Dripping Springs alumna and Creighton University softball pitcher Kiele Miller is on the path to becoming a star in the Big East Conference.
A breakout freshman campaign, which included a Big East All-Second team selection, put Miller on the map; a serious back injury derailed her sophomore season. Now fully recovered, she has her eyes set on becoming the top pitcher in the conference her junior year in 2020.
“My goal is to get Big East pitcher of the year,” Miller said. “That was my goal my freshman year and I fell short. That was my goal last year and sadly I got hurt so I couldn’t reach that goal.”
Miller seamlessly transitioned from high school softball with the Tigers to become one of the top pitchers in the Big East her freshman year with the Blue Jays. In addition to her Big East Conference All-Second team selection, she led the conference in ERA (1.42) and opposing batting average (.172), with also 147 strikeouts over a 14-8 record. Miller’s stellar performance her freshman year led Creighton all the way to the Big East Championship game.
“My freshman year was unbelievable in a couple ways,” Miller said. “I was lucky enough to start as a freshman, it’s just something not a lot of people get to do. I was lucky enough that I had a great team that really backed me up and believed in me.”
After experiencing the ultimate high of pitching in the Big East Championship game as a freshman, Miller said she experienced the lowest point in her career during her sophomore season as she had to sit out due to a fractured back.
“I was pitching and it just kind of tweaked, and then it just kind of grew from there,” she said. “Because I never really stopped, it caused a stress fracture from inflammation around my muscles.”
Miller has dealt with back issues in her life; she had scoliosis growing up.
But this was the first season she missed playing time due to an injury. The time off took a mental toll on her. When Miller returned later in the season after missing multiple months of action, she had to get over the mental fear of re-injuring herself. It wasn’t until a pep talk from her coach during the middle of a game where she regained the confidence to pitch without thinking about the injury.
“The ultimate thing is if I kept thinking about it, I was going to hurt myself, but if I just trusted myself I was going to be okay.” Miller said. “I just looked at the batter and was like okay, it’s just time to get back to myself. I just really gave it everything I had, did my motion like I used to, wasn’t as cautious and I mean it worked out.”
With the injury now behind her, Miller has re-focused herself in the circle. Miller is known for her rise-ball and curveball pitches, and she also deploys a change-up and screwball from time to time, but she is looking to add another pitch to her belt to take her game to the next level.
“I think that if I can learn to throw a drop ball, I’ll be deadly,” said Miller. “I’m working with my dad and some pitching coaches this summer to work on getting a drop ball.”
Adding a fifth pitch and putting in work in the weight room are Miller’s two main goals this offseason. After experiencing the injury, she is focused on staying healthy in order to accomplish her goals this upcoming season.
“My goal, my main one, is to be healthy all season,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard to strengthen my core and strengthen body so I don’t get hurt again.”
Miller said the injury gave her a new-found perspective on playing and not taking the game she loves for granted. It has not only motivated her to return to the level of play she had her freshman year, but to take it one step further and bounce back.
“I took being able to play for granted, then once I wasn’t allowed to play anymore it was so hard to sit,” said Miller. “Going from doing so good my freshman year and then mentally just saying ‘okay you’re hurt, it’s not because you’re not doing good’. So this year I’m really just going to go and I’m going to get that Big East pitcher of the year.”