The semifinal field for the third annual Professional Bowlers Association League Elias Cup playoffs was completed when the HotelPlanner.com Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits and Wheaties L.A. X won one-ball sudden-death roll-offs before a sold-out crowd at Bayside Bowl.
The final two quarterfinal round matches of PBA League competition aired Sunday on ESPN. With their victories, Pittsburgh and L.A. will join the Concrete Software BROOKLYN STyLES and defending champion Bass Pro Shops Silver Lake Atom Splitters in the semifinal round, which will air next Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Bowling in the 12-lane Bayside Bowl which was converted into a two-lane arena for PBA League competition, fans lined both sides of the lanes, chanting and cheering every shot as both best-of-two-game team matches ended in 1-1 ties, forcing the one-ball roll-offs which were both decided by a single pin.
In the first contest, the Shipyard Brewery Dallas Strikers struck on five of their first six shots and raced away to a 201-168 win as Pittsburgh was unable to roll back-to-back strikes. The Jack Rabbits figured out the lane conditions in game two, however, with Bryon Smith, Dan MacLelland, Ryan Ciminelli, Osku Palermaa and anchor bowler Wes Malott finishing the game with nine consecutive strikes to run away with a 270-208 victory to force the roll-off.
In the roll-off, Malott gave Dallas anchor Shawn Maldonado a chance to win when he left a 10 pin, but Maldonado’s shot was light in the pocket, leaving the 2-5 and handing Pittsburgh a 9-8 victory.
“I got my shot inside a little and fortunately had enough roll on the ball to get nine pins,” Malott said. “It looked to me like Shawn did the same thing and only got eight pins. We were coming off a big game, but you still have to make quality shots in the end.”
Malott and his teammates also embraced the non-stop roar of the crowd.
“Who wouldn’t like it?” he said. “It’s a little different kind of atmosphere, but we could get used to it. When the money’s on the line, it’s still about making shots, but it’s also about having fun with your team. I hope we come back next year and do it again.”
L.A. X had game one in hand in the second match against the Barbasol Motown Muscle, despite both teams having difficulties finding the pocket. Trailing by 11 pins after eight frames, Motown anchor Ronnie Russell was unable to convert Mike DeVaney’s ninth-frame strike into a double to take the lead when he left a 10 pin on his first shot in the 10th frame. Russell converted the spare, forcing L.A. X anchor Jason Belmonte to get a mark for the win, Belmonte left the 2-4-8 and missed the spare to hand Motown a 182-179 win.
Both teams battled for the lead in game two before L.A. X broke it open with back-to-back strikes by Andres Gomez and Martin Larsen. Belmonte’s three strikes in the 10th clinched the 228-192 decision to force the roll-off where Belmonte threw a strike and Russell left a 10 pin.
“In the 10th frame of the first game, my left hand slipped off the ball in my backswing,” Belmonte, a two-handed player, said. “I should have stopped, but I figured we had a second game and if it got down to one shot, I’d redeem myself. When you perform as badly as I did the first time, you’d better make sure when you get a chance to make up for it, you throw the best shot of your life.”
Next Sunday’s Elias Cup semifinal round matches will also be decided in best-of-two-game Baker format team matches. The two winners will advance to the Elias Cup finals on ESPN on Sunday, April 19 at 1 p.m., where the title will be decided in a single, alternate-ball doubles, Baker trios and Baker team competition. The singles, doubles and trios matches each will be worth one point, and the Baker team match will be worth three points.
PBA LEAGUE ELIAS CUP PLAYOFFS
Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine, March 28 (aired April 5)
Quarterfinal Match Three (best-of-two-game Baker team format)
Game One: Shipyard Brewery Dallas Strikers (Michael Haugen Jr., Norm Duke, Bill O’Neill, Tommy Jones, Shawn Maldonado) def. HotelPlanner.com Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits (Bryon Smith, Dan MacLelland, Ryan Ciminelli, Osku Palermaa, Wes Malott), 201-168.
Game Two: Pittsburgh def. Dallas, 270-208.
One-Ball Sudden-Death Roll-Off: Pittsburgh (Wes Malott) def. Dallas (Shawn Maldonado), 9-8.
Quarterfinal Match Four (best-of-two-game Baker team format)
Game One: Barbasol Motown Muscle (John Szczerbinski, Josh Blanchard, EJ Tackett, Mike DeVaney, Ronnie Russell) def. Wheaties L.A. X (Stuart Williams, Andres Gomez, Martin Larsen, Patrick Allen, Jason Belmonte), 182-179.
Game Two: L.A. def. Motown, 228-192.
One-Ball Sudden-Death Roll-Off: L.A. (Jason Belmonte) def. Motown (Ronnie Russell), 10-9.