HELENA – It takes countless hours in the gym, on the field and in the batting cage for a softball team to reach the state tournament at the end of the season. Both Helena High and Helena Capital know this and are laser focused for the gauntlet laid before them at this week’s State AA softball tournament in Helena.
“Last three games I thought they did pretty good job with that,” Helena High head coach Ryan Schulte said with a laugh. “As you can see, they are still pretty loose. They are thinking loose, they’re relaxed.”
OK, so maybe the teams are not exactly stoic heading into the tourney. Helena High has even included a cape and gold chain in its dugout for big plays.
But that’s a good thing, because both the Queen City squads are at their best when they’re having fun.
“It’s kind of an internal struggle,” said Capital head coach Mike Miller. “I’m more of an old-school guy and think we should be pretty dialed in and focused. They are more free and easy and so we kind of balance that. I don’t push it as long as we play well, and we’ve been pretty successful with our approach so far. … I don’t give them too much of a hard time about it.”
“What I saw from them more than anything on Thursday against (Missoula Big Sky in the Western AA playoffs), the thing about this group is they know how to play loose and competitive, and they are starting to do that,” Schulte added.
It’s obviously especially important at this point in the season.
For the top-seeded Bruins, they haven’t played a game in nearly two weeks.
“We’re pretty excited to play,” said Bruin senior April Davis. “There is always nerves when it comes to state, but we are excited and happy to be able to come in and have a bye and just get here. I don’t think we could be happier for ourselves.”
The only way that either team could be happier is if it ends up holding the championship trophy at the end of the tournament on Saturday.
“All these games at the state tournament are going to be very close,” said Miller. “It’s not going to be a blowout, somebody comes out and beats somebody else. It’s the little things that we need to do — good base-running, moving runners, obviously timely hitting, but smart base-running is critical for us. Pitchers need to help us get off to a good start, but everybody has to do their part. We like to thing that everybody kind of does their part. We like to think that everybody does a little and nobody has to do a lot.”
“A group that was determined to be who they were and who they are,” said Schulte. “And that’s a competitive group that likes to go out and win but that also likes to enjoy being around one another.”
Helena High takes on Great Falls Thursday at 2 p.m. and Capital plays CMR at 4 p.m.