Catonsville senior Sammi Sisolak picked the most important game of the season to pitch her best game as she retired the first 17 batters and finished with 14 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory over visiting Dulaney in the Class 4A North Region I championship game.
It was the first regional title for the Comets (10-1) since 2006 and their sixth regional crown. The 1978 and 2003 teams were the only ones to reach the state finals, where they both lost. The 2006, 2001 and 2000 teams lost in the state semifinals.
The only two hits for the Lions were bunts with two outs in the top of the sixth by Julia Isaacson and Jess Eckhart. Both of them almost turned into outs after outstanding defensive plays by Catonsville first baseman Alyssa Ochmann and Sisolak.
“She [Sisolak] was definitely was on her game, she was sharp right from the start, everything she threw she was on it, it was great to watch,” said Catonsville coach Paul Harris, who was celebrating his birthday with the championship plaque while his cake waited at home.
Sisolak went to three balls on only one batter and had catcher Devyn Tracey smiling and framing her devastating rise balls.
“We just do our thing, like normally when we are warming up, we’ll talk like what pitches are working for you today and today they were just all working,” Tracey said. “It was sort of a mix of everything combined together.”
Sisolak struck out the side in the first inning and had two strikeouts in each of the next three innings.
The hardest ball Dulaney hit all night was by Kristen Dasch and it was gobbled up by third baseman Ally Lemerise.
Sisolak got a boost the day before the game with her favorite spaghetti dish.
“I had extra focus, yesterday I carb-loaded up,” Sisolak said. “My favorite day is the day before game day because I get to eat whatever, take care of my body and get ready to play and that’s exactly what I did and I am all ready for tomorrow.”
The fourth-seeded Comets will host Walter Johnson in the Class 4A state quarterfinals tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Offensively, the Comets put pressure on the Lions from the start.
Tracey led off the bottom of the first with a single and Maggie Kreis followed with a single.
They both scored after a one-out infield single by Aysha Partin and an RBI single by Grace Bielski and RBI fielder’s choice by Sisolak for a 2-0 lead.
“Once we get a couple runs, we can just hold them right there,” Tracey said.
Lily Tinker relieved Riley Hodiste on the mound after Catonsville led off the second inning with hits by Caelyn Voss and hit-by-pitch by Sam Rickwalder.
Two batters later, Kreis hit an infield single up the middle and Voss was thrown out at the plate, but on the relay from the catcher to the pitcher after the out, Rickwalder scored and the lead was 3-0.
“I could see already where we had a chance, an opportunity to take some extra bases if we got players on and so we definitely took advantage of that when we had that opportunity,” Harris said.
The Comets kept the pressure on in the fourth when they manufactured a run without a hit.
Voss walked with one out and Rickwalder laid down a sacrifice bunt.
Voss raced past second on the play and scored on an errant throw to third for a 4-0 lead.
The only suspense after that was whether Sisolak could continue her perfect game.
She had already thrown a seven-inning perfect game in a 9-0 regular-season win over Perry Hall, but the stakes were much higher against Dulaney with everything on the line.
With two outs in the sixth, Isaacson lofted a soft spinning bunt down the first base line that hung on the chalk. First baseman Ochmann made a diving barehanded play and threw to second baseman Bielski covering first a tad late.
“It’s tough because as a player you’ve got to make a decision at that point, whether or not you let it go foul or not, you’ve got to pick it up and try to make a play on it,” Harris said. “I want them at least trying to make a decision and she made a decision and still almost made a play out of it and that is all I can ask for because we are doing a good job.”
Sisolak made a diving attempt on the next bunt and had the ball in her glove for a couple seconds before it fell out.
“She had it in her glove, but she knocked it out of her glove with her other hand,” said Harris, who made his only mound visit of the day. “I told them you can’t do anything about it, let’s just get right back in here, let’s focus and they did, shut it down and we got right back in here and put another run on the board.”
Sisolak struck out the final batter of the inning and was undaunted by losing the perfect game.
“Hits are going to happen,” she said. “If I can hold them great, but I felt confident they weren’t going to score.”
Catonsville’s final run in the sixth came on an RBI single by Abby Mitchell, after Sisolak led off with a hit, and courtesy runner Taylor Whalen scored.
“Having some insurance and a team that can hit behind me is very much helpful,” Sisolak said.
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So is having a pitcher who can dominate from start to finish.