Kane County Chronicle Athlete of the Week: Sam Gaca, St. Charles East, softball, senior

St. Charles East's Sam Gaca (11) singles against Downers Grove South during a softball game at St. Charles East High School on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

Name: Sam Gaca

School: St. Charles East, senior

Sport: Softball

Why she was selected: Across five games for the Saints, Gaca batted .526 (10 for 19) with two home runs, including a go-ahead two-run home run against Downers Grove North, and 4 RBIs.

Gaca was selected the Kane County Chronicle Athlete of the Week in an online vote. Here is her Q&A with sports reporter Joel Boenitz.

What kind of approach did you have at the plate last week?

Gaca: So in our first few games, I didn’t really have a good approach. I was just like, ‘I just need to get ahead and make some contact.’ So this past week, I thought I needed to come up with a new approach and I was hitting all the time. And I wanted to get up there and stay super relaxed and calm at the plate and just hit the ball. I needed to not overthink and swing like 85% and just do what I know to do. And that’s just kind of the approach that I took. I didn’t want to overthink like I had been and I just needed to let my body do what I need to do.

You hit a go-ahead two-run home run to secure a 3-1 win over Downers Grove North in eight innings. How did it feel to get the home run?

Gaca: It felt amazing. I had been hitting the ball well that game, but they were just for outs. So to finally get the ball over the fence, it was so exhilarating. And I knew that I got the job done and it was my breakthrough for the week. I was like, ‘This is who I am and how I know I can hit.’ So I was just happy that I was finally able to put the ball in play and obviously it was a home run and I got two runs from it so that was awesome.

As both a senior and a catcher on the team, how much influence do you think you have on the Saints?

Gaca: I feel like being a catcher in general, you’re kind of already a leader just because you can see the whole field and you’re behind the plate. And then I’ve been catching on varsity for the past four years and I just felt like I’ve been a leader and have been able to help my team from seeing the entire field and staying in control while helping everyone stay calm in risky situations or if we’re down, how I can help them get back up to help us win. It’s just what I like to do, just keep everybody in control and calm and just be a leader back there.

What originally got you into softball?

Gaca: My parents and my brother did. My mom played college softball at Indiana University and won the Big Ten, so that was definitely a big starter. And then my brother was a three-sport athlete in high school, but now he plays baseball in college, but that definitely got me going. And my dad was always out there throwing me a baseball in the backyard when I was little and I would hit with a little plastic bat, so that just kind of got me going.

You’re committed to play softball at Maryville University next year. What made you choose there?

Gaca: I loved the school. When I first stepped on campus to just take a tour, I was like, ‘This is where I need to be.’ It fit my vibe and it was just exactly where I could see myself playing. And I have a few old teammates that are on their team right now and they’ve had amazing feedback. So I knew it was where I wanted to be.

What do you like to do when you aren’t playing softball?

Gaca: I hang out with my mom a lot because she’s my best friend so we spend a lot of time together. I like to go to the gym, hang out with my friends and just kind of relax when I can. I’m really into putting in extra work, so I hit a lot, work out, do fielding when I can, all that good stuff.

Do you have a pregame ritual or something you like to get before a game?

Gaca: I have a calming playlist that kind of just gets me locked in and ready. I don’t like listening to hard rap or stuff like that, just stuff that helps me get calm and focused. I also go to Starbucks and get a venti Strawberry Açaí refresher with no strawberry pieces and apple juice instead of water and then I talk to my mom so she can hype me up before the game.”

What’s your favorite movie and TV show?

Gaca: My favorite movie is “The Greatest Showman.” It is so good and I love the soundtrack. And then for TV series it’s “The Vampire Diaries.” I love it. I’ve watched it through so many times.”