PORTLAND, Maine – The excitement generated from four sudden-death roll-offs in the quarterfinals continued to build in the L.L.Bean PBA League semifinal round at Bayside Bowl when the defending champion Shipyard Dallas Strikers swept their best-of-two-game match against the Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen while the local-favorite L.L.Bean Portland Lumberjacks won a stunning sudden-death battle over the Live + Work in Maine Silver Lake Atom Splitters to set up the finalists for next Sunday’s Elias Cup finals.
The best-of-two-game semifinal round matches aired Sunday on ESPN. The PBA League Elias Cup will be decided next Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT on ESPN in a showdown involving singles, doubles, trios and Baker team matches.
Employing a strategy that proved successful in the opening round, Dallas player-manager Norm Duke disregarded his personal views, electing to put his team on the more consistent right lane for the first game in order to finish the match on the tricky left lane. The strategy worked when team members Bill O’Neill, Duke, Rhino Page, BJ Moore III and anchor bowler Tommy Jones strung five strikes in the second half of game one for a 239-196 win. The Strikers then clinched their berth in the Elias Cup finals with a 201-165 win in game two – the first match settled without a roll-off – taking advantage of a pair of doubles while Philadelphia ran into split trouble as the scoring conditions on the right lane began to change.
“We were the higher seed so we got to choose the order of lanes,” Duke said. “We decided to do what we did (in the first round) because my guys seemed to like them when they’re hooking more. I don’t know about that, but they have a point. When the other guys go to the right lane, it’s harder to move right than left.
“It was against my instincts, but I have some really good minds and they know what they like,” the PBA Hall of Famer added. “I can pretty much deal with all of it, so I try to put them in the right position. Now we’re back in the title match, and that’s what counts.”
The Lumberjacks had a more challenging trip to their finals berth, facing a comeback after the Atom Splitters – the only team to win the Elias Cup twice – escaped with a 221-217 win in the first game. As the lane conditions continued to transition in the second game, strikes became less frequent and spares became more valuable.
Heading into the 10th frame, Portland was on the brink of elimination after throwing only three strikes in the entire game. The Atom Splitters, needing only a mark in the 10th frame to lock up another berth in the Elias Cup finals, saw their hopes slip when anchor Jesper Svensson got his first shot wide and left the 3-7 split. Then the crowd was stunned when the left-handed two-hander threw a near-perfect shot, but the 3 pin wrapped around the 7, handing the Lumberjacks a 185-182 victory and sending yet another match into sudden-death.
In the one-ball roll-off, Silver Lake’s Tom Daugherty and Portland’s Wes Malott both struck. On the second attempt, Svensson came up light in the pocket again, leaving a 3 pin, and Portland’s Ryan Ciminelli sent the crowd into a frenzy with a strike.
“I couldn’t even hear myself screaming over the fans,” Ciminelli said. “Before Jesper got up in the 10th frame, I told (Lumberjacks manager) Tim (Mack) if he gives us a chance, I want it and he said, it doesn’t matter; you’re already getting it. Then he looked at Wes, and Wes said he wanted to throw (the sudden-death shot). We kinda went back and forth, but we decided it was going to take two shots, so (Wes) went first and he gave me the opportunity to be the hero. It’s a very cool feeling.”
“What a match,” Mack said. “We never expected Jesper to give us a chance. Just goes to show it isn’t over until it’s over. He gets up in the 10th and gets the ball a little wide, and leaves that split. And then he wraps the pin around the 7 pin, which is crazy. He couldn’t have made a better shot.
“In the roll-off it’s about heart and determination. All of a sudden we got a second life,” Mack continued. “I knew it was going to be Ryan or the big guy (Malott), and I went with Wes first just because he wanted to redeem himself after feeling like he let us down in the 10th frame. That’s not true, but he gave a chance. Then Jesper left a 7 pin and Ciminelli made an unbelievable shot. That’s what it’s all about.”
Next Sunday’s 1 p.m. EDT Elias Cup finals telecast between the Shipyard Dallas Strikes and L.L.Bean Portland Lumberjacks will include singles, doubles and Baker trios matches worth one point each, and a five-player Baker format team finale worth three points. In case of a tie, the Elias Cup will be decided in a one-ball sudden-death roll-off.
In addition to the Elias Cup, the PBA will recognize the PBA League’s Mark Roth Most Valuable Player at the conclusion of the finals.
The ESPN telecast will be simultaneously streamed on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
L.L.BEAN PBA LEAGUE
Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine (aired Sunday on ESPN)
Semifinal Round Results (best-of-two-game Baker format)
Semifinal Match One: Shipyard Dallas Strikers (Bill O’Neill, Norm Duke, Rhino Page, B.J. Moore III, Tommy Jones) def. Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen (Ronnie Russell, Dave Wodka, Chris Loschetter, Dom Barrett, Tom Smallwood), 239-196, 201-165.
Semifinal Match Two: L.L.Bean Portland Lumberjacks (Bryon Smith, Liz Johnson, Kyle Troup, Ryan Ciminelli, Wes Malott) def. Live + Work in Maine Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Chris Barnes, Shawn Maldonado, DJ Archer, Tom Daugherty, Jesper Svensson), 217-221, 185-182, 10-10, 10-9 in one-ball sudden-death roll-off.