ORLANDO, Fla. – Reigning PBA Player of the Year E.J. Tackett of Huntington, Ind., and Sweden’s Jesper Svensson, two of the PBA’s rising 20-something stars, put themselves into prime position to advance to the championship round in the inaugural Main Event PBA Tour Finals at Main Event Entertainment Orlando.
The final round of head-to-head match play qualifying aired Tuesday night on CBS Sports Network.
The 24-year-old Tackett, with a 3-1 match play record and 1,144 pins including a 299 game, held off Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., by 33 pins to earn the no. 1 berth in the Group Two stepladder finals that will air on CBS Sports Network on June 20 at 9:30 p.m. EDT. Ciminelli ended Tackett’s bid for an unbeaten record in match play with a 268-231 win in their position round, also finishing with a 3-1 record and 1,111 pins.
In his loss to Ciminelli in the final match, Tackett finally missed the pocket for the first time in four matches. A 4 pin cost him a 300 vs. Barrett in match three, but three single-pin spares plus a 2-4-8-10 split (which he failed to convert) led to his only loss, to Ciminelli, in position round.
Ciminelli looked back to his 227-200 loss to Tackett in his opening match, when he missed a 10 pin and left a 3-6-7-9 split as the reason he was unable to finish at the top of the Group Two pod.
“What killed me was following Jesper (on that pair),” Ciminelli said. “I left easy spares, but the easy spares are the ones you miss when you’re busy thinking about what you need to do. That really caught me. I had a good look in practice, but all of a sudden they got really tight down-lane and it caught me off guard. We don’t have a lot of tournament games in this format so you don’t see the transition, and that’s really what ended up costing me the lead.”
England’s Dom Barrett qualified third in Group Two with a 1-3 match play record and 999 total pins, relegating Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C. (1-3, 965 pins) to fourth place in their Group. Barrett and Jones will bowl the opening match in the Group Two stepladder finals, with Ciminelli taking on the winner and Tackett awaiting the survivor of that match for the two-game, total pinfall finale.
Svensson, 22, continued to dominate Group One, defeating Australia’s Jason Belmonte, 279-258, after winning his first two matches with 268 games. But Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., ended the Swedish two-hander’s bid for an unbeaten record, 234-222, in their position round match. Svensson still won the group with a 3-1 record and 1,187 pins.
With his position round win that included 50 bonus pins, Rash claimed the no. 2 berth for the Group One stepladder finals, airing on CBS Sports Network on June 13 at 9:30 p.m. EDT, with a 3-1 record and 1,062 pins. Belmonte, no. 3 with a 1-3 record and 988 total pins, will bowl the opening match against no. 4 Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, who finished with a 1-3 record and 940 pins. Simonsen avoided a winless match play record and helped derail Belmonte’s bid for the no. 2 berth, winning their position round showdown, 259-245.
Belmonte, who came into the PBA Tour Finals as the earnings leader over the 30-month span, said he tried a variety of approaches – urethane and reactive balls, outside and inside angles to the pocket, less speed and more speed – to develop a game plan for the Group One stepladder finals and, hopefully, the championship round.
“I wasn’t sure anyone was going to shoot under 220,” he said after his four matches, “but you also have to think long-term. If I could beat Anthony and beat Sean, I’d still had to beat Jesper (in the two-game stepladder finale) and I needed a good ball reaction if I was going to keep going. So that’s why I ended up going back to reactive.”
The stepladder rounds will be pivotal in determining who wins the inaugural Main Event PBA Tour Finals, along with its $30,000 top prize and PBA Tour title. The winners of the Group One and Group Two stepladder events will bowl for the PBA Tour finals in a three-game, total pinfall match that will air on CBS Sports Network on June 27 at 9:30 p.m. EDT. The stepladder runners-up will bowl a one-game preliminary match on the final show to determine third and fourth place finishes in the event.
MAIN EVENT PBA TOUR FINALS
Main Event, Orlando, Fla. (aired Tuesday on CBS Sports Network)
Final Round Robin Match Play Standings (after four matches, including 50 bonus pins for matches won):
Group One Final:
1, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 3-1, 1,187.
2, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 3-1, 1,062.
3, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 1-3, 988.
4, Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 1-3, 940.
Match Play Results:
Svensson def. Belmonte, 279-258.
Rash def. Simonsen, 224-195.
Rash def. Svensson, 234-222.
Simonsen def. Belmonte, 259-245.
Group One Stepladder Finals Pairings (to air on CBS Sports Network on June 13 at 9:30 p.m. EDT)
Match One: Jason Belmonte vs. Anthony Simonsen.
Semifinal Match: Sean Rash vs. Match One winner.
Championship (two games, total pinfall): Jesper Svensson vs. Semifinal Match winner.
Group Two Final:
1, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 3-1, 1,144.
2, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 3-1, 1,111.
3, Dom Barrett, England, 1-3, 999.
4, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 1-3, 965.
Match Play Results:
Tackett def. Barrett, 299-266.
Ciminelli def. Jones, 257-221.
Ciminelli def. Tackett, 268-231.
Jones def. Barrett, 227-222.
Group Two Stepladder Finals Pairings (to air on CBS Sports Network on June 20 at 9:30 p.m. EDT)
Match One: Dom Barrett vs. Tommy Jones.
Semifinal Match: Ryan Ciminelli vs. Match One winner.
Championship (two games, total pinfall): EJ Tackett vs. Semifinal Match winner.