BY JILL WINTERS
Lake Wales, Florida - Shawn Maldonado’s back issues persisted at the 2022 Kia PBA Playoffs, but the Texan continued to power through the pain.
In a battle of two lower-seeded players, No. 15 Maldonado faced No. 10 AJ Johnson. Maldonado relied on his Purple Hammer urethane for four out of five strikes early as Johnson had five single-pin spares over the first six frames. Johnson changed from a Motiv Blue Tank to the Jackal Ghost he had success with in his round of 16 match against Jakob Butturff.
Johnson put together a four-bagger and nine-spare to finish with a 226. Needing a double to win, Maldonado stepped up on the right lane where he had only struck once. He got the first one and left the 2-8 sleeper, losing by one-pin with a 225.
Maldonado jumped out to a 27-pin lead in game two throwing the front four. After two single-pin spares, another four-bagger led to his 257-225 win in the race to 2 to force a 9th and 10th frame roll-off.
As the higher seed, Johnson chose to start. He struck, while Maldonado converted the 7-pin, struck and picked up the 10-pin for a score of 40.
Johnson’s confidence in his game this season continued as he doubled and got nine for a total of 59 to earn his spot in the final four.
“It feels good to show up when you need it,” Johnson said. “Bowling in the Masters in the roll-off, I let one get away from me. My foot slipped out and I lost it. I told myself I was not going to let that define anything. I learned from it, and I said, ‘Just commit to it and give it your best.’”
“I want to bowl everyone at their best and what Shawn did out there was amazing,” Johnson said about Maldonado battling through an injury.
“I gave it my all,” Maldonado said after the loss. “AJ bowled incredible. But I’ve got to get my back fixed because I can’t keep dealing with this.”
The last quarterfinals match featured No. 14 Jesper Svensson against No. 6 Tommy Jones. Once again both players decided to use urethane. Svensson with the Storm Pitch Black and Jones with the Brunswick Purple Hammer.
Svensson, the only lefty remaining in the tournament, began with four out of six strikes for a 10-pin advantage. Jones stayed clean and buried his final six shots to take game one, 249-218. “We decided to make a little adjustment halfway through the first game,” Jones said about his strategy. “We went with a different release, and I got the breaks when I needed them.”
The southpaw stormed back in game two throwing the front nine before a 10-pin ended his chance for a perfect game. Svensson got the win, 279-236 to force another 9th and 10th frame roll-off. Jones got the messengers, and the pin carry, posting a perfect 60, while Svensson struck then left a solid-10 pin, which ended his run with a score of 19.
“I was fortunate there as that is the way we were playing the splash zone and ride or die with it,” Jones said. “It is just the nature of the business. The scores are high so whoever gets the carry is probably going to come out on top.”
“I hadn’t bowled very good on TV this year, so it is good to get a few good games under my belt,” he said. “We will try to use that momentum and keep it going.”
PBA Hall of Famer Jones will take on Johnson, who is seeking his first PBA Tour title, at 1 p.m. ET Sun., May 8 on FOX.
The winner of the 2022 Kia PBA Playoffs will earn $100,000, a PBA Tour title, and the coveted WWE championship belt.