Already with two seasons of experience playing for Bozeman, Michael Freund has learned how to approach each situation. He’s learned how his slumps have started and how to prevent them from festering. He’s learned when he plays his best, what he needs to do to accomplish that and how to hone his approach.

Bucks manager Garrett Schultz understands too. Freund plays his best when he’s relaxed and enjoying the sport.

“Michael is having a lot of fun. He wears his emotions on his sleeve,” Schultz said. “You can see when he’s having a really good time. He plays baseball at a really high level.”

Freund, who typically bats near the top of the lineup, ranks close to the lead in most of the Bucks’ offensive categories, has remained a stalwart at shortstop and solidified his spot as a go-to relief pitcher. The 2018 all-state honoree came through again Friday as Bozeman (36-11) beat the Pocatello (Idaho) Runnin’ Rebels 15-3 and beat the Columbia Basin (Washington) River Dogs 16-1 in four innings.

In the two games, Freund went 3 for 6 with two RBIs and six runs. In a five-inning complete game in the opener, Freund allowed three runs and struck out 10.

When called out on infield grounders, Freund is unafraid to rip off his helmet and throw his head back in frustration. When he crosses the plate, he celebrates emphatically. When he shows emotion on a consistent basis, he sends a message to the rest of the Bucks.

“I definitely play my best when I’m loose and I’m having fun,” Freund said. “So if something bad happens or if I’m not hitting well, I just try to relax and try to laugh stuff off and just keep a good mindset and just stay light.”

On June 9 against the Rapid City (South Dakota) Hardhats, Freund batted in a tied game in the seventh inning. He crushed a game-winning, two-run home run.

On June 22 against Creighton Prep (Nebraska), Freund tripled twice and drove in a run each time. The first, in the fifth inning, broke the tie and the second, in the seventh, bumped Bozeman’s lead to three.

In those crucial situations, Schultz said, Freund often takes advantage.

“When a big situation comes your way, you can’t just pucker up and get all nervous about it,” Freund said. “You got to just stay loose and be confident in yourself and just know that you got to be better than the person standing across from you. ... I take a deep breath, just flush any thoughts out and just think ‘I’m going to beat this guy.’”

At the start of last season, Freund noticed a change in his game. He spent the prior offseason bulking up, adding 25 pounds. The acquired strength led to improved shortstop play. A year later, Freund now passes the lesson he learned onto younger players.

Not only has Freund developed a knack for making difficult plays at short, he often conjures up creative ways to fool runners. Schultz noted his pump fakes that draw runners away from second base only to be immediately tagged out.

“Michael is definitely one of my favorite infielders,” pitcher Hunter Williams said. “Whenever a ball goes toward there, I know he’s going to make a play.”

On the mound, Freund pitches as hard as he can, a style that lends itself to shorter outings. The longer he goes in games, the tougher it becomes to play shortstop afterward.

So Freund has embraced his role as a closer, and he’s comfortable when inserted into pressure-filled scenarios.

“Michael is a really talented shortstop, and he’s also a talented pitcher,” Schultz said, “but we don’t get to pitch him as much because he’s so good at shortstop that we like to leave him there and let him go get those ground balls.”

In order to continue playing at his best, Freund tracks his performances. In previous years, he’d “get super mad” after hitless games and his struggles spiraled into more contests. Now that the high school graduate understands that, he tries to respond quickly.

In between doubleheader games, he may take swings off a tee and reset his thinking.

“I just get in that mindset of ‘Yeah, I’m better than an 0-for-4 day,’” Freund said. “I’m like, ‘Just relax, don’t worry about this.’”

And if he keeps playing the way he has, Freund won’t have much else to worry about.

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

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