Silver Lake Atom Splitters, Philadelphia Hitmen Advance to Elias Cup Finals

by Bill Vint, Professional Bowlers Association 0

PORTLAND, Maine  – The Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters will get a chance to become the first three-time OceanView at Falmouth PBA League Elias Cup champions after a convincing semifinal round victory, but the two-time defending champion Shipyard Dallas Strikers will be watching from the sidelines after losing a thrilling “double overtime” battle with the Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen team.

The best-of-two-game semifinal rounds matches, which are part of the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour schedule, were contested at Bayside Bowl and aired Sunday on ESPN.

Silver Lake, the winner of back-to-back Elias Cups in 2014 and ’15, was dominant in sweeping the Barbasol Motown Muscle in their best-of-two-game Baker format match, throwing 10 strikes in 12 attempts in game one for a 258-235 win, and almost duplicating their first game performance in posting a 245-207 victory to complete their march to the Elias Cup championship match.

The Atom Splitters’ Jesper Svensson, Dick Allen, AJ Johnson, Tom Daugherty and Chris Barnes as a team missed the pocket twice in two games.

“That was some pretty stellar bowling,” said Atom Splitters manager Mark Baker.” There wasn’t much for me to do other than keep giving them high fives.”

In the second semifinal match, the Dallas Strikers looked like they were going to make the finale a match between the PBA League’s only two-time winners, romping to a 278-248 win over the Hitmen in game one. After Bill O’Neill and player-manager Norm Duke converted single-pin spares in the first two frames, Kyle Sherman, Rhino Page and Tommy Jones began a run of nine consecutive strikes to run away with the first game.

But Philadelphia pulled off a stunning upset. In game two, the Hitmen took a two-pin advantage into the 10th frame where anchor bowler Dom Barrett left the 2-8 on his first shot. After converting the spare, he needed nine pins to clinch the win by a pin, but left a pocket 7-10 split, ending the game in a 213-213 tie and forcing a one-ball sudden death roll-off.

Philadelphia manager Jason Couch sent in rookie left-hander Matt Sanders, who struck. Dallas countered with its leftie, veteran Rhino Page, who left a 6 pin.

With the match then tied at one game each, another roll-off was needed to decide who advanced to the Elias Cup finals. Sanders struck and Duke matched him. Couch then called on Tom Smallwood, who got help from a messenger to take out the 10 pin for another strike. Page again got the call for Dallas, but again misfired, leaving a 2 pin and sending the Hitmen into the Elias Cup title match for the first time in the series’ seven-year history.

“My heart was definitely pumping,” Couch said. “That’s what we hope will happen in this kind of format. I got lucky; I made the right moves and put guys in the right spot, and it worked out well.

“We’ve been here enough times. We know the environment,” Couch added. “Nothing seems to rattle (Sanders). He’s really good under pressure. We explained to him after we drafted him what he could expect when he came to Portland. We told him to just have a good time.

“I have no problem sending ‘Smalls’ in when we need something. He’s come of age; he bloomed a little later than normal, but I’d take him in that position any time. He did it in Columbus (where he won the Barbasol PBA Players Championship), and he did it for us last year. I have no problem with him anywhere in our lineup.”

The Elias Cup and the Mark Roth PBA League MVP will be decided on ESPN on Sunday, March 13, at 1 p.m. ET. The new Elias Cup format will involve two best-of-two-game Baker format matches with a one-ball sudden death roll-off being used to decide any ties. The new format could see up to seven one-ball roll-offs.


Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine (aired Sunday on ESPN) 

Semifinal Round (best-of-two-game Baker format)

Match One: Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Jesper Svensson, Dick Allen, AJ Johnson, Tom Daugherty, Chris Barnes) def. Barbasol Motown Muscle (Josh Blanchard, Shota Kawazoe, Francois Lavoie, Anthony Simonsen, EJ Tackett), 258-235, 245-207.

Match Two: Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen (Ronnie Russell, Chris Loschetter, Tom Smallwood, Dom Barrett, Matt Sanders) def. Shipyard Dallas Strikers (Bill O’Neill, Norm Duke, Kyle Sherman, Tommy Jones, Rhino Page), 248-278, 213-213, 10-9 to decide game; one-ball, sudden death roll-off to decide the match, 10-10, 10-9.


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