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HELENA — Colin Sassano and Andrew Rosston couldn't stay away from the Helena Senators.

The college freshmen wanted one more season with the Class AA American Legion team they helped develop the last five years.

Both are already on their post-baseball paths, but the lure to play for the program one more time and make a run at the state title was too much to pass up.

They lead the Senators into the eight-team, double-elimination tournament Saturday night as the No. 7 seed against No. 2 Kalispell.

"I'm not sad about playing in the state tournament," Sassano said. "I'm excited to play and compete for a state championship. It's an exciting thing. It will be fun times. We made it to state and come a long way this year."

Both know it's win the tournament and advance to the regional tournament or their baseball careers are over, but they are not worrying about that now.

They just want to conclude the weekend with their best effort.

"You can never count our team out," said Sassano, the team's third baseman. "We have the potential to beat any team in the state. We have a lot of talent. Sometimes we can be inconsistent, but you can't count us out."

Sassano heads into his redshirt freshman season with the Carroll College football team. That's where his focus will be for the next four years.

"Football is what I enjoy doing — the grind that goes with it, and the team sport," Sassano said. "Baseball is something I do just to have fun. Baseball, you are always with your team in the summer. It's fun to build new relationships. That's what's cool about this team. I got the chance to play with some younger kids that I haven't played with before." 

Rosston, a first baseman, attends Montana State just as a student. He could have played baseball at a smaller school, but decided his education at MSU was more important than playing a few more years.

"I had a lot of fun this year," Rosston said. "It's a new team to me. There were a few guys I played with before, but it's a lot of new faces."

Both wanted one more summer of having fun with a game they played much of their lives.

They've been in the Senators program for five seasons. They were on the first Independents team as freshmen in high school.

"It will be different not playing baseball with Colin, but we'll remain friends forever," Rosston said.

Sassano worked out a summer schedule with Senators coach Jon Burnett and Carroll College football coach Mike Van Diest.

He missed some baseball practices and games for football workouts, and he missed some football workouts for baseball games.

"Coach B knows that's my No. 1 priority and I have to do that because I'm going to school for it," Sassano said. "Coach Van Diest has been great, letting me miss a workout here and there to play a baseball game."

Rosston started the season late due to finishing the semester in Bozeman. Then he battled a knee injury that kept him out for some time.

Being away from the game kept him focused on a return. 

"When you are in the offseason you think about baseball," Rosston said. "You think, I want to hit the ball hard again. It's my favorite sport. So it's going to be bittersweet when it ends, for sure. I'm excited about this weekend, but it's time. We are motivated to keep going. We'll keep going as long as we can."

Sassano agrees about keeping it going, but he's ready to begin football practice with the Saints. Come spring time, though, he expects to feel the urge to get back on the diamond.

"I've had a good time playing and I'm going to miss it, but it's time to move on," Sassano said. "I'm happy where I'm at. Maybe I'll talk to Coach B about coaching next year. I want to keep baseball in my life even though I can't play."

Burnett appreciated their contributions beyond being his regular third and fourth batters in his lineup.

The Senators lost 12 seniors last year. Their return this season helped the team reach the state playoffs and be a contender for the title.

"The level of leadership they bring, and both of them are quiet guys, but the guys look up to them and watch how they handle and carry themselves," Burnett said. "They've been a big influence on our team this year. With how young we were this year, getting those two back took us from being a competitive team to a team that has a chance to win some games at state."

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