State AA softball: Anna Cockhill walk-off lifts Helena Capital to championship

Helena Capital softball celebration
Posted at 2:47 PM, May 26, 2024

HELENA — Anna Cockhill saw her third-base coach's signal and knew there was just one thing to do — make it home.

The Helena Capital senior did just that, sliding safely across the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning to cap an electrifying walk-off victory as the Bruins stunned reigning State AA softball champion Kalispell Glacier 3-2 in the 2024 title game on Sunday.

The Bruins — who entered the state tournament as the Western AA's No. 3 seed and went 5-0 over the past three days, including a win over the Wolfpack in Saturday's semifinals — seized their third-ever state softball title and first since 2009. They also did it on their home field after the state tournament was relocated from Belgrade to Helena due to inclement weather.

"There's nothing like it," said Cockhill after the game. "I'm so happy we brought it home and finished it out at Capital field. It looked like the whole city came out. We're glad we had all that support."

"She's a pretty special player," said Capital head coach Mike Miller of Cockhill's championship-sealing play. "She has incredible ability and a huge heart. Like I say, 'That girl is fast.' She knew where she was going and she was champing at the bit to get to the plate."

Saturday's championship was Miller's final game as the Bruins' head coach after 30 years at the helm. He finished with 400-plus wins and was there for all five of Capital's championship appearances and all three titles with the first coming in 2004.

Cockhill's single into right field — where the Wolfpack mishandled the ball, giving her a shot at rounding the bases — broke what had been a four-inning scoring drought for both teams after both Glacier and Capital notched a two-run home run in the third inning — Kenadie Goudette homered for the Wolfpack and Belle Glowacki for the Bruins.

Aside from those two big hits, this championship was largely a pitchers duel, with Glacier's Ella Farrell striking out 10 batters and Capital's Kathryn Emmert 13.

Emmert pitched in all but three of Capital's innings at this state tournament, including its opening-round game against Billings Skyview. Emmert helped the Bruins build and preserve an 8-0 lead after three innings before Glowacki came in relief and held on for a 9-5 win.

Then Emmert pitched a shutout against Belgrade in the second round and helped Capital upend Glacier in the semis. She knew then that her team was capable of doing something special if they could stay in the right mindset.

"Once we started getting a couple wins against those better teams we were like 'our team is good,'" said Emmert. "We were right there with everybody else. It was the mental side for us, it was never our physical capability. It was about knowing you're gonna get a win."