Catonsville senior pitcher Sammi Sisolak has already graduated from her high school, but that hasn’t stopped her from continuing to provide postgraduate memories on the hill.
In the Comets’ third postseason game in three days, Sisolak pitched a shutout and the Comets’ 5-0 victory over Northwest in the Class 4A state semifinals advanced them to the state championship game against North County on Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Bachman Park.
Sisolak limited Northwest (7-9), of Montgomery County, to seven hits, while striking out seven and walking none.
It was the third straight shutout where she didn’t walk a batter.
In a 5-0 win over Dulaney in the Class 4A North Section I Region title game she had 14 strikeouts and allowed two bunt hits. In the 3-0 state quarterfinal victory over Walter Johnson, she had 15 strikeouts and allowed four hits.
In those games, she only went to a three-ball count once in each. Against Northwest, she never went to three balls on a batter.
“She’s got a lot of movement on her pitches and the good thing about it is she can throw her moving pitches for strikes, which is also very dangerous,” Catonsville coach Paul Harris said. “The simple fact she can move her pitches left and right and up and down, she can keep hitters off balance which really works out really well.”
The Comets are making their third appearance in the state title game. They lost in 1978 and 2003. The 2000, 2001 and 2006 teams each lost in the state semis.
Senior catcher Devyn Tracey let the moment sink in after second baseman Grace Bielski caught a soft pop for the game’s final out, her sixth putout of the game.
“It took me a second to process,” Tracey said. “I was like, this is actually really happening, it’s been forever since we’ve been here and now we have a chance to take it our senior year and bring home a championship.”
The Comets took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second against the Jaguars after a sharp double by Abby Mitchell, sacrifice bunt by Bielski and safety squeeze by Caelyn Voss.
They added a run in the bottom of the fourth. Consecutive hits by Mitchell, Bielski and Voss loaded the bases with no outs and Tracey walked Mitchell in.
Northwest got out of the inning with a nifty double play from pitcher Emily Connor to catcher Addie Levine to first baseman Hayley Hickman.
The Comets returned the favor in the top of the fifth after the Jaguars loaded the bases on hits by Mykai Fuller and Mary Connor, sandwiched around an error. Third batter Jill Zirkle grounded to Sisolak, who threw to catcher Tracey and she fired to first baseman Alyssa Ochmann for the double play.
The Comets salted away the game with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. Bielski (2-for-2) and Voss (2-for-2) singled to start the uprising.
Pinch runner Carly Boyce scored on a sacrifice fly by Sam Rickwalder that dropped for an error and Voss scored on a ground out by Tracey. Rickwalder came home on an RBI single by Maggie Kreis.
‘It was good to see some kids who have actually been struggling the last couple of games come out and get some hits, that’s what we love to see,” Harris said.
After allowing a leadoff hit in the seventh, Sisolak retired the side on a strikeout and two pop-ups.
“It feels great,” Sisolak said. “I can’t even describe it. It’s just a boost of adrenaline I get. I love having a great team and I knew I didn’t have to strike everybody out.”
Northwest coach Mike Horton was proud of the way his sixth-seeded squad bounced back in the playoffs.
“You don’t see six seeds getting this far,” he said after praising his foe. “I have nothing but good things to say about that team, they are a good team.”
Harris described the performance of his senior hurler Sisolak over three days.
“It’s her mentality. She is a gamer. She loves softball and she has played this game since she was 10 years old,” he said. “Being on this stage and doing what she does, there is nothing better for her, this is what she loves to do and I love watching it.”
He gets to do just that one more time.
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“I hope we are hitting our peak right now and we can carry this over until Friday,” he said.