The comment surprised me a little. It came from Tiffin Columbian boys bowling coach David Jones. "This is the best team we've had since I've been here," he said.
My thoughts turned to the likes of Alex Wagner and Brandon Risser, TC grads who could throw the rock.
After watching the performance of this year's TC squad Thursday night, I fully understood what Mr. Jones was talking about.
The Tornado guys are a lofty 13-2 for the season. They went into their match with Eastwood Thursday in a tie for first with the Eagles. Now they have sole possession of the league lead.
I got to Heritage Lanes a little late as work (come on, give me a break here) kept me from the appointed starting time. When I did get there the boys were in the middle of the two games of regular bowling competition. Each of the five bowlers throws two individual games. That is followed by five Baker games. Total pinfall determines the winner of the match.
As I glanced at the scores it did not take long to notice that two of Columbian's bowlers had started their games with five consecutive strikes. Sophomore Gerad VanHoosier, who carries a 197 average, lost his perfecto in the sixth, but managed to shoot a nice 232 score. Fellow sophomore Shawn Fitch tossed the first six before losing his chance with a gutter ball.
Much to the amazement of everyone watching, the ball slipped from his hands (I say hands plural, as he throws a two-handed shot a la Jason Belmonte) and careened into the channel. He picked up nine on his second shot and then proceeded to take it off the sheet for a whopping 258 game. No remorse for young Fitch as he shook off the gaffe nicely to throw 11 of 12. More on him later.
Meanwhile sophomore Will Jones was shooting 193, and fellow sophomore Kris Wilson struggled to a 186. Yes, struggled was the correct term to use for a 186 game when a bowler averages 213. Wilson would atone for his "lackluster" first game by shooting 235 in the second game. John Funk, the only senior on the team, was the only one to shoot below his average in those first two games. Carrying a 184 average, Funk tossed a couple of games in the 150s. He would make up for it in the Baker format however.
Columbian carried a 102-pin advantage heading to the Baker games, which are a lot of fun to watch. Each bowler gets two frames, so there is little time to correct mistakes. Baker games can really change a team's fortune in a hurry. TC was not about to lose this lead however.
The Tornadoes won the first game 212-178. The next three games saw an increase in the lead as the Tornadoes rolled to wins of 226-199, 169-168 and 230-227. Freshman Graydon Bunting was inserted for the Baker games and he responded with four strikes and four spares. Anchor Kris Wilson, taking advantage of bowling in the 10th frame added eight strikes in the four games. John Funk wanted to make up for his individual scores and did so by throwing all eight strikes in those first four Baker games.
The fifth and final Baker game was seemingly a formality until Columbian started with three straight open frames. Will Jones (whose average is also 197) was there to stop the bleeding as he buried a strike to take the fight out of Eastwood. TC won the final game 161-156 and took the match 2,929 -2,757 to claim the top spot alone in the league standings - at least for now.
This is a young, but talented bunch of bowlers. The one thing that bothers me is the fact that Columbian still does not recognize bowling as a varsity sport. That means these guys cannot compete in the OHSAA state bowling tournament. Though I understand some of the reasoning for the ban, it sure would be fun to watch what these kids could do in the tournament. Perhaps there may be a change of heart by the board of education on this matter. That would surely be a welcome decision by all of us interested in the sport.
As for Shawn Fitch, I had the chance to chat with him after the match. I, like everyone else, wanted to know what happened on the gutter ball. He wasn't sure as it just took off when released. He was more upset after finishing the game with the final five strikes and thus coming within one shot of a perfect game. You see, young Shawn wants to beat his dad to a first perfect game. The elder Shawn, who helps coach TC, has thirteen 279 games to his credit - again, just one shot away.
Young Shawn thinks he will get his first, but I have seen his dad bowl and he's pretty good. Now that I have seen the son bowl, it wouldn't surprise me to see them both get one in the near future.
Columbian has a rematch with Eastwood tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. at Heritage Lanes. This will determine the winner of the league. If you are interested in watching some exciting bowling action, Heritage is the place to be.
Here are scores from around the local bowling leagues.
55 Plus: Rick Hanna 631, Jim Ruess 608, Bob Reinhart 598, Dan Coppes 544, Bob West 524, Jim Ferstler 510, Dick Gabel 494, John Ferstler 486, Paul Gosche 475, Dave Everhart 458, Paul Fey 455, Jim Donaldson 400.
Wednesday Morning: Steve Norman 667, Mark Phillips 638, Ken Lofton 610, Tyson Shope 585, Harry Smith 560, Ed Wilson 556, Cheryl Radin-Norman 505, Dianne Smith 458.
Alley Cats: Robin Dickman 536, Sue Stine 508, Christine Smith 482, Jan Houk 472, Kim Weaver 470.
Sportsman League: Dick Gabel 666, Scott Ferguson 651, Chris Johnson 648, Jim Mason 625, Rustan Burks 608, Rich Yates Jr. 588, Alex Wagner 580, Lance Davis 579.
Rocket: Tom Tiell 697, Tyson Shope 644, Dave Coppus 621, Ed Conrad 601, Pat McCarthy 601, Dottie Funk 514.
Lady Knights: Linda Kimmet 452, Nerita Streacker 448, Linda Caseman 394, Lela Gaietto 389, Tammy Schalk 388.
Tuesday Night: Chris Johnson 683, Tim Sturgill 671, James Lord 625, Bill Lord 602, Aaron Sherman 596, Jason Kohlenberg 582, Smokey Ransom 579, Chad Tyree 577, Ben Williams 572, Rick Smith 564.
Senior: Bennett Paulus 617, Scott Kromer 592, Fred Reimer 541, Joe Zirger 537, Steve Reser 534, Ken Ritzler 527, Steve Tiell 525, Dan Roessner 515.
Al Stephenson is The Advertiser- Tribune's bowling columnist.
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