Whether she was in the circle or at the plate, Glacier Peak High School softball standout Makayla Miller was primed to make an impact on the field any time a chance presented itself this season.
The senior two-way threat mashed 12 extra-base hits, including six home runs, while compiling a .525 batting average, a .568 on-base percentage and 1.125 slugging percentage. She also notched a 3.48 earned-run average over 54 innings pitched, striking out 66 batters and allowing 30 walks.
Miller’s efforts helped the Grizzlies earn a 10-3 record while facing a difficult schedule that included a pair of games against 11-2 Kamiak, 10-3 Jackson and traditional Class 3A power Snohomish.
Her impact for Glacier Peak was on full display during the week of April 26-May 2.
Miller went 9-for-9 over a three-game stretch with four doubles and two home runs, which included an epic performance against Cascade on April 28.
After striking out 12 batters over seven shutout innings, the Central Washington University signee stepped up to the plate with a runner on base in a game locked in a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning. Miller watched two pitches well out of the strike zone for balls and then redirected a 2-0 pitch over the outfield fence for a walk-off two-run home run.
“There has been so many times where I have thought about softball and why I still played,” Miller said. “I’ve had rough years in the past. It gets in your head. … Honestly, that game, I knew that was the world telling me, ‘This is why you’re playing. This is why you work so hard. This is proving your point on why you will go to college.’”
Miller’s spectacular week led to her winning The Herald’s Athlete of the Week poll for April 26-May-2. She went on to win The Herald’s Athlete of the Month voting for April.
We caught up with the Glacier Peak star to talk about her softball journey and the lasting bond the sport has created between Miller and her father, Fred.
Your junior season got wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how important was it to get one last season, albeit a short one, together with your high school teammates?
It was very important. Last year was hard. I grew up with a lot of the seniors last year. Not being able to play one last time with them just kind of opened my eyes and I just realized that this short season was so important because (the seniors last year didn’t get one). I was just very fortunate and blessed that I got to play with my friends from high school one last time. I didn’t think I was going to get to. It was just really fun going through it. I played a lot for the friends that didn’t get to (last season). So I always thought about that during the games.
Do you prefer to pitch or hit? Will you continue to be two-way player at Central Washington?
They’re definitely a lot different. I’ve just worked so hard with pitching my whole life and being a hitter kind of came with that. If I go to college and I don’t hit, that will be fine with me just because I’ve worked so hard as a pitcher. Hitting is more fun. It always feels better when I’m hitting better rather than pitching. It’s just the whole team dynamic. … Pitching is a bit more of grind, because I feel like I expect a lot out of myself when I’m pitching just because I’ve put in the time. With hitting, obviously I work on it, but I’m going to college for pitching, and I’m not even sure if hitting is gonna come with that. If it does, I’ll be very appreciative and work hard at it. But not a lot of people see me as a hitter.
It sounded like Cascade was trying to pitch around you when you hit that walk-off home run. What was your mindset with a 2-0 count after seeing two pitches well out of the strike zone?
I definitely did feel like they were pitching around me. There was two balls that were way over my head and the catcher was standing up. I just thought in that moment, ‘If they throw me a pitch that’s anywhere near the plate, I’m not gonna miss it.’ I’ll take the walk, but I wanted to hit. I was jacked up from the game and the whole situation, and I was thinking that I can’t miss any opportunity I get this season. That was my approach for that at-bat.
Where does that game rank for you as far as top moments in your softball career? Is there a clear No. 1?
I would say probably top three or four. It was a really good dynamic. … I have two (top) moments. One would be my very last high school game, against Jackson. I hit the winning run in. My dad has been my biggest supporter my whole life, and I just made eye contact with him and he was crying. That was probably the best moment because he’s been through it all with me.
Another top moment would be when I went to San Bernardino for the Little League regionals tournament. I went to the hospital because I got an infection. … I played the whole time and we won regionals. … I got hospitalized and I was throwing up during the games, but didn’t want to be taken out. I pitched all the games and my team and parents really helped me out. It was really cool. I mean, it wasn’t cool during it because I was so sick, but just looking back I’m like, ‘Wow, I love this game so much I would put my life at risk to play it at 13-years-old.’
You mentioned your dad being there for it all throughout your softball career. Can you elaborate a little more on the relationship you two have built through the sport?
There’s been years where I don’t even believe in myself, and that’s hard as an athlete. You feel like nobody believes in you, you feel like you’re at you’re low, and he was always there and always pushed me. He doesn’t miss a game, he’s been my coach, he loves to just see me and my sister succeed in whatever we do. … He’s just my biggest fan and my biggest supporter. Every time I succeed at something, he’s the first person to tell me how great of a game I had. Even if I had a bad game, he would tell me what I need to work on or help me through (the mental part). He’s the strongest person I know. I love when he watches me and love knowing that he is there for me all the time. He would do anything. … He coached me from T-ball all the way through my eighth-grade year of select.