Team of Distinction

2013 Girl’s Softball New York State Class A State Champions

Celebrating the 10-year anniversary, the 2023 Team of Distinction is the 2013 Hamburg Girls Softball Team. Winning the first ever Class A state championship in school history was not something that happened overnight, but two years in the making. Coming off their first ever trip to the state final four in 2012 that ended in a heartbreaking 2-1 semi-final loss to Jamesville-DeWitt the Bulldogs returned to the state final four with unfinished business. The sting of the disappointing loss sat with the returning players for 8 months.

When school resumed after Christmas break in January 2013, there was a renewed excitement, and an eagerness to avenge their only loss the previous season. No longer were they the hunters, they were the hunted and everyone was gunning to beat them. The team had to move up and play in Class AA for the regular season because of the school’s enrollment. They would have to play against perennial powerhouses such as Orchard Park, Lancaster, and defending Class AA state champion Clarence. The girls welcomed the challenge and believed that it was only going to make them better, more mentally tough, and ready for any obstacle that stood in their way of winning a state championship.

The season started out of the gate slowly and after the first six games the team was looking at a 3-3 record. For a team that did not lose a game the previous year, doubt was starting to creep in. After the back-to-back losses to Clarence, it was gut check time and the players and the coaches sat for a long time in the outfield and came to the conclusion that it was put up or shut up and that we were not going to squander the talent we had on this team. From that day on, the Bulldogs went on to win every game except one non-league contest against Section V – Mercy (Defeated by Hamburg later in the season in the Far West Regional game).

Hamburg had some tough competition to reach the state finals again. The team defeated West Seneca East 6 -1 in eight innings to win the Class A-1 Section crown and then moved on to play Starpoint for the overall Class A Sectional Championship. This was a hard-fought game with two very evenly matched teams. Hamburg struggled out of the gate as Starpoint gave Hamburg a dose of their own medicine by playing small-ball and bunting their way on base. After some player position adjustments, the team settled down and eventually went on to win 4-2.

The Far West Regional game was a rematch from an earlier non-league contest against Our Lady of Mercy (Section V). One inning. Five hits. Four runs. That’s what earned the Bulldogs the victory. Mercy took the lead in the first inning, but Hamburg scored four times in the third inning and blanked the Monarchs the rest of the way for a 4-1 victory in the Class A state softball tournament quarterfinals at SUNY Brockport. Pitcher Bridget Hogan limited Mercy to six hits and the girls strung together some key hits in a decisive third inning. Hogan started it with a single followed by Kailee Ramaeker’s reaching on an infield error. Rachel Watson and Sarah Mertowski each ripped run-scoring singles before Leah Jones drove home a pair of runs with a push bunt base hit that slid perfectly between the 1st and 2nd baseman.

From Lisa Palma-Lerche:

“As we made our way to Queensbury for championship weekend the coaches learned some valuable lessons from the previous year….try to eliminate ALL distractions….including cell phones. I remember walking the hotel hallways with 19 cell phones and chargers in my hand and plugging them into all the outlets in my hotel room. Players from other teams were in disbelief as I walked by and heard them say “I hope our coach doesn’t do that!” We woke up Saturday morning refreshed and ready to complete the mission we started on March 1st. Unfortunately, the start of the game was delayed by two hours because the fields were still wet from Friday’s heavy rains. When the fields dried and the girls took the field the Hamburg Bulldogs won the New York State softball Class A championship in a way no one could have imagined.

We beat Sayville, 5-3, in the finals, but it was the 1-0 win in eight innings over Tappan Zee in the semifinals that left many in the crowd at Adirondack Sports Complex in disbelief.

With two outs in the eighth, Maddy Tucker reached on a single to the outfield and Allison Salerno doubled to left. That set the stage for Hogan – With runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Tappan Zee was trying to intentionally walk Bridget Hogan to load the bases and set up a force out at any base. Instead, Tappan Zee’s pitcher let a pitch get a little too close to the strike zone and Hogan reached out and smoked the ball to right-center allowing Tucker to trot home.

You could tell the fielders weren’t exactly ready for a ball to get hit. It looked like she had never intentionally walked a batter. Bridget took it outside — it was great, it was clutch, and it was crazy.

Hamburg’s win over Sayville in the final also had its share of drama. Down 2-1 in the 5th inning, Eighth-grader Heather Haberman hit a two-run-homer over the fence to give Hamburg a 3-2 lead. The Bulldogs scored two more runs in the sixth inning to take the lead, 5-3. Sarah Mertowski reached on an error and after two outs, Tucker singled. Salerno then delivered with the game-winning RBI, and Hogan, who pitched a four-hitter with six strikeouts, then drove in the fifth run.

As I look back and reflect on this season, the first thing I think is not the wins and all the accolades that we received. It’s not the coming home to a police and fire truck escort or the parade the school and village threw. I think about all the girls on the team and the amazing relationships we all had with each other and still have today. It was such a special team, one that doesn’t come around too often. We were there for each other for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and that is why the “Chainlink” was such an important part of our team huddle before every game. Each of us was a link. Each of us had a role on this team. Some bigger than others but we succeeded as a team because we each accepted our role and did it to the best of our ability.  We Still Believe…… Hoo-Rah!”