By JOHN BASSETTI
An equal number of qualifiers for today’s round of 16 advanced from the two separate squads operating over a nearly 12-hour span on Saturday during day one of the PBA Hubbard Open East/Central Regional at Bell-Wick Bowl.
Jack Jurek and Joe Ciccone were top qualifiers from the afternoon’s B squad while Larry Verble was the highest A-squad qualifier in the morning.
Over an eight-game block, Jurek had 1850 pinfall, Verble 1819 and Ciccone 1815.
Others in the top five were A-squad bowlers Eric Cornog (1801) and John Furey (1773), who rolled a 300 game.
Ryan Ciminelli (1721), the 2011 PBA Hubbard champion, returns to Bell-Wick today after placing 13th on Saturday, while last year’s winner, Rhino Page, failed to advance with 1642, but earned $425.
Also making today’s round of 16 for the first time is a woman, Rocio Restrepo (1724), who qualified 11th. Her new husband of two months, Joseph Hostetler, was 17th and just missed the cut with 1694.
Two Detroiters, Carleton Chambers and Mason Brantley, also reached today’s round of 16 with 12th and 16th-place finishes, respectively.
This weekend marked Jurek’s first appearance at Hubbard since bowling in a mixed doubles tournament in the 1990s.
SDLqThis is my first time here in a long time, but I remember because my partner and I ended up winning,” said Jurek, a 26-year national touring member of the PBA who competed in the Masters in New Brunswick, N.J. a few weeks ago.
“I was pretty fortunate,” said Jurek who didn’t drop below 200 in any of his eight games.
“Once I got by the first game, everything kind of settled in. The lanes were a little tricky in the beginning because of the wood surface and heavy volume of oil, so the ball was kind of squirting around a little bit. But I managed a pretty good first game and then got into a good rhythm.”
Was he surprised?
“The way I’ve been bowling the last few months, yes, but this was a nice change because I haven’t bowled on a wood surface for a while. Being an older player now [will be 50 in April], I grew up on wood, so it was kind of nice to see my ball doing things it used to do. Now with the new balls and synthetic lanes, I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting my ball to do the right thing, but today it kind of fell into place.”
“Making it to Sunday is a goal, obviously, then it all depends what drops, ” said Ciccone, of Buffalo, N.Y., “Anything can happen.”
Now a part-time touring pro whose last national tournament was the Detroit Winter Swing and, before that, the World Series in November, Ciccone said he felt like he had a good command of what was going on on the lanes and was able to keep up with the changes.
“I managed to have a good feel for what was out on the lanes and I followed the progression of the lanes as they transitioned.”
Ciccone also made the PBA Hubbard finals the first two years, including a sixth-place in 2012.
Another touring pro, Ryan Shafer, rolled a seventh-best 1747 Saturday morning.
“I read the lanes right the first few games and made the moves when I needed to,” said Shafer. “The third game, I got a couple breaks which helped me shoot to +20; the fourth game, God took those breaks back, so it evened out. I just had a bad last game,” he said of a 160. “I struck on [lane] nine, but never struck on 10, so it was kind of a bad ending to the block.”
Ciminelli said his block was a confusing one.
“The pattern was real tough,” the Cheektowaga, N.Y. native said. “I had my best look during Friday’s practice, but today [Saturday] it wasn’t there and I got trapped.”
He said he moved all over the lanes to get the right spot, but to no avail, at least through the first few games, including a 166 second-game score.
Ciminelli finally figured it out and came back strong, including a 260 game.
Still, until B squad results were tabulated, Ciminelli said he was on the bubble.
“If I get there, it’ll really be an accomplishment because of the trials and tribulations I went through in an eight-game block.”
Although Page won’t defend his title, he made an impact on a visitor to Bell-Wick on Thursday.
James Morrison and his 9-year-old son, Lucas, watched Page during Saturday’s early games.
Morrison, who recently moved to the area from Washington D.C., said he showed up at the bowling alley on Thursday afternoon expecting to bowl. However, it was mostly dark, except for the proprietor and one bowler, Page, who was in town for a celebrity appearance later that day.
“The place was completely empty, except for one bowler,” said Morrison, who had no idea with whom he had a brief conversation.
“He was very pleasant, but, when I found out he was the champ, I didn’t want to bowl near him for fear of distracting him,” Morrison said. “It’s refreshing to meet someone humble.
“I’m one of the few guys leaving D.C. and not in trouble,” Morrison said in jest. “I came here wanting the simple life, like throwing a line in the water for fishing. It’s kind of crazy in D.C. and I know people wouldn’t take the time to come out to a bowling alley.”