Bucks v. Mountain View Toros (copy)

Bucks pitcher Sage McMinn throws on June 29 at Heroes Park.

Sage McMinn walked the game’s first two batters and needed 24 pitches to navigate the first inning Thursday. But from then on, Bozeman’s starting pitcher found a groove.

McMinn used 73 pitches in the next six innings and only allowed three hits in the shutout. The dominant performance powered the Bucks to a 5-0 win over the Kennewick (Washington) Outlaws on Thursday in the second round of the regional tournament in Lewiston, Idaho.

“Sage had them looking uncomfortable,” Bucks manager Garrett Schultz said. “He got better as the game went on.”

With the victory, Bozeman will face Medford (Oregon) at 8 p.m. Friday.

McMinn developed a reputation throughout the season as a player who rises to the occasion in key moments. Now in a postseason tournament among other state champions, McMinn impressed again.

In seven innings, McMinn struck out eight and only walked three. He delivered strikes on nearly 63% of his pitches and the solid Bucks defense came through once again with only an error in the first inning and none more the rest of the game. Schultz mentioned key defensive plays from right fielder Samuel Schmidt and catcher Alton Gyselman to keep the shutout alive.

“It’s a challenge to throw a complete game at this level because of the 105 top-end pitch count,” Schultz said. “(McMinn) really competed his butt off and had great defense behind him. He really challenged hitters.”

As McMinn mowed down the Outlaws, his offense gave him enough support. Bozeman’s first three batters of the game reached base as Kelher Murfitt led off with a single, followed by another single from Ben Hubley and a Finn Snyder walk. All three scored later in the inning.

A Hubley double in the second scored Preston Fliehman and in the sixth, Schmidt singled to score Carsten Simcox, who finished 2 for 3 with a team-high two RBIs.

The win comes a day after battling from behind in the opening round and now the Bucks are three victories from a regional crown.

“Everybody here is really good. Kennewick is probably one of the better teams here,” Schultz said. “We said coming in, we expected to compete at a high level. We’re playing at a high level and when we do that, we got a shot.”

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

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.