Bobcats win WIAA opener


Sports Editor

FLORENCE, Wis. – Florence is moving on the WIAA Division 4 baseball playoffs, but the Bobcats will have to play this evening’s regional semifinal without top pitcher Louie Garcia.

Florence chopped down Elcho 10-6 Tuesday at Red Johnson Field, but lost Garcia to an ejection in the fifth inning for stepping on the ankle of Elcho’s first baseman when trying to beat out a grounder.

By rule, an ejected player must sit one additional game, leaving Florence head coach Dave LaPoint in a jam for this evening’s regional semifinal against Three Lakes.

“He stepped on his ankle instead of stepping on the base,” LaPoint said, not questioning the ejection.

Garcia started for Florence and was lifted after two innings with the Bobcats already up 8-1. Marshall Kelley came on for the next four innings, before giving way to Tyler Valine in the seventh. But, with Elcho mounting a two-out rally in the seventh, LaPoint had to bring Kelley back to the mound for the final out – at the cost of another complete inning.

Kelley enters today’s game with two innings of availability left, while Valine has six.

The entire pitching situation might have been avoided had Florence been able to add two more runs earlier in the contest. The Bobcats led 10-2 after three innings but couldn’t shorten the contest via the 10-run rule.

“That’s what I’m upset about,” LaPoint said. “You score two runs, get off the field and save your pitching. We weren’t hungry enough to do that.”

Florence scored four in the first and four more in the second against Elcho pitcher Alec Smith.

Kyle Abbas, who had four hits and three RBIs in the game, had run-scoring singles in each of the first three innings.

Jeremy Schalow added an RBI triple in the first. Kelley singled in another first-inning run. In the second, Tyler Beck’s double to right scored two more. Kelly doubled in Florence’s 10th run in the third.

Garcia allowed two hits and one run in his two innings of work, walking none while striking out one. Kelley gave up four hits, fanning four and walking one.

Errors helped extend the game in the seventh, as Valine struck out the first two batters before the Bobcats got in trouble.

After plating two runs on a dropped fly in the outfield, BJ McKinney poked a two-run double to left off Kelley. But Kelley recovered with a strikeout to the next batter to end the game.

The Bobcats (6-2) host Three Lakes at 5 p.m. The Blue Jays eliminated Goodman-Pembine 15-1 Tuesday.

Florence topped the Blue Jays 15-14 in a wild contest on May 14. the Bobcats trailed 7-0 after the first inning and blew a two-run lead in the seventh before rallying for five runs in the bottom half to escape with the win.

“We’ll do the best we can,” LaPoint said. “I know Three Lakes will be anxious to get a piece of us.”