Perfect Game Propels Dallas Strikers into Elias Cup Finals Against NYC WTT KingPins

by Bob Johnson 0

Bill Vint
Professional Bowlers Association

DallasStrikers_Duke.Norm_300gamefinalshot_2016PBALRd2b

PORTLAND, Maine – Helped by the first perfect game in Professional Bowlers Association League history, the GoBowling.com Dallas Strikers advanced to a PBA League Elias Cup showdown with the 2013 Elias Cup champion GEICO New York City WTT KingPins.

The semifinal round matches aired Sunday on ESPN, with PBA Hall of Famer, Pete Weber, leading the KingPins to a dramatic best-of-two-game victory over the hometown-favorite Shipyard Brewing Portland Lumberjacks while Weber’s long-time opponent and fellow Hall of Famer, Norm Duke, inspired the Strikers in their 2-0 sweep of the Barbasol Motown Muscle at Bayside Bowl.

In the first semifinal match, the KingPins, behind Mike Fagan, John Szczerbinski, Scott Norton, Weber and anchor bowler, Marshall Kent, used superior strike power in the last half of both games for a 223-190 and 237-222 sweep of the Lumberjacks.

Norton, after leaving a 4-6-7-8-10 “Greek church” in frame three of game one, stabilized the KingPins with strikes on his next three attempts while Kent, PBA’s 2014 Rookie of the Year, delivered in the fifth and 10th frames of both games.

“It was all me; I just threw it bad,” Norton said of his initial error, “but I was able to fix the physical mistakes the next three shots. The good thing is, my team was able to pick me up, which is what it’s all about.”

Kent was the team’s choice to assume the anchor role from Weber because his game matched up better with the conditions, and he embraced the opportunity.

“It feels good the whole team was behind the decision,” Kent said. “We work together so well we could have put any of our five guys in that position and we would have been comfortable. But I’m kinda glad it was me. I like being in that position.

“The atmosphere is so much fun,” the former Robert Morris-Illinois collegiate star added. “It reminds me a lot of college, with all of the teams and parents, and it’s loud and crazy. I’m actually very comfortable in this atmosphere.”

In the second semifinal match, Dallas made history with its 300-237 romp in game one, with Duke completing the perfect game with three strikes in the 10th frame. In game two, Duke moved himself to leadoff and turned over anchor duties to Tommy Jones. The Strikers fell behind by 37 pins after five frames on the troublesome left lane, but when they switched to the right lane to finish the game, Duke, B.J. Moore, Shawn Maldonado, Bill O’Neill and Jones ran off a string of six consecutive strikes for a 215-204 victory, and the Strikers’ first trip to the Elias Cup finals.

“That was mega exciting,” Duke beamed later. “I can’t even begin to tell you. I was so worried about getting into a big deficit early, like we did last week. It seems like the left lane wants to give you problems if you want to hook the ball, but it’s actually my best lane so that’s why I bowled the 10th in game one and had Tommy throw the rock in game two.”

After starting the first game with eight strikes, Dallas had the game locked up, but the 300 was still in play.

“When Tommy got that strike in the ninth, he turned around and said, ‘I’m so glad it’s on you [to finish it] … and that’s what gave me the strength,” Duke said. “He just put it on me, like someone gets in your face and dares you, and that’s what lifted me to the point I could get it done.”

But the pressure was back on Jones to rescue his team in the 10th frame of game two.

“We were pretty much dead and buried through five frames,” Jones said. “The left lane is okay early, but once it changes a little bit, it just seems to catch people the wrong way. [Motown’s] Josh [Blanchard] got a terrible break leaving an 8 pin in the eighth frame, and Anthony [Simonsen] made a good shot in the 10th that didn’t carry.

“We were fortunate to throw a couple of good shots at the end,” Jones added. “I’m not sure what Norm’s thinking was. We had just bowled 300 and I thought he’d leave the lineup alone, but he’s the [manager], he made the choice [to move me to anchor] and we’re two for two, so I think we’ll keep going with something similar.”

While Dallas has never finished higher than fifth place in three previous PBA League seasons, the NYC WTT KingPins won the inaugural Elias Cup in Indianapolis in 2013, with celebrity owner Billie Jean King in the audience and Tommy Jones as part of their roster. Jones, who also helped the Silver Lake Atom Splitters win the 2014 Elias Cup, will be trying to win the PBA League championship for the third time with his third different team.

The 2016 Elias Cup finals will air on Sunday, May 8, at 1 p.m. ET. The PBA League championship will be decided by a singles, alternate-ball doubles and Baker trios matches worth one point each, followed by a five-player Baker team finale worth three points. If the two teams are tied after the Baker team match, a roll-off will determine the winner.

2016 PBA LEAGUE ELIAS CUP SEMIFINAL ROUND

Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine (aired Sunday, May 1 on ESPN)

(Best of two five-player Baker format team games, ties broken by roll-off)

Semifinal Match One: GEICO New York City WTT KingPins (Mike Fagan, John Szczerbinski, Scott Norton, Pete Weber, Marshall Kent) def. Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland Lumberjacks (Bryon Smith, Liz Johnson, Osku Palermaa, Ryan Ciminelli, Wes Malott) ($35,000), 2-0 (223-190, 237-222).

Semifinal Match Two: GoBowling.com Dallas Strikers (Bill O’Neill, BJ Moore, Shawn Maldonado, Tommy Jones, Norm Duke) def. Barbasol Motown Muscle (Ronnie Russell, Danielle McEwan, Josh Blanchard, EJ Tackett, Anthony Simonsen) ($35,000), 2-0 (300-237, 215-204).

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.