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Though the last week of Montana’s wintry spring weather didn’t indicate as much, baseball season is fast approaching.

The Bozeman Bucks open their American Legion season this week with a roster that has much to build on after going 27-38 a year ago.

The Bucks also begin their season with a new manager. Sean Potkay was picked for the role after former manager Garrett Schultz took a more administrative role with the Legion program last fall. Potkay has served as the team’s hitting coach since 2018.

In many ways, the Bucks have a lot to learn about themselves. And they are looking forward to getting started.

“Our seniors are really excited for this year. I think they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders from last year,” Potkay said. “The vibe or energy we’ve had so far has been pretty good.”

The Bucks begin their season at 6 p.m. Tuesday against the Gallatin Valley Outlaws at Heroes Park. They also host a doubleheader against Vauxhall Academy beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. Games against Vauxhall (10 a.m.) and the Helena Senators (1 p.m.) follow on Sunday.

Coming off of AA state championships in 2019 and 2020, the Bucks had trouble last year replicating that success with a less experienced roster. They entered the state tournament as the sixth seed and went 1-2 to end their season.

The teams of two and three years ago benefitted from a wealth of upperclassmen with experience playing for the AA team. Last year’s group didn’t have the same number of innings at AA, but the bulk of that group is returning this season.

The challenge this year will be to prove they can string together more wins.

“Experience-wise, we’re more similar to those (championship) teams,” Potkay said, “but as far as going out on the field and proving we can win and compete at the AA level, we still have to see that a little bit with this group.”

The team began its offseason work in January, conducting hitting and throwing sessions at various indoor locations around town. Potkay said he remains mostly in charge of the team’s offensive strategies while letting his assistants take the lead in their areas of expertise.

“I like to divvy it up and have people run their show on the thing they’re the best at,” Potkay said.

It helps, he said, that he doesn’t plan to change much of how the team runs from how it operated with Schultz as manager.

“Me and Garrett, we worked together for four years and really kind of developed most of our systems with each other. We’re going to try to keep a lot of that stuff the same,” Potkay said. “Baseball’s not quite like football where you’re trying to install a new offense or a new defense. Baseball’s mostly executing defensive and offensive fundamentals, throwing strikes, doing the simple stuff well.”

Senior Jake Vigen is back after starting nearly every game in right field after about the 10th game last year. Corbin Holzer, another senior, played every game at second base in 2021, and Potkay expects him to take over as the everyday shortstop in 2022.

“He does a good job of getting the ball out of his hand and across the infield, fielding his position,” Potkay said. “He’ll do a really nice job for us defensively this year.”

Fellow seniors Michael Armstrong (pitcher and center field), Andrew Western (catcher) and the versatile Dillon Coleman will also add experience to the lineup.

In the junior class, Potkay is looking for contributions from Luke Rizzo (third base), Austin Cooper (outfield) and Gannon McGarrah. Max Metteucci, a first baseman, is the only player from the 2021 graduating class to return this season.

“I feel pretty good about where we’re at offensively,” Potkay said. “Our pitching staff is probably the one area where we have more question marks than anything at this point.”

Leading the effort to eat innings this season will be senior Jackson Burke.

“He’ll be throwing a lot for us again,” Potkay said.

Armstrong was more of a relief pitcher last year. Potkay liked him in that role, but he might also need him to be a starter at times this season. The rest of the rotation will be made up, at least partially, of players Potkay hopes can grow up quickly. He identified Bryce Hampton, Chris Wrench and Justin Garcia as three options.

“We’ve got a set of role guys who threw for us last year who have potential to be good at the AA level,” Potkay said. “They’ve just got to go and do it.”

The Bucks’ schedule includes three tournaments away from home — at the Gillette Memorial Tournament May 27-30, at the Omaha Creighton Prep Tournament June 22-26 and the Helena Keith Sell Tournament July 1-4. The Bucks will also host a tournament July 6-10 that brings teams from North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho to Bozeman.

“It’s a good opportunity to play teams we never get to see,” Potkay said of the various tournaments.

The Canadian teams within the Bucks’ conference will also participate this year after missing the last two seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be competing for the eight-team state tournament field, making this year’s schedule a little more competitive.

“There’s a certain ambiguity to the Canadian teams because nobody’s seen them in two seasons,” Potkay said. “In years past you’d have an idea of who’s on their roster. But this year nobody really has a clue what they look like.”

To a certain extent, the same could be said about Bozeman. There are some unknown elements surrounding the 2022 version of the Bucks. The quicker they learn what their identity is, the sooner they will get back to their winning ways.

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Parker Cotton can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @ByParkerCotton.

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