BY JILL WINTERS
Lake Wales, Florida - The first day of the round of 16 at the Kia PBA Playoffs saw No. 1 seed Jason Belmonte fall to No. 16 Bill O’Neill, and two former PBA Playoff champions advancing.
Belmonte and O’Neill both started with urethane inside the Kegel Training Center. Belmonte struggled to carry the 7-pin throughout the two-game match leaving five of them. O’Neill led the first game to earn the 247-227 win in the race to two points format. Belmonte jumped out to a commanding lead in match two throwing the first five-in-a-row to gain a 54-pin advantage and never looked back. The 2022 PBA Player of the Year frontrunner took the second game, 258-213 to force a 9th and 10th frame roll-off.
Belmonte doubled and got 8-spare to finish with 48. O’Neill anticipated having to strike every shot and finished nearly perfect with a 59 to advance.
“The first strike on the left lane is really important because you can’t give him an opportunity to just close it out without you ever having a 10th frame,” O’Neill said. “I probably threw the best shot of the whole match the first one in the 9th frame. Sometimes it works out.”
“I got sympathy cheers because I was there,” O’Neill said about feeling like a crowd underdog against Belmonte. “He is the most popular figure in our sport, and he deserves that. I believe in myself, and I always think I can win.”
Match two featured No. 8 Sean Rash against No. 9 Kyle Troup. Troup, who is the defending champion, dominated Rash. In game one, Troup was perfect through seven frames before leaving a 10-pin. He took game one 266-218, as Rash left five 10-pins. Game two was more of the same as Troup had the front six. He finished with 11-strikes in the match for a 266-195 victory.
Troup relied on a Storm Phaze 4 that was drilled before the show to give him a strong ball reaction following Belmonte and O’Neill’s use of urethane on the TV pair. Troup felt that stretched out the Don Carter 39-foot oil pattern for him creating more hold and kept his angles in front of him.
“I was dancing, giving it to the crowd,” Troup said. “That was probably one of the more fun shows I have had in a long time. Knowing that they want to see me strike and succeed.
“I figured, put on a show for the people here because we love to have people in the stands and put on a show for people back home that way we get more and more people watching the sport and enjoying it,” Troup said.
No. 4 Dom Barrett came out swinging in his match against the only left on the show, No. 13 Patrick Hanrahan. Barrett threw 11 strikes to earn the 280-226 win. Barrett’s worst shot of the day came in the second frame of game two, leaving the big four giving Hanrahan an opening. The southpaw played both lanes slightly different and was able to post eight strikes in the match to fend off Barrett’s attempt for a sweep. In the sixth frame, Barrett switch to his Columbia 300 Speed bowling ball, which was the same ball and layout he used to win the Kia PBA Tournament of Champions in February.
“I have got a little trust in that ball, and it worked out perfectly,” Barrett said, about making the ball change.
Barrett threw the last seven straight strikes to lose 255-233, forcing a 9th and 10th frame roll-off.
Hanrahan threw a stone 9 and failed to strike in his 10th frame for a 38. Barrett’s ball kept striking three more times as he rolled a 59 to advance. Despite Hanrahan clearly having the crowd behind him, Barrett put his head down and made good shots when he needed them. That is all thanks to extra work he has put in this season.
“I am creating a little bit more power in a different way without rev rate,” he said. “I think my ball reaction this year has proven to be really good.”
In the final match on Sunday, No. 5 seed Kris Prather took on No. 12 Brad Miller. Prather, who won the inaugural PBA Playoffs, felt both he and Miller were nervous at the beginning. Prather started strong with five-in-a-row before a pocket 4-9 split, which he failed to convert. Miller was down by 20-pins in the fifth frame before he rolled a pocket 7-10 split. Both bowlers battled to the end with Prather taking match one, 210-205.
“I just had to focus on making sure that my hand was soft at the bottom and wasn’t trying to make the ball hook,” Prather said. “I feel like I kind of stole game one because Brad made a late charge there and he never really gave up.”
In game two, Prather struck in four out of his first five frames, while Miller was a little between balls. The match was tied at 139 in the sixth frame before Prather finished with five out of six strikes for the 258-212 win to advance to face Barrett.
“I knew that if I kept putting pressure on him, I had a chance coming down the stretch,” Prather said.
Prather’s wife, Ashley was his “good luck charm” in the stands.
The quarterfinals featuring O’Neill versus Troup and Barrett against Prather will air at noon ET April 24 on FS1. Three out of these four are previous PBA Playoff winners.
The round of 16 will continue at 1 p.m. ET Saturday with No. 2 Anthony Simonsen vs. No. 15 Shawn Maldonado, and No. 7 Jakob Butturff vs. No. 10 AJ Johnson.
Match 1 – O’Neill def. Belmonte 247-227, 213-258, 59-48 in roll-off
Match 2 – Troup def. Rash 266-218, 266-195
Match 3 – Barrett def. Hanrahan 280-226, 233-255, 59-38 in roll-off
Match 4 – Prather def. Miller 210-205, 258-212