What’s the catch? Well, for St. Charles East’s Samantha Gaca, family comes first. ‘I followed their footsteps.’

Was St. Charles East senior Samantha Gaca born to catch?

Coming to that conclusion may be a bit of a reach, but it does run in the family.

Her mother Margaret, an Indiana softball alum, played the position at a pretty high level. So does older brother AJ, currently a sophomore starter for Carthage’s baseball team.

“Sam’s awesome back there — that’s all there is to it,” said coach Jarod Gutesha, who promoted Gaca to varsity as a freshman, having her work with Harvard-bound pitcher Katie Arrambide.

“She’s been catching for us ever since.”

Gaca settled into her usual groove behind the plate Tuesday afternoon.

The Maryville recruit deftly handled the curveballs and riseballs from senior ace Grace Hautzinger, who threw a four-hitter with 15 strikeouts in a 5-2 DuKane Conference victory at Geneva.

“That sounds about right,” Gaca said of Hautzinger’s numbers. “She was throwing pretty good.”

Hautzinger (9-1) improved her strikeout totals to 126 in 86 2/3 innings for the Saints (14-5, 4-2).

Offensively, Hautzinger also had three hits to lead the offense. Sophomore center fielder Hayden Sujack contributed a solo home run to power St. Charles East.

That disrupted a strong performance by pitcher Nora Faulkner for Geneva (2-12, 0-5).

“I followed their footsteps,” Gaca said of her family ties. “I started out as a pitcher and catcher, but AJ and I did a lot of catching lessons together.”

Her mom said it started in grade school for Samantha and AJ with offseason sessions at The Dugout in St. Charles under the watchful eyes of former Kane County Cougars manager Aaron Nieckula, who now coaches Marmion’s baseball team.

Gaca’s focus soon narrowed to her work behind the plate. She’s also worked individually with former Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler the past four-plus years.

Margaret, Gaca’s mom, grew up in Elmhurst and played for York. She also played travel softball for the Orland Park Sparks.

“I was a third baseman,” she said. “One of my travel coaches suggested a change, saying catchers get recruited, so I moved and caught my senior year of high school.”

Indiana called and Margaret played there from 1990 to 1994, catching as a freshman before moving back to third base for one season and then left field for her final two years.

“My junior year of college, they switched to the yellow ball, which was livelier,” Margaret said. “The biggest difference now is the speed of the game. It was more of a pitcher’s game in my day.

“Changing the ball brought about the hitting game, and moving the pitching rubber back later in high school had a similar impact. I love the game even more now.”

Samantha, who plays with the Dennison Silver Hawks, said her connection with current Maryville freshman pitcher/utility player Mercedes Delgado, a Loyola graduate, opened the door for her.

Gaca plans to pursue a degree in the school’s Rawlings Sports Business Management program.

“Mercedes and I were like a pitcher-catcher duo and she got me connected with the coaching staff,” Samantha said. “It was one of several options I had but the visit sold me.

“I always thought, ‘If I get hurt, would I still want to go here?’ And the answer was yes.”

Since 2013, the sports management program has been affiliated with the sporting goods manufacturer, which has headquarters nearby. There are plenty of volunteer and intern opportunities with Rawlings, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Missouri Valley Conference.

On the field, Gaca is hitting .385 with seven doubles and two home runs this season. She has caught four runners stealing after throwing out nine last spring.

“I think she could have had a couple more, with calls that could have gone the other way,” Gutesha said. “She puts the ball right on the bag. She gets it out of her glove quick.

“Lately, she’s been hitting the ball hard and all of a sudden hitting the gaps and balls that would normally be caught when you’re slumping are falling in. She just got hot.”