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Buffalo's Tom Baker, the leader going into the final round of match play, had to struggle Tuesday night to finish in third place and qualify for tonight's stepladder finals of the PBA Ebonite Challenge at Woodland Bowl.

"I feel fortunate to only drop two spots," the 43-year-old veteran said. "It was a struggle, man. The lanes were pretty rough out there. I had to hang in the best I can.

"What I was doing earlier in the week wasn't working. I really didn't feel comfortable with the shot I had."

Dave D'Entremont of Middleburg Heights, Ohio, who began the night in 10th place, was the leading qualifier with 9,704. He went 14-9-1 in the last round of match play. Mike Edwards of Oklahoma City held on to second place with 14-9-1, 9,646. Then came Baker at 14-10, 9,575. Tonight, Baker will face the winner of the opening match between Del Ballard Jr. of North Richland Hills, Texas, and John Mazza of Shelby Township, Mich.

ESPN will televise tonight's finals at 7:30. The winner will earn $21,000.

In his final match Tuesday night, Baker defeated Mazza, 203-188, to hang on to third place.

"That last game I had to grind it out," Baker said.

Baker took the lead in Monday's fourth round, and held it through the fifth-round Tuesday afternoon. He came out of that round with an 11-5 match-play record and 7,863 total as he averaged 221.

Baker will be aiming for his 10th career title on the tour. His last appearance in the televised finals was last May 31 in Harrisburg, Pa., when he was seeded second and defeated Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the championship match, 200-166.

In 1996, he made two finals shows, defeating Bob Learn Jr. in the ACDelco Classic in Lakewood, Calif., and finishing third in the Kingpin Classic in Wichita, Kansas.

Brian Eaton of Amherst, N.Y., earned $1,550 for finishing 22nd.

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