HELENA — Mike Miller is entering his 29th season as head coach of the Helena Capital softball team. The 2018 Montana coach of the year and his players are eager to hit the field, as they've been stuck practicing inside over the previous couple of weeks preparing for their home opener this weekend.
“Its hard to keep everybody motivated. Because everyone knows were inside, their all trying to work really hard but there are things that we can still understand from different drills to get better," emphasized Miller.
Capital made the trek over to Billings last weekend and won its first games of the year over Billings Skyview and Billings Senior.
“We had a lot of success last year, we finished 20-5 and got third in the state. Our expectations are pretty high," said Miller.
Miller spoke about having everyone contribute during the first outing of the new season: "Could have hit the ball a little better but can’t complain for a team who hasn’t even been outside. We've got a lot of players back; we have seven starters (back) so that’s good."
Junior Anna Cockhill, who hit seven home runs last season, talked about her team's unique form of preparation.
"The gym's a little hard, it’s not the same as on dirt outside. But a lot of infield and turning double plays and hitting in the cage is good," she said.
Despite some of the challenges, a talented squad returns from a team that narrowly missed another state championship during the 2022 postseason. One of those returning starters is center fielder Kathryn Emmert.
"You have to do the little things, you've got to work on the little adjustments. You've got to work on communication, you cant really take live reps so it’s hard when you have to do that outside," said Emmert, who started playing softball in second grade and quickly got into travel ball.
“I am super excited, it’s nice to be back on the home field, I don’t like having to travel four hours and get off the bus and go play but I am super excited to be here and I think we’ll have a good community to support us this year," mentioned Emmert. “I really like the people that come out and support us, and it’s not just parents here, it's people form the school, it's people that want to come watch softball and from Helena."
The Bruins are scheduled to play at home on Friday against Bozeman Gallatin and then on the road at Belgrade on Saturday.