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!”
Bill Malican was a Special Education teacher at Hamburg High School for more than 30 years and a coach for 48 years! Malican served as Head Coach for the modified swim team (15 years), Assistant Coach for the Girls Varsity Swim Team (4 years), 3 of which are already on the Wall of Fame, Head Coach for the Girls Varsity Cross Country Team (32 years), Head Coach for the Boys/Girls Indoor Track Teams (34 years), and Head Coach for the Girls Varsity Track Team (45 years), after starting the Girls Track program at Hamburg in 1976.
Under Coach Malican’s leadership, the Girls Track Teams were Divisional Champions 17 times, the Boys and Girls Indoor Track Teams were Sectional Champions 6 times, the Cross Country Team was Class B1 Champion, there were more than 22 Cross Country ECIC All-Stars during his coaching career, and 18 State Meet competitors. Bill coached 30+ State Meet medal winners and 3 State Meet champions during his career.
Bill was also known for his leadership in the Western New York area, serving as the Director for 25 ECIC Championship Meets beginning in 1990, 17 of them held at Hamburg. He also hosted and directed six Section VI Championship Meets, events that drew athletes, coaches and track officials from the entire Section VI territory of Western New York. Bill was named Track and Field Coach of the Year 5 times.
Bill also hosted and ran the Williams Rodiek Relays for 38 of the 52 years the relays have been in existence. Considered the “oldest invitational in Western New York,” there is strong consensus among area coaches that that was the best locally contested meet.
Malican was well-respected among his peers. Wall of Fame honoree and fellow coach, Wayne Rose said, “I have witnessed the spirit and compassion of Coach Malican. It is evident that two of his greatest qualities are the love and passion for coaching young men and women … [and] their achievements are the result of his dedication, concern and caring for them, each an individual in the own special way.”
According to Malican, “The most important things for me were the weddings, funerals, next generation and the common bonds my kids developed. I have been blessed to have this opportunity to teach and coach for 48 years. It has been a great pleasure to coach in Hamburg. It has been an honor.”
While individually the Draudt Brothers – James, Class of ‘72, Thomas, Class of ’74 and Gregg, Class of ’77 were accomplished athletes in their own right, they also represented a family dynasty of academic excellence and athleticism, all three playing at different times for Hamburg soccer teams that won 5 championships in 7 years.
Jim Draudt graduated from Hamburg High School in 1972 with both academic and athletic honors. He enjoyed many sports growing up – little league baseball, football, skiing/ski racing, basketball, track and tennis. He began playing soccer as a freshman and later led the HHS Varsity as co-captain, winning the New York State Section VI Class B Championships. Jim received ECIC soccer honors in 1970 and 1971, and New York State Regional All-American honors in 1971. Jim also played varsity tennis for Hamburg High in his freshman through junior years. He was recruited to play soccer at Division I programs for Dartmouth College and the U.S. Naval Academy. He enrolled at Dartmouth, graduating in 1976 with distinction, in Geology. Some of Jim’s fondest memories of his days at Hamburg include winning the State Section VI Class B Championship, being awarded the NYS Regional All-American honors and circling the Hamburg High School track with the entire team, interrupting a football game, carrying the Section VI trophy with co-captain Ryan Sullivan.
Jim went on to earn a law degree in environmental and natural resources and practiced law in Portland Oregon for over 40 years. He married Ann Witsil in 1976 after meeting in college. They enjoy outdoor activities, and currently divide their time between their home in Portland and a small ranch in Bend Oregon. They have two daughters, Alida and Claire, both of whom live in the Portland area.
Thomas Draudt served as co-captain of Hamburg’s Varsity Soccer Team and was named League All-Star in 1973. The team clinched the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division II title that year with a 2-0 victory at West Seneca West on goals by Tom Draudt and Dan Bilka. Tom went on to play NCAA Division III soccer at Fredonia State College, where he was named Captain in 1975. Tom later transferred to Division I University of Massachusetts Amherst where he played from 1977-1979.
Tom is an Emmy Award-winning Producer and three-time Emmy Nominated Director with 40 years’ experience. He has been a documentary filmmaker and television producer/director, camera owner/operation for This Old House and on the DIY network among others, and lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.
All three brothers played varsity tennis and Jim played basketball. Tom and Gregg also played club hockey. The brothers Draudt are the children of Philip Draudt, who was a member and President of the HHS School Board and also a member for over 40 years and twice Chief of the Hamburg Fire Department, and Ruth Draudt, who was a Hamburg Village Trustee.
Gregg Draudt graduated from Hamburg in 1977 and was the last of Ruth and Phil Draudt’s three sons to become a varsity soccer Co-Captain. His exceptional height of 6’5” made him an imposing force both in the air and on the ground, making it challenging for opponents to get past him. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Gregg received numerous league honors, including being named an ECIC All Star in 1976 and earning a spot on the All-WNY Under 19 Select Team. His sophomore year he was already playing varsity, on a team that was inducted onto the Wall of Fame in 2022. Gregg’s high school years were not limited to soccer alone, He also played on the varsity tennis and varsity hockey teams. Some of Gregg’s fondest memories at Hamburg include being a part of the ’74 Championship Soccer Team, as well as the ’74 football team that also achieved Championship status.
