Bozeman Bucks (copy)

Senior pitcher Hunter Williams starts the game against the Gillette Roughriders on June 10 at Heroes Park.

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All season long, Bozeman players had an idea of what they were capable of this summer. If they received the chance to play, they wanted to maximize it.

So in their first game at the state tournament this year — after winning last year’s Class AA title — the Bucks cruised once again, defeating the Billings Royals 11-0 Thursday in Billings.

After a first-round bye automatically put Bozeman into Thursday’s nightcap, the No. 1-seeded Bucks (46-12) advanced to the third round, where they will face Helena at 7 p.m. Friday. Bozeman and Helena are the only two teams yet to lose in the tournament. The winner of that matchup will be just two wins away from a state title.

“It’s huge,” catcher Alton Gyselman said of the hot start. “I think we’re going to take this energy tonight and keep it rolling for the next game and keep rolling from there.”

Hunter Williams started for the Bucks, allowing two hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out seven batters and managed to throw 59 pitches, meaning he could potentially return to the mound on Sunday with a championship on the line. Parker McMan recorded the final four outs as Bozeman sealed the victory due to the mercy rule.

Logan Pailthorpe drove in a team-high three runs and scored twice while Ben Hubley and Sage McMinn knocked in two runs each. Kelher Murfitt crossed the plate three times.

Bucks manager Garrett Schultz complimented his batters for not pressing. They aggressively swung at pitches in the strike zone, a core aspect of their approach throughout the season.

Two key bunts by Hubley and Pailthorpe lifted the Bucks to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and they never looked back. They added five runs in the second, and McMinn’s two-run homer in the third broke the game open.

“Our guys were really excited to play today,” Schultz said. “They got the momentum early. They created the momentum early with bunts and ran the bases well.”

Once the lead was established, Williams and McMan shut down the Royals, who only had four baserunners all game.

Williams kept Billings off balance by effectively locating his curveball and generating swings and misses. McMan, in addition to his two doubles on offense, contributed by mixing up his changeup and fastball for strikes.

“Hunter and Parker are two very different pitchers,” Gyselman said, “and both were really effective.”

Earlier this week, Schultz spent time strategizing with his coaching staff. They planned ideas for how the tournament could unfold.

An opening-night win cut short because of Bozeman’s dominance played right into their hands.

“It was a great start,” Schultz said. “Exactly how we wanted to start the tournament.”

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Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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