7:30 p.m., capping a long five-game day for the Diamond Girls.
“I think we played as hard as we could that day,” said Haberman. “I just think some things didn’t go our way, but then everything kind of happened at once.”
Haberman just finished her freshman year at Hamburg High School. She started at catcher, playing alongside her Hamburg classmates and Diamond Girls teammates, Maggie Vesneske and Jordan Stando, for the defending state champion.
Her birthday homer should come as no surprise for Haberman and her teammates, as the young catcher has built quite the resume for timely home runs this early in her career.
As an eighth grader, Haberman connected on a two-run homer in the state championship game with Hamburg. As a freshman this past spring, she mustered the Lady Bulldogs’ only run of a semifinal loss to Starpoint, sending a solo shot over the fence to keep her team in the contest early on.
But the homer Haberman hit at Aunt Rosie’s on her birthday was a little different. After the game, she was presented a trophy for hitting one over the fence.
“I saw it before when other people got it, so I kind of new about it, but I didn’t know that it was that tournament,” said Haberman. “So I pretty surprised.”
In the Aunt Rosie’s title game, DG found themselves down to Amherst early on because stringing some hits together and running away with the championship.
“We came back and started hitting really well and played together as a team,” Haberman said.
New Era did not have much time to celebrate as the girls went down to Maryland from July 22-27 to compete in the 14U Class A USSSA Fastpitch Worlds Series.
The Diamonds Girls placed second out of the 138 teams against stiff competition, with Haberman being selected as the tournament’s Defensive MVP. Her teammate, Karsen Cotton of Depew, was honored as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.
“I definitely think that was the best competition we’ve ever played in a tournament,” Haberman said.
The only team DG lost to at the USSSAs was the Pennsylvania Cyclones, falling 5-2 on the final day of the tournament before dropping The Wicked, 2-1, to get a rematch with the Cyclones in the title game.
“It was disappointing,” Haberman said about losing the first game to the Cyclones. “Obviously, we wanted to win so we could go straight to the championship game, but we knew that if we tried out hardest and stayed in the game that we could still win and move on to the championship. We were determined through the whole thing.”
However, the Cyclones would get the best of DG once again. New Era fell behind 5-0 before tying the game up, only to give up a late run and not being able to respond, falling 6-0 in the championship game of the World Series.
“We did super good that game,” said Haberman. “We tried our hardest. We did everything that we could and it just didn’t work out.”
The New Era Diamond Girls, said to be the best team in Western New York by an opposing local coach, have been making waves on diamonds all across the area with their high school programs, as well. Hannah Marlowe won a Far West Regional title and made it to states at Clarence. She met Alex Sheehy and Peyton Hillis of Orchard Park fell in the Class AA semifinals a few weeks earlier.
Erin Hufford, a Cheektowaga native, helped St. Mary’s reach the MMA finals while Ali Gandy made a trip to the Class AA quarterfinals at Lancaster.
Haberman, Vesneske and Stando saw their seasons end at Starpoint in the Class A semifinals while Cotton became the first freshman to be voted to the All-WNY first team after leading Depew to the Class B finals.
Amanda Stockman (St. Mary’s) helped DG at Aunt Rosie’s, too, while Ken Cotton, Dave Vesneske, Kevin Hufford and Missy Hufford coaches the team.