Gregg played NCAA Division I soccer at the University of Massachusetts, Amhert (UMass), where he played center and outside defense, as well as midfield. He remained passionate about the sport, actively participating in various competitive soccer leagues in the greater Boston Massachusetts area into his early 50’s. Gregg earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and became a successful product designer, with more than 50 patents for his innovative designs and inventions over the years. He lives in Stow, Massachusetts, with his wife Anne, an architect. They have two sons, Nathan and James.
“The memories of camaraderie with my teammates, the support from my parents, friends and cheerleaders cheering us on – those feelings are etched in my heart forever,” said Draudt. “The significance of sports, particularly soccer, at Hamburg High School cannot be overstated. They [sports] played a crucial role in shaping my personal growth and boosting my self-confidence as I transitioned into adulthood.
Born and raised in Biloxi, Mississippi — the hotbed of lacrosse — for many of her early years, Taylor Wolf found herself feeling very comfortable in any sports arena. As a youth softball, basketball, lacrosse and soccer player, Taylor took her love of the game seriously as she grew. After relocating to the Hamburg area as an eight-year-old, Taylor found sports as a natural way to adapt to the change in environment. Throughout high school, Taylor participated in both Varsity Basketball and Lacrosse. As a senior, she was appointed to 2013 US Lacrosse First Team All-American, First Team ALL WNY, and First Team All Division for her standout lacrosse performance. Throughout the season, she netted 76 goals (129 career), 47 assists (79 career), 18 caused turnovers (35 career) 18 ground balls (49 career), 19 draw wins (53 careers) and 3 interceptions (6 career). Her season of athletic accolades was capped with a Section IV Championship where Taylor helped drive the team to victory with 4 goals.
Taylor then committed to Niagara University’s Division 1 program to continue her career as an Attacker with a secondary focus on Nursing. She was named to the 2014 MAAC All-Rookie Team after starting all 16 games as a freshman. She was also honored with MAAC Rookie of the Week and scored a hat-trick against Robert Morris. Her success in athletics continued into her sophomore year where she made the 2015 MAAC All-Academic Team and played in all 18 games. She was second on the team in goals and had a single game high of 6 goals against Manhattan. As a junior, Taylor continued to excel on the lacrosse field and would later walk on to the D1 Women’s Basketball Team for one season.
After graduation, Taylor employed her critical thinking skills in a new way and became an Emergency Room Nurse. Currently, she resides in Colden, NY with her son, Bennett (3yo), and daughter, Charlie (1yo) and wife, Sarah, whom she met in her time at Niagara University. These days, she enjoys watching her son collect sticks at soccer practice and her daughter learn to walk, lacrosse stick in hand. Watch out, Hamburg athletics! More Wolfs to come!
Bridget Hogan grew up in Boston, New York, alongside her parents, Jim and Beverly, and her older brother, Sam. Bridget’s passion for softball started at a young age dedicating much of her younger life to being on the diamond. She strived to be the best on the pitcher’s mound, in the batter’s box, and on the field. Her competitive nature and hard work paid off as she achieved impressive records and honors both in pitching and hitting over the course of her Hamburg varsity softball career from 2010 to 2013. However, it wasn’t the records she broke or honors she received that stand out the most. It was the history she and her team made in 2013 for Hamburg softball that lives on today.
In 2012 with Bridget at the helm as their captain and ace pitcher, Hamburg softball made their first appearance in the Class A State Championship. They played their hearts out but unfortunately lost in the semi-final game. The following year in 2013, the team’s motto was “We Still Believe” which was reinforced by Bridget’s determination and leadership as captain and equally fueled her team’s drive to make it back to States once again. In a nail-biting semifinal against Tappan Zee, Bridget pitched a scoreless game and eventually was brought to the plate in extra innings to try and close the game. Tappan Zee intended to intentionally walk her, but Bridget had other plans. On the third pitch of her at-bat which was intended to be a ball, she reached out and hit what became the winning run securing Hamburg’s bid for the Class A State Championship Finals. With Bridget leading the team from the pitcher’s mound once again, Hamburg went on to win the Class A State Championship Finals 5-3 against Sayville. Bridget’s softball team delivered Hamburg’s very first (and only one to date) State Championship in any sport. Bridget recalled the celebration with the team, returning to Hamburg that night on a coach bus escorted by fire trucks and police to cheering family, friends, and fans, as well as a parade and rally at Memorial Park a few days later. The memory of that day still remains vivid in her mind, and it is a day that she will never forget.
Bridget ended her Hamburg varsity softball career as a senior boasting a remarkable .544 ERA with 229 strikeouts, 9 shutouts, and only 28 walks in 270 total innings pitched. In the batter’s box, she ended with an impressive career average of .619 and 21 RBIs. Bridget was named ECIC First Team for three years, ECIC Pitcher of the Year for two years, and All Western New York for two years. She also proudly served as team captain for from 2011 to 2013.
Bridget’s softball career didn’t end with her senior year at Hamburg. She attended Niagara University for nursing and played Division I softball for three out of her four years there. During her softball career at Niagara, Bridget was named to the All-MAAC second team as a freshman and the All-MAAC first team as a senior. She also set the doubles record, hitting 20 doubles in 2017, and placed fourth in the record books for hits in a season with 58 in 2017.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Niagara University, Bridget worked for a time at hospitals in Buffalo before working at hospitals in Connecticut, South Carolina, and
Arizona as a travel nurse. Drawn by her love for hiking, backpacking, and snowboarding, Bridget moved to Denver Colorado where she currently resides with her Australian shepherd, Lokie, working as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Lutheran Medical Center.