By RON DEUTER
FLORENCE, Wis. - In another wild back and forth affair with Three Lakes, the Florence Bobcats came up short in a regional title bid, falling 18-14 Wednesday evening at Red Johnson Field.
Florence, at one time leading 14-8, simply ran out of experienced pitching and then couldn't rally against Three Lakes fireballer Michael LoGalbo during the final two innings.
Three Lakes pushed across eight runs in the sixth to take the lead for good.
The Bobcats loaded the bases in their final at-bat, but LoGalbo got a strikeout and then a fielder's choice to end the game.
Florence was without ace pitcher Louie Garcia, who was tossed from Tuesday's semifinal and subsequently issued a one-game suspension to be served in Wednesday's final.
Florence coach Dave LaPoint used Garcia for two innings Tuesday as the Bobcats built a comfortable lead against Elcho, hoping to have the No. 1 available against Three Lakes. But Garcia was ejected after attempting to run out a grounder and stepping on the first baseman's ankle instead of the bag.
"I thought I had the pitching lined up for today but unfortunately we had an incident that took our number one pitcher away," LaPoint said. "But I'm not going to use that as an excuse."
Marshall Kelley started against Three Lakes, but only had two innings of availability. He kept the Blue Jays scoreless through two. Tyler Valine came on next, battling some soreness, and managed to keep the Bobcats in the game.
But when Three Lakes broke through in the sixth, LaPoint was out of options on the mound. He tried Jeremy Schalow and Kyle Abbas, neither having pitched at all this season.
"Marshall threw well, and Tyler did the best he could," LaPoint said. "The rest that came in, they gave it what they had.
"I just told them give us the best you can, and it almost paid off."
Florence led 3-0 through two. Abbas, who finished with three hits, had a two-run double in the first.
Three Lakes struck for four in the third, but the Bobcats answered with two in the third and two more in the fourth to take a 7-4 lead. Spencer Davis drove in a run in the third, with Valine knocking in two with a double in the fourth.
Another four-spot by the Blue Jays made it 8-7 Three Lakes heading into the bottom of the fifth - a two-run homer over the left field fence by Hunter Mathison serving as the big blow of that frame.
Florence erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth, coming within four of ending the game via the mercy rule. Kelly had a two- run hit. Kevin Young drove in two more with a single. Valine also doubled in a pair.
But once Three Lakes grabbed the lead in the sixth, they went to semifinal winner LaGalbo. He retired the Bobcats in order in the sixth, the first inning all game that Florence went without a run. LaGalbo fanned four over the final two innings.
"I'm proud of them for not quitting," LaPoint said. "And we had a chance in the bottom of the seventh.
"We needed that extra pitcher there, and I think we would have got through."
Florence finished the season 6-3.
"Overall it was and up and down year," LaPoint said. "We never really got to a set lineup. And we did make young mistakes. Hopefully the guys coming back will be better for it."
Three Lakes will play Wausaukee at Tigerton High School next Tuesday.
Three Lakes 004 048 2 - 18
Florence 212 270 0 - 14