By John Bassetti
Canfield High boys bowling coach Carl Hurd thinks his Cardinals can have an impact on the standings when the state tournament begins Saturday morning at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
The appearance of Canfield’s team is a school first, although Jeremy Hammond qualified as an individual and finished third at state in 2009.
Canfield’s team didn’t get past sectionals in 2011-12, but it’s a different story this season.
The Cardinals were runnerup at the Crest Lanes district in Warren Sunday, primarily on the shoulders of sophomore Ben Shoman.
“He just blew up,” Hurd said of Shoman’s 813 series. “He’s worked pretty hard on his game, both mentally and technically. I’d call him a stroker — someone with decent speed but not an overpowering rev rate. He’s more an accurate-type player.”
As a freshman, Shoman struggled in sectionals, but that’s when Hurd thinks the turnaround started.
“His process of learning concentration began then,” Hurd said of Shoman, who rolled 460 at sectionals last year when the team missed advancement by finishing seventh. “He’s more than made up for that this year. He put a lot of undo pressure on himself. This year, rather than feel he had to throw strikes all the time, his focus was to make a good shot and leave something makeable for spares.”
Although Shoman is averaging 204, freshman Andrew Letscher, the son of McKinley Lanes proprietors Marty and Sarah Letscher, has a 210 average.
Besides Shoman and Letscher, Hurd’s 10-man squad includes Paul Harris, Tyler Frklech, Mike Dercoli, Anthony Bettile, Andrew Jarvis, Austin Leonard, D.J. Cospy and Pete Byrne.
When Champion coach Bryan Gill saw the oil pattern — Abbey Road — chosen for the state tournament, he said it intrigued his bowlers, who placed fifth at Crest.
“They’ve been looking to get vengeance,” Gill said of his squad missing the top eight qualifying round by eight pins last year at state. “They’re looking for payback.”
The Golden Flashes have six strong bowlers to do it: senior Eric Ferraro, juniors Dan Simmons, Justin Cox and Zach Zigmont and sophomores Jared Gould and David Yenchocic — all with over 200 averages.
“We didn’t lose anything we had last year, so we’re stronger this year,” Gill said. “We should have a higher finish than last year.”
Champion was ninth a year ago.
Having the defending individual champion doesn’t hurt.
“We’ve got a lot of talent this year,” said Simmons, who won the state crown in 2011-12 with a 702. “We have a clean slate now, so it’s all good,” the 220-average bowler said.
After winning the sectional at Bell-Wick with 4,590 pinfall, Fitch coach Dino Balkan’s crew found the oil pattern at Crest a bit different than expected and the Falcons struggled until the six-game stretch of Baker games.
The recovery resulted in a 4,082 score and fourth-place finish.
“It was a lot harder shot because the lanes dried out quickly,” Balkan said. “It was challenging for the boys and for us coaches to keep trying to move them and set them up [changing balls, etc.], but they handled it well.”
It’ll be a return trip to Columbus for Fitch, which placed fourth in 2011-12 with the same nucleus of seniors Dwayne Learn, Chris Mauro, Corey Cox, Tim Ponzi and John Greenlund and juniors Kyle Condrick, Kyle Sharisky and Matt Cox.
“Hopefully, we can do better this year,” Balkan said. “At least that’s our goal — to win it all.”
He said the boys are confident and excited, especially since it’s their last hurrah.
“They want to go out with a bang. Their goal was to make state and now they want to finish it. If they go in with confidence, they’ll accomplish a lot. They’ve done well, but they have an eye on the big prize this year. If things work out, who knows, we just might be there at the end.”
At district, Condrick and Greenlund had Fitch’s high games with 246 and 231, respectively. Greenlund sat out the first game, then rolled 231 and 195.
“He came through for us,” Balkan said. “Because the lanes dried out, he had a ball that went longer down the lane. He knew to switch to that.”
Maybe being a lefty worked in Greenlund’s favor.
“The oil broke down much quicker for right-handers than it did for a lefty like Greenlund,” the coach said. “We were bowling against Green and they had one guy on the left side too, so those two were throwing about the same line. That side didn’t burn up as fast as the right side did. They [Greenlund and Green High’s left-handed bowler] had the oil longer and it showed.”