ORLANDO, Fla. – E.J. Tackett of Huntington, Ind., dominated the Group Two finals match against Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., setting up a showdown with Australia’s Jason Belmonte to decide the title in the inaugural Main Event PBA Tour Finals at Main Event Entertainment.
The Group Two finals aired Tuesday on CBS Sports Network. The Main Event PBA Tour Finals will air next Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. EDT.
Tackett, PBA’s reigning Player of the Year and a seven-time PBA Tour title winner at age 24, soundly defeated Jones in a two-game, total pinfall match, 470-396, to advance to the championship match along with Belmonte, who eliminated Sweden’s 22-year-old Jesper Svensson, 482-479, in the Group One final match.
The Main Event PBA Tour Finals is a new event featuring the top eight PBA members in total earnings over the past 30 months, divided into two pods of four players for a combination of round-robin match play and stepladder matches. Belmonte earned his place in the elite field of eight by leading all PBA players in total earnings over the past two-and-a-half years with $352,967 while Tackett was second with $319,690.
While Belmonte had to dispatch three opponents, including Svensson, to win the Group One berth in the finals, Tackett only had to beat one player, but Jones appeared poised to pull off the same kind of upset Belmonte accomplished. After struggling through the four-game match play portion of the event, Jones came into the Group Two stepladder round as the no. 4 qualifier. In the opening match, Jones nipped no. 3 Dom Barrett of England, 214-212, when Barrett left the 4-7-10 split in the 10th frame for his only mistake in the match.
Fueled by his good fortune in match one, Jones was nearly perfect in the semifinal match against no. 2 qualifier Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., winning, 290-248. Jones’ only flaw was leaving a 10 pin in the first frame, which he converted.
It looked like Jones was going to continue his torrid pace against Tackett in the two-game final match, striking on four of his first five shots to take a 31-pin lead after five frames. But then he missed a 10 pin in the sixth frame and failed to convert the 3-4-6-7 split in the sixth. Tackett missed a 4 pin in his fourth frame, but then threw six consecutive strikes to erase his deficit and take a 26-pin lead after game one, 236-210.
Tackett then blew the match open, starting game two with four strikes while Jones couldn’t solve the changing lane conditions. Two big splits resulted in open frames for Jones and Tackett rolled to a 234-186 win to lock up his berth in the Main Event PBA Tour Finals championship match, where he’ll face an adversary he has yet to beat in a nationally-televised title match.
“I bowled a good game against Ryan [Ciminelli] and then E.J. broke the lanes down a little different,” Jones said. “His rev rate is so high and I moved right into his traffic, and from there I didn’t make very good choices.”
“We both had our struggles but I was able to figure it out a little better than Tommy. That’s the way it is sometimes,” Tackett said. “I wound up playing a little deeper than him – maybe just a board or two – but it was enough to make him start guessing a little bit. A couple of shots got a little high, but at that point it was just a matter of making better shots.”
Belmonte, a nine-year PBA Tour veteran at age 33, was PBA Player of the Year three straight years before Tackett ended his streak in 2016. The Australian two-handed star owns 14 PBA Tour titles including eight majors. One of the majors was the 2014 USBC Masters when he defeated the top-seeded Tackett in the title match. Belmonte also defeated Tackett, the no. 1 qualifier, in the 2014 Oklahoma Open title match.
Going into the Main Event title match, Belmonte and Tackett have each won two titles in 2017. In addition to a $30,000 first prize, one of the two will become the PBA Tour’s first three-title winner in 2017 and take an early edge in the PBA Player of the Year race heading into the second half of season.
MAIN EVENT PBA TOUR FINALS
Main Event, Orlando, Fla., (aired Tuesday on CBS Sports Network
Group Two Stepladder Round:
Match One (loser earns $3,000): Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., def. Dom Barrett, England, 214-212.
Match Two (loser earns $3,000): Jones def. Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 290-248.
Group Two Final Match (two games, total pinfall): EJ Tackett, Huntington, Ind. (236-234) def. Jones (210-186), 470-396. (Tackett advances to the championship match; Jones advances to the third- and fourth-place match).
Championship Finals Pairings (to air on CBS Sports Network on June 27 at 9:30 p.m. EDT)
Third-Fourth Place Match: Jesper Svensson vs. Tommy Jones.
Championship (three games, total pinfall): Jason Belmonte vs. EJ Tackett.