PORTLAND, Maine – The Barbasol Motown Muscle and the GoBowling.com Dallas Strikers, two teams that have struggled in their three previous Professional Bowlers Association League appearances, swept their favored opponents to move one step closer to the PBA League Elias Cup title match at Bayside Bowl.
The third and fourth quarterfinal round matches aired Sunday on ESPN, with Motown eliminating perennial contender BJ’s L.A. X, 2-0, and Dallas outlasting the star-studded Concrete Software Brooklyn Styles, 2-0.
Motown, with a lineup featuring talented woman bowler Danielle McEwan, Josh Blanchard, Ronnie Russell, E.J. Tackett and Anthony Simonsen, turned back L.A. X, 223-218 and 202-180, in their best-of-two-game Baker format contest. Four consecutive strikes by young power players Tackett and Simonsen clinched the first game and consecutive strikes by Russell, McEwan and Blanchard, capped by Simonsen’s strike in the 10th frame, was just enough to win a mistake-filled second game against L.A. X’s lineup of Patrick Allen, Andres Gomez, Stuart Williams, Martin Larsen and Jason Belmonte.
“That was a very hard match for me, personally,” said Motown manager Del Ballard Jr., a PBA Hall of Famer whose day job is working as a staff representative for Storm Bowling Products. “All five guys on the other team (L.A. X) bowl for Storm and Roto Grip. I’m an old time competitor and I love hating who I’m bowling against, so I was really fighting myself emotionally.”
A key to Motown advancing past the first round for only the second time in four years was the addition of 19-year-old two-hander Simonsen to a roster that also included the return of Tackett, the 23-year-old 2014 PBA Rookie of the Year.
“One of the reasons why I had Simonsen last and Tackett fourth, even though hooking the ball hasn’t done that well in this building, is they are the youngest and they don’t get tight between those 15-minute waits,” Ballard said. “Watch them throw their first practice balls, and they’re cocked and loaded, ready to go. The older guys might get a little slow, might grab the ball, but these kids just get up there and throw it, and that’s what they did.”
Despite his youth and never having faced the raucous atmosphere inside Bayside Bowl, Simonsen embraced both the sold-out crowd and the challenge of bowling anchor.
“I love (the atmosphere),” he said. “The fans come out here at 8 in the morning to tailgate and they’re here all day. To have your team and the crowd behind you is a whole different atmosphere. It gets you worked up, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you if they kept cheering or not. After my first step I kinda blocked it all out.”
In the fourth quarterfinal match, Dallas won a tight battle with Brooklyn in the first game, getting a string of four strikes from BJ Moore, Shawn Maldonado, Tommy Jones and a 10th-frame clincher from player-manager Norm Duke to win the first game, 226-213.
Brooklyn built a 42-pin lead after starting the second game behind strikes by PBA Hall of Famers Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Parker Bohn III, Jon VanHees and Jason Sterner, but the Strikers’ decision to finish game two on the right lane proved to be the difference. Dallas erased the Styles’ lead behind strikes by Jones, Duke and Moore, a spare by Maldonado, and two more strikes by Bill O’Neill and Jones on his first shot in the 10th locked up the 213-207 win.
“The surprise for us was the lineup switch we made for the first game,” said Duke, Dallas’ player-manager. “We were going to go with the second-game lineup, with Tommy as anchor, but he came to me and said when the lane condition is fresh, the two guys we have who hook the ball are lost.
“It made sense for me to throw the 10th frame in the first game and, when the condition opened up a little, put Tommy back in anchor for the second game. But I didn’t want to bowl the 10th; I wanted to lead off to get us a mark out of the gate,” Duke added. “But we pulled it off and bowled two really good games considering how bad we actually executed.
“We knew from last year that, given the choice, we wanted to finish on the right lane in the second game,” he continued. “If we win the coin toss next time, we’re going to finish on that lane, too.”
Duke was beaming after advancing out of the first round for the first time since 2013.
“We were among the top five the first year, under a different format, but since then we haven’t made it out of the first round,” he grinned. “So that’s why I’m so hyped right now.”
Jones, the only player to bowl for two previous Elias Cup championship teams (GEICO NYC WTT KingPins in 2013 and the Silver Lake Atom Splitters in 2014), was relieved his team was able to survive a less-than-sterling performance against Brooklyn.
“It’s survive and advance at this point, and that’s what we did,” Jones said. “The second game wasn’t very pretty, but I felt like we had a chance. Then it kind of fell in our laps. Sometimes you’ve gotta get lucky.”
The 2015 Elias Cup competition now moves into the semifinal round, with the GEICO New York City WTT KingPins meeting the hometown-favorite Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland Lumberjacks and the Barbasol Motown Muscle battling the GoBowling.com Dallas Strikers. Both semifinal matches will air on Sunday, May 1, at 1 p.m. ET., with the winners advancing to the Elias Cup Finals on Sunday, May 8, also at 1 p.m. ET
2016 PBA LEAGUE ELIAS CUP QUARTERFINAL ROUND
Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine (aired Sunday, April 24 on ESPN)
(Best of two five-player Baker format team games, ties broken by roll-off)
Quarterfinal Match Three
Barbasol Motown Muscle (Danielle McEwan, Josh Blanchard, Ronnie Russell, EJ Tackett, Anthony Simonsen) def. BJ’s L.A. X (Stuart Williams, Andres Gomez, Patrick Allen, Martin Larsen, Jason Belmonte), 2-0 (223-218, 202-180).
Quarterfinal Match Four
GoBowling.com Dallas Strikers (Bill O’Neill, BJ Moore, Shawn Maldonado, Tommy Jones, Norm Duke) def. Concrete Software Brooklyn Styles (Walter Ray Williams Jr., Parker Bohn III, Jon VanHees, Jason Sterner, Sean Rash), 2-0 (226-213 213-207).