Anatomy of a roll off — The Big 8 League championship match

I love roll offs. It means that it is the end of the season and you are bowling for all the marbles, or at least some cash, trophies and bragging rights. With the chance to watch some really good bowlers in action, I ventured out to Heritage Lanes to watch the Big 8 League season ending championship.

There are eight teams in this league with four of them qualifying for the roll off. Those teams are seeded based on their season performance and No. 1 plays the 4th seed while No. 2 takes on No. 3. The two winners from last week would meet this Wednesday for all those marbles.

As I took in the scene I found that it would be No. 2 seed Knuckle Deep Inc. taking on the No. 4 seed the Out of Towners. For the first time that anyone can seem to recall, the title match would feature two teams from, well, out of town. The Knucklers are out of Upper Sandusky while the other “foreigners” are from Fostoria.

Regardless of where these guys come from, good bowlers is a staple of this league. Without question this is the best league in Tiffin, and any of the eight teams would likely put on a good show if they got into the roll off. The two semifinal matches were hard fought and the title match had all the makings of being just as exciting.

I sat wondering which team should be considered the favorite. I knew many of the bowlers, but I couldn’t help thinking what kind of odds Vegas would lay out for this match. I considered asking Knuckle Deep’s anchor. Hey, who better to ask than a guy called Bookie? I decided against it, primarily because I assumed Vegas was not overly concerned about this sporting event, but also because I didn’t want to bother any of the bowlers.

To my surprise both teams lead bowlers opened in the first frame. Jitters perhaps? Before you feel too bad for Robert Tarris Jr. and Dave Ross, you might look at their final scores for the night. Tarris shot 647 and Ross 671. It appears that they recovered nicely from that first effort.

The first game proved to be close as the two top bowlers were Brian Soals and Jack Book. Soals threw the first four before leaving a 4 pin which surprisingly he failed to convert. Brian throws a lot of strikes, but he is also a good spare shooter. He had nothing but strikes after that until leaving a single pin on his last ball shooting a nice 266. Book had a spare to start followed by a six bagger. He went through the nose in the eighth frame leaving double pinochle. Book finished with a team-leading 229.

Knuckle Deep finished the opener with a 1,003 score which combined with 53 pins handicap gave them a 1,056 total. The Out of Towners rolled a 957 actual for a 1,004 score as they were getting 47 pins handicap. A fifty-two pin lead is nice, but certainly not a comfortable margin. Game two however, broke the match wide open.

Knuckle Deep got 200-plus games from all five bowlers as Dave Ross posted a big 257, Greg Anspach 224, Mark Ratliff 200, Scott Washburn 211 and Jack Book 233. The 1,125 actual score gave Knuckle Deep a commanding lead and made game three anticlimactic.

One of the good aspects of the evening for me was to see the good-natured bantering that took place between the two teams. Roll offs can sometimes be contentious, but these guys had a respect for each other that was gratifying for me to see. You know both teams wanted to win, but that competitiveness did not spill over into poor sportsmanship.

Bragging rights for 2013 will go to Upper Sandusky as Knuckle Deep Inc. posted a 3,282 score that included the following individual scores: Dave Ross led the way with his 671, while Greg Anspach shot 601, Mark Ratliff 589, Scott Washburn 598 and Jack Book 664. For the Fostoria crew, Robert Tarris Jr. shot 647, Rich Terry 563, Hank Jasso 582, Brian Soals 659 and Mark Bowen 534.

As the evening drew to a close, I couldn’t help but wonder if the two communities’ mayors had a side bet on the outcome. I suppose I could have asked Scott Washburn as he just happens to be the mayor of Upper Sandusky. There you go, Scott, a goodwill gesture for future consideration. You’re welcome.

I just had another thought. I realize that many of my thoughts would best be served if kept to myself, but I will throw this one out there anyway. How about a traveling league made up of one team from each of the area cities that have a bowling establishment. It could move from house to house each week if not each season. A team from Tiffin, Upper Sandusky, Sycamore, Fostoria, Fremont, Findlay, Bowling Green and Bascom for example could generate a lot of excitement. Bascom may not have a bowling alley, but there are some good bowlers from that town.

What do you think, guys? Talk about bragging rights!

Most leagues have wrapped up their respective seasons, but at least one is still active. That would be the Rocket League, the only late shift league still throwing the rock until the bewitching midnight hour. Here are their top scores for the week: Tim Sturgill shot 694, Steve Barnes 616, Dave Jones 600, Larry Distel 599 and Beth Jones 482.

Al Stephenson is The Advertiser-Tribune’s bowling columnist.

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