Qualifying rounds of PBA Trumbull County Tourism Bureau Central East Open were held Sunday at Bell Wick Bowl in Hubbard.
Defending champ wins PBA Hubbard Open
By John Bassetti
Matthew O’Grady became the Hubbard Open’s first repeat champion when he beat Wooster’s Joe Bailey, 237-148, in the championship match at Bell-Wick Bowl.
O’Grady was in a bubbly mood Sunday afternoon after working his way through 12 games of match play before eliminating three challengers to win another $2,700 Hubbard Open first-place check that represented his fourth regional title overall. He picked Hubbard over a tournament in Florida happening at the same time.
“I’m thrilled that I made it back because I’ve had a good run here,” O’Grady said. “There’s no regret that I didn’t go to Florida. “I enjoyed the entire weekend, obviously.”
The 30-year-old from Rahway, N.J. who was the No. 3 seeded bowler in stepladders, said that he struggled a little bit on Sunday morning — falling to seventh in matchplay at one point — but luckily clawed his way back as the lanes broke down.
“I went through a lot of different bowling balls looking for the right shape — you have to create some area and get the ball to strike enough because the guys at the top [Bailey and Mike Clark, Jr.] were striking,” O’Grady said. “Luckily, all you’ve got to do is make the stepladder and then bowl well. Bowl better than your opponent and be fortunate enough that, in my three opponents, their scores were a little bit lower than mine.”
In his matchplay game against Alex Cavagnaro, O’Grady had an open eighth frame, then left a split in the 10th frame. That’s when he turned to the spectators and remarked, “I never want to do that again.”
O’Grady needed to convert that 3-10 baby split in order to shut Cavagnaro out.
“Fortunately, I did. I should know because that’s the spare that is of high difficulty,” O’Grady.
After he threw his first strike in the 10th, he grabbed this year’s trophy — similar to last year’s that he has sitting on a shelf in his pro shop — and said, “A nice pair of brothers to be sitting next to each other in my pro shop.”
This year’s Scorpion oil pattern proved no more of an obstacle than the Cheetah of 2016.
“I’ve always prided myself on being versatile. If you can play any angle on the lane and adjust your ball speed and rev rate, you’re going to be pretty good.” O’Grady said. “I never wanted to feel like I was out because of a specific pattern, going from center to center and state to state. I practice quite a bit in order to master my skills to change all those traits. Luckily, they matched up today.”
Bailey — the top-seed in stepladders bowling in his first Hubbard Open — climbed into the championship match after starting the day in 13th place.
“Bad pair,” the runnerup said of lanes 17 & 18. “Bad pair and he had more experience on it, so it’s tough when you’re coming in cold on a pair that’s a little weird.”
Bailey had an 8-count and missed both remaining pins, followed by the 7-10 split in the seventh frame.
“There’s nothing you can do with two bad breaks. Your opponent making a couple good shots and catching a good break after one of your bad ones is tough to recover from.”
The 35-year-old Bailey chalked up his first regional win in Kokomo, Ind. in October.
Mike Clark Jr. of North Olmstead was the No. 2 seed in stepladders.
“It was a good day, starting off with eight really good games, then the lanes sort of burned up a little bit and I didn’t make a ball change quick enough,” Clark said. “It felt good coming out on a fresh pair in the championship, but I didn’t execute or throw the ball very well. I picked a bad time to throw my worst game of the day.”
Cavagnaro, the No. 5 seed and another first-timer at Bell-Wick, beat No. 4 Ryan Shafer in the stepladders’ opening match, 234-182, then lost to O’Grady, 233-217.
Cavagnaro, of Massapequa, N.Y., won two doubles regionals in the East and won a team challenge out in Las Vegas with O’Grady in October, 2015.
Cavagnaro was 11th entering Sunday, then opened up the day with a 298 single.
Shafer bowed out of the stepladder portion first when he lost to Cavagnaro, 234-182.
“When you go to stepladders, those lanes sat there all day — fresh oil that sat there all day — so what it does is flatten out the pattern a little bit so that the shot is a little more critical,” Shafer said. “I really couldn’t play where I did this morning and I couldn’t play left like I did later in the block, so I kind of got trapped. But Alex bowled a great game.”
It was Shafer’s first advancement to the stepladder stage.
Rick Graham had a roller-coaster ride during matchplay, especially when he went from throwing 296 to 186 in back-to-back games, followed by a position-round game (12th matchplay game) of 164.
It resulted in his missing fifth place by two pins.
“It took me a while [four or five frames] to get loose, then I had to catch up,” Graham, of Lancaster, Pa. He still had a chance in the 10th frame, but “made a bad shot,” Graham said.
In the 11th matchplay game, Graham beat Clark, 186-185.
“Neither of us struck on [lane] 21 the whole game,” Graham said. “The left [lane 21] was tricky for both of us.”
“It was disappointing, but it was still a good day.”