HELENA — Nearly two years after playing its last game, the Helena Capital softball shrugged off the notion of rust and scored a combined 24 runs and pounded out 26 hits in wins over Bozeman and Gallatin on Saturday.
Both ends of the doubleheader ended in five-inning run-rule fashion with the Bruins downing Bozeman 13-1 and the Raptors by a final of 11-1.
“It’s just good to get out and get playing,” Capital head coach Mike Miller said. “I was pretty happy with the way our defense played and our pitchers played pretty good. Started a little bit slow hitting, but then hit the ball hard. I was really happy with our young girls, our three freshmen girls, and how they hit the ball today -- Cockhill, Emmert and Sayers...We had a lot of girls hit the ball hard once we got rolling, so it was a great start.”
Freshman Anna Cockhill was the motor that turned the Bruin wheels against Bozeman, racking up four hits, including two triples and notching three RBI. Her triple and subsequent score in the first inning against the Hawks opened a floodgate of what would be 13 unanswered runs for Capital in its season-opening contest.
Senior Jenna Priddy joined Cockhill with multiple RBI in the front-end of the doubleheader as her two-RBI hit in the third inning put the Bruins up for good with a 3-1 advantage.
“My experience tells me that as soon as somebody gets one, then the floodgate kinda start opening and maybe [the players] relax a little bit more,” Miller said. “Hopefully we’re going to be able to make that adjustment that we don’t have to wait for somebody else, we can be the one to do it.”
From there, it was all about junior Amanda Nettleton keeping Bozeman at bay from the circle.
Over four innings, Nettleton scattered three hits while striking out three Hawks and finished her day with three scoreless innings after a rocky first frame.
Bozeman broke through with just four hits over the five-inning contest, two of which came from Tailyn Black who was credited with the Hawks’ only RBI on the evening.
For the Bruins, seven players notched RBI in the win, including Taylor Sayers who knocked in two with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. Sayers’ chances to plate runs came, in part, because the top three in Capital’s lineup combined to go 9-for-12 against Bozeman’s pitching staff. That trio of Cockhill, freshman Kathryn Emmert and Priddy also scored seven of the Bruins’ 13 runs and amassed six of the team’s 11 total RBI.
Gallatin nearly thwarted Capital’s chances of a run-rule victory in the backend of the doubleheader with a couple walks and hits in the fifth inning, but ultimately could not overcome a combined nine Bruin runs scored in the third and fourth innings.
Senior Mackenzie Siegers finished a single shy of the cycle in Capital’s 11-1 victory over Gallatin and belted the Bruins’ first home run of the season in the third inning to establish a 5-0 advantage at the time. Siegers either scored or drove in seven of Capital’s runs against the Raptors with a 3-for-3 effort at the dish.
“It felt really amazing,” Siegers said of her home run. “I was pretty nervous coming into this [after] missing our year last year, but it felt really good to hit my first home run this year.”
Nettleton and junior Rylee Solan also notched multiple RBI in game No. 2 of the doubleheader as Capital racked up 12 hits as a team, seven of which were of the extra-base variety.
On the flip side, Gallatin could not muster an extra-base hit and netted just four total base runners in the loss. Capital sophomore Nyeala Herndon was a big reason for that as she struck out seven Raptors in four innings of work. Of her 53 pitches, over 60 percent of them were strikes as Herndon failed to allow a hit during her time in the circle.
Herndon also went 4-for-6 at the plate on Saturday, driving home two runs and scoring another three. Emmert was 4-for-7 on the afternoon while Cockhill went 4-for-6 and Siegers finished 3-for-6 in the doubleheader.
Equal parts offense, defense and solid work from the pitching staff, Capital got a combined 14 strikeouts from its pitchers and just three walks in 10 innings of work.
“It was a lot of joy and I think we really connected today,” Siegers said. “We were all nervous but we were out there encouraging each other just to do our best and we all know that we can play together as a team and we demonstrated that today.”
Now 2-0 on the season after a quick start, the Bruins hit the road on Thursday to face Great Falls and Russell in another doubleheader. The first pitches for those contests are scheduled for 3 and 5 p.m., respectively.