HELENA — The Helena Capital softball team is readying for the Class AA state softball tournament that opens up on Thursday, and the Bruins' starting roster isn't exactly experienced. Six sophomores and freshmen saw plenty of innings through the regular season, and with that Bruins head coach Mike Miller feels like they could be overlooked.
"I honestly think that there's a pretty good chance people are going to kind of look by us," said Miller. "We've had some not so good games this year, but I feel we're really competitive. I like where we are right now. I think that we have a very good chance to surprise some people there."
The Bruins wrapped up the season at 15-9 between conference and non-conference matchups, but of those nine losses, nearly half of them came by five runs or more. Miller said they take those experiences head-on and aren't letting the past affect them as they make their way to Kalispell.
"We try to be upfront about it, try to get the girls to be comfortable, you know? With more success comes more expectations, so we just try to get them to focus on the good side of things, not the downside because obviously it's not something you can change," said Miller. "We really preach to just control what you can control and let the chips fall where they may."
Of the six underclassmen, Nyeala Hearndon has been the power threat for the Bruins, posting five home runs, six doubles and 23 runs batted in across the Bruins' 24 games this season. Kathryn Emmert has been dominant on the mound, giving up just nine runs in their last 41 1/3 innings to the tune of a 1.52 earned-run average.
Though the Bruins may be seeing time from players that haven't been around for long, Emmert said the team's chemistry is what excites her most as the Bruins head into the state tournament, and Hearndon noted not much comes between the team.
"I think most of us get along pretty well. ... If we have beef on the team, we leave it out of practice and games," said Hearndon.
With those losses of five or more to the Bruins credit this year, Emmert said the Bruins need to get out to a hot start and stay focused to be successful at this year's tournament.
"We just need to be aggressive all the way through the game because I think sometimes we have innings where we fall apart. And we just need to make sure we're playing hard throughout the game, the entire game," said Emmert.
The Bruins' first matchup of the Class AA state tournament comes against the classification's newest arrival in the Belgrade Panthers on Thursday at 2 p.m.