By John Bassetti
Struthers’ boys bowling team will be making its fourth-straight state appearance, but what coach Bob Eisenbraun Jr. felt was more impressive is that four of the five teams advancing to Columbus next weekend are from the area.
“That’s pretty good,” said Eisenbraun, “especially when three of the four are from the same conference,” he said of All-American Conference members Austintown Fitch, Struthers and Champion.
Boardman also advanced at the conclusion of Saturday’s Northeastern district tournament at Twin Star Lanes, where 27 schools competed.
Mentor was district champion with 4081 after leap-frogging Fitch and Struthers in the last two Baker games. Fitch finished runner-up with 4078, followed by Struthers (4041), first-time state qualifier Champion (3917) and Boardman (3908).
“What was exciting was how close the scores were,” Fran Miller said of uncertainty among seven teams shooting for five state spots heading into the last two Baker games.
“There were seven schools still unsure of the outcome at that point, so it made for a good tournament,” said Miller, a Youngstown area official who was among the 600 in attendance.
The state tournament is at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
After the first game, Fitch was fifth, then rose to first after three games.
“We were working hard, had to make some changes,” coach Dino Balkan said. “The kids kept focused and finally found the rhythm in the third game, which put us over the top.
“In Bakers, the whole idea is to be consistent and we were trying like crazy to be consistent, by making our spares and making good shots. We were good for a couple games, then a couple other games we got loose, then the last two games we finished runner-up, but we made it to state.”
Boardman coach Al Dohar said that his Spartans are a resilient bunch of guys, who, following an 802 to start, rolled 1018 and 1014.
“Then, in the last two Baker games,” he said, “when they needed to hold on, they shoot 419 total.”
Two who stepped up in the 1018 to bounce back were senior Zach Warchol with 234 and sophomore Jonathan Tiberio with 235.
“That started the fire,” the coach said, “then everybody shot decently the third game.”
Although he was thrilled in the end, Dohar reflected on the first game: “After the 802, I didn’t think anything was going to happen.”
Struthers had a strong start, then tapered off.
“We didn’t bowl well the whole day,” Eisenbraun said, “but when you can not bowl well and finish in the top five, it’s pretty good.”
Eisenbraun said the his Wildcats had problems with the first pair of lanes.
“The ball was really hooking, really dry on that particular pair of lanes,” he said of lanes 3-4 for the first three games.
The teams then stagger lanes for Bakers.
“It was a combination that we didn’t bowl too well and caught a bad pair of lanes, but that stuff happens,” said Eisenbraun.
Champion started off in sixth after one game, dropped to 11th after two, then moved back up to seventh after three. The Flashes then climbed to fourth and maintained it throughout the Bakers.
“It was a well-rounded effort and we had some subs perform very well and hold their own,” first-year coach Bryan Gill said of the program that’s been in existence for about 15 years.
The top three sets among area bowlers came from Fitch’s Kyle Sharisky (643), Champion’s Danny Simmons (641) and Struthers junior Mike Donofrio (629).
The only other local teams were 18th-place Liberty with 3588 and Hubbard in 25th with 3383.
No individual not on a qualifying team advanced to state.