BRADENTON -- In the aftermath of Friday's Class 5A-Region 3 softball final, the scoreboard said one thing, but the Bayshore Bruins' faces said another.
They gathered for a picture at home plate, brandishing smiles following an 18-6 loss to Lake Wales that ended Bayshore's best season in nearly a decade.
This time next year, however, the Bruins won't be as happy if the season ends the same way.
But on Friday, they chose to focus on how long the season lasted rather than the way it ended.
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"It was a good run. We just ran into a better team," coach Frank Luther said. "We didn't play our 'A' game, but even if we did, it would have been tough."
Regional finalists for the first time since 2004, the Bruins (17-8) fell into a deep hole early as the Highlanders took a 9-0 lead after the top of the first, which lasted roughly 25 minutes.
Lake Wales batted around before making an out, stole six bases in the inning -- leadoff hitter Tayshayla Irvis swiped four -- and took advantage of a pair of Bruins errors.
"That took some wind out of the girls," Luther said. "And with the good crowd we had here, I think there were some nerves, too."
The Bruins managed a rally in the second, scoring three times, with JoJo Muldoon and Marina Clark each driving in a run. A throwing error by Lake Wales pitcher Kelsey Oller made the score 9-4, and reliever Ashley Perry kept the score there by setting down the Highlanders in order in the second.
But the Highlanders (18-10) blew the game open with a six-run fourth and three more in the fifth to help trigger the 10-run mercy rule and send Lake Wales off to the state semifinals for the sixth time and first since 2009.
"They were tough," Luther said.
It was a bitter end to a sweet season for Bayshore. Clark finished with four RBIs, and Lasahra James walked three times and scored twice.
Clark, James and Muldoon gave Bayshore an all-freshman outfield this spring, which is one of the reasons Luther is excited about the future.
"I was not expecting this. I was banking on next season," he said. "I expect this team to be one of the teams to beat around here, I promise you that."
Kassidy Clifford, Braden Causey and Sarah Gardner are the three departing seniors. Two were in the lineup against Lake Wales, which means seven of Bayshore's starters Friday are expected to be back next spring.
But Luther wanted them to embrace the present, too.
"I told the girls to enjoy (Friday)," Luther said, "and to not let one game kill the whole season. ... I'm very proud of them. Nothing can get me down."