Curt’s Replays: 1975 Helena Sand & Gravel fastpitch softball was state runner-up

HELENA — Today when you mention fastpitch softball, almost anyone under the age of 50 probably thinks you’re talking about the girl’s sport. But back in the 1950s through most of the 1980s – with its zenith in the middle two decades – men’s fastpitch was hugely popular.

“Back in the ‘60s and throughout the ‘70s, fastpitch softball was big in Montana,” related Mike Nilan, a former player/coach from that era. “Great Falls could always boast of having several top teams in the state, and 1975 was no exception.”

And it was in that season 47 years ago this month that Nilan was a member of a capital city team that went toe-to-toe with the best in Montana.

“Our 1975 Helena Sand & Gravel fastpitch softball team finished the year with a 51-9 overall record, following league play, several Invitational tournaments, and the District and State tourneys,” Nilan, 76, emailed from his home in Buckeye, Arizona.

Helena Sand came through the consolation bracket at state, winning three games back to back to back, before settling for the runner-up trophy.

Nilan and several other members had played with district champs Mr. Lucky’s in 1974, and then branched off and to form a new group the next season.

Helena Sand’s starting lineup in ’75 consisted of eight former Senators Legion baseball players, including: Reggie Voiles, catcher (1966-68); Jim Fleming, first base (1969-70), Bruce Atkins, second base (1964-65); Jim Chambers, shortstop (1969-70); Dan Lieberg, third base (1969); and outfielder