Catonsville High catcher Devyn Tracy knew something special was happening during softball season and the senior wanted the rest of the team to catch the winning fever.
“All season we had good energy and everything, but once we got into regionals, we were like we really need to come out,” Tracy said. “We talked as a team how we could go forward and how we could compete together all as one, even more than what we had before and I just had to applaud the team for making it come together and us coming out stronger than what we were.”
The Comets (13-1) finished the season with four straight shutouts and the school’s first-ever state championship in softball.
Tracy caught all four pitching gems from senior right-hander Sammi Sisolak and capped a year interrupted by COVID-19 restrictions by being named 2021 Catonsville/Arbutus Times Female Athlete of the Year.
Tracy was also a defensive specialist for the volleyball team, which played a shortened 2021 season.
It was on the softball field, however, where the 5-foot catcher and captain made her greatest impression.
She allowed only one stolen base all season and sparked the team offensively as the leadoff hitter. She batted .333 with 12 runs scored, eight RBIs and eight sacrifice bunts.
Her most memorable play came in the Comets’ 1-0 victory over North County in the Class 4A state championship game.
With one out and the tying run on third base in the seventh inning, North County’s Breanna Clayton bunted to Sisolak and she threw to Tracy for the tag on Becca Gottlieb at the plate for the second out.
Sisolak struck out the final batter and the Comets celebrated a title.
“I was screaming, I saw right out of the corner of my eye that she was just taking off and Sammi had plenty of time to get it to me and I would be able to put the tag on well before she slid,” Tracy said. “As soon as the ball hit the ground I was like, ‘Go for it, go for it, go for it.’”
Making a tag at the plate is something ingrained in Tracy since she started catching in the Catonsville 9-10 league.
“When I was little I would always go to catching camps in the winter just to keep up on my skills and that is something we worked on a lot because as a catcher that’s what you’ve got to do, you protect home, so I was always taught real quick to put the tag on, show the ball just to sell it and that’s sort of exactly what I did,” Tracy said.
First-year varsity coach Paul Harris coached Tracy on the JV when the Comets won a county championship, but knew what a talent he was getting when she worked out the winter before freshman year at a camp at Western Tech.
“We knew at that point and time, just looking at her, she was going to be something special,” Harris said. “She blossomed into an amazing catcher behind the plate, so it’s been a privilege being able to coach her.”
After winning the JV crown as a freshman, Tracy was promoted to varsity and started in a regional playoff loss to Howard.
“It definitely was like a [self] esteem boost being on JV and winning a JV county championship and being brought up a month later for varsity regionals,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is happening,’ like I’m a freshman starting on varsity for regionals and I could go somewhere with this.”
Her chemistry with Sisolak was unparalleled and it wasn’t by accident.
She had known Sisolak since elementary school and when they found out they were going to be the battery at Catonsville High as freshmen they became closer friends.
“We would always work together and hang out developing that bond and it just meshed so well on the field together,” Tracy said. “We just had good communication.”
The connection was so good their coach stayed out of the way.
“Devyn called just about every pitch this season, so she deserves a lot of credit for that,” Harris said.
Sisolak’s best performance was a 7-inning perfect game in a 9-strikeout 9-0 victory over Perry Hall during the regular season.
In the Class 4A North Region I championship game, Sisolak retired the first 17 batters and finished with 14 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory over visiting Dulaney.
Tracy led off that game with a single and the Comets jumped ahead 2-0 and were never threatened.
In a 3-0 triumph over Walter Johnson in the state quarterfinals, Sisolak tossed a four-hitter with no walks and 15 strikeouts.
“My catcher behind the plate, she calls great games all the time, I’ve got to give her most of the credit,” said Sisolak after the game.
Tracy reached on an error and scored the game’s first run with aggressive base-running which is so game-changing her coach doesn’t even think about using a courtesy runner.
“Running the bases is one of my favorite things to do, I love just being able to be aggressive, get down and dirty, slide around all the time,” Tracy said. “If you put pressure on the defense, they will eventually crumble and that’s how you win games with aggressive base-running.”
The Comets used that philosophy throughout the playoffs and the underclassmen followed Tracey’s lead, whether she was leading by example or showing them how to appreciate the game.
“She had consistent leadership and I feel like she just led by example,” assistant coach Don Mitchell said. “She was always the first to grab equipment.”
Harris saw the same thing.
“She was a definite leader on the field, not just in games, but in practices,” he said. “Even away from practices, talking with the girls for group chats or whatever they were doing, organizing social functions, all kinds of stuff, she was a leader through and through.”
It’s something that Tracy did without any fanfare.
“It comes naturally, so as a team captain I wanted to be a good role model for the girls and show them proper sports etiquette,” she said. “I just wanted to show them it shouldn’t all be on the coach, everyone should be helping with equipment.”
Before softball season, Tracy played libero and defensive specialist for the volleyball team. After two seasons on JV, she was promoted and was a captain senior year.
“Devyn was a pleasure to coach,” coach Tonya Feaster noted. “She worked extremely hard and showed vast improvement throughout her two seasons on varsity. She served as a captain her senior year and did a great job being a leader and helped her younger teammates adjust to the demands of varsity.”
Tracy had never played volleyball before high school and learned the game from watching YouTube and college players.
“I saw what the college girls were doing and I would go off on my own and just mimic it,” said Tracy, who said a five-set win over Towson during her junior year was one of the highlights of her career.
“Devyn’s passing skills were instrumental at helping varsity beat Towson for the first time in over a decade,” Feaster noted.
Tracey plans to be a walk-on for the softball team at Salisbury University next year and an exercise science major with hopes to become a physical therapist.
She got interested in physical therapy after breaking her ankle early in the 2020 season, playing club ball for the Maryland Patriots.
Her physical therapist was Chuck Kreis, whose daughter Maggie was the junior shortstop for the state-champion Comets.
“He actually started me out in softball, so he was my first-ever coach, so that motivated me to want to become a physical therapist,” Tracy said.
Her Catonsville teammates motivated Tracy and Sisolak to play out the entire season and skip senior week even after they graduated.
“I wasn’t going to take that away from them,” Harris said. “If they came to me and said ‘I want to go down for senior week,’ I was going to let them go and enjoy their senior week.
“I thought that was a very grown-up thing for both of them to do, to make that decision to sacrifice that for the rest of the team. It was just an amazing thing they did.”
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“The beach is always there,” Tracy said. “A state championship is a once in a lifetime thing.”