PORTLAND, Maine – A year after finishing last in the Professional Bowlers Association League race, the GEICO New York City WTT KingPins knocked off the two-time defending PBA League Elias Cup champion bowlingball.com Silver Lake Atom Splitters as quarterfinal round competition got underway in front of a wildly enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Bayside Bowl in the chase for the 2016 Elias Cup.
In the second quarterfinal round match that aired Sunday on ESPN, the hometown-favorite Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland Lumberjacks eliminated the High 5 Gear Philadelphia Hitmen, 2-0, in their best-of-two-game Baker team match.
The KingPins, winners of the inaugural Elias Cup in 2013, swept the Atom Splitters, rallying behind a string of five strikes for a 223-215 win in the first five-player Baker team contest and ending Silver Lake’s bid for a third consecutive Elias Cup, 234-209, in the second game.
New York City took the lead in the match behind consecutive strikes by Mike Fagan, John Szczerbinski, Scott Norton, Marshall Kent and anchor Pete Weber. In the second game, Weber conceded the anchor spot to Kent who delivered a key fifth-frame strike, helping the KingPins build a 35-pin advantage that Silver Lake was unable to overcome.
‘We were on a mission,” said KingPins’ team manager Carolyn Dorin-Ballard. “When we picked the team this year, we picked more for chemistry, who would check their egos at the door. Everyone had their own reason for wanting to throw the best shot they could, and it matched up and all came together.”
Weber, the KingPins’ team leader for all four years of PBA League competition, agreed.
“I made it a point to tell our guys we couldn’t do any worse than we did last year. All we could do was improve, and obviously we improved.”
He also admitted the decisive strike he got in the 10th frame of game one wasn’t his best ever.
“I knew I needed to strike in the 10th of game one, but I felt like Dad (the late Dick Weber) on that shot. I felt like I did a fake follow through because the ball was already off my hand,” he said. “It wasn’t my best effort ever, but the result was good and that’s all that mattered.”
The newly-named Portland Lumberjacks, assuming the role formerly held by the Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits, got a whole new level of crowd support in nipping Philadelphia, 192-191, in the first game of the second quarterfinal round match. Anchor bowler Wes Malott’s strike on his fill ball in the 10th frame was the deciding factor when Philadelphia anchor Dom Barrett threw two strikes followed by leaving a solid 9 pin in the Hitmen’s 10th frame.
The Lumberjacks then went on a strike binge to race away to a 256-190 victory in game two. Strikes by Malott, Bryon Smith, Liz Johnson, Osku Palermaa, Ryan Ciminelli and again by Malott turned the game into a runaway, giving the Lumberjacks a victory the former Jack Rabbits had never enjoyed in three previous years of PBA League competition.
“That was incredible,” said Lumberjacks manager Tim Mack. “We were fortunate to sneak out the first game because Dom (Barrett) threw a great shot and left a 9 pin. It was crazy. But Wes striking on his fill ball was huge for us, because when you have a game up in this format it allows you not to relax, but to realize you still have life even if you lose the second game.”
The change in team identify was more than merely cosmetic, Mack said.
“Last year the crowd was loud but this year, when you’re the home team like we were, I think it gives you another 10 pins a game. These guys are all professionals, but in that first game, when things went a little awry for us, (the fans) kept their level of intensity up and that gave us an advantage.”
With their victories, New York City and Portland will advance to the first semifinal round match, which will air on ESPN on Sunday, May 1, at 1 p.m. Eastern.
The final quarterfinals round matches pitting BJ’s L.A. X against the Barbasol Motown Muscle, and the Concrete Software Brooklyn Styles against the GoBowling.com Dallas Strikers , will air Sunday, April 24, at 1 p.m. ET.
2016 PBA LEAGUE ELIAS CUP QUARTERFINAL ROUND
Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine (aired Sunday, April 17 on ESPN)
(Best of two five-player Baker format team games, ties broken by roll-off)
Quarterfinal Match One
GEICO New York City WTT Kingpins (Mike Fagan, John Szczerbinski, Scott Norton, Marshall Kent, Pete Weber) def. bowlingball.com Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Matt McNiel, Jesper Svensson, Chris Barnes, Tom Daugherty, Dick Allen), 2-0 (223-215, 234-209).
Quarterfinal Match Two
Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland Lumberjacks (Bryon Smith, Liz Johnson, Osku Palermaa, Ryan Ciminelli, Wes Malott) def. High 5 Gear Philadelphia Hitmen (Chris Loschetter, Dave Wodka, Tom Smallwood, Rhino Page, Dom Barrett), 2-0 (191-192, 256-190).