By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
A total of 13 teams from the Daily Journal’s circulation area will be in the hunt for state high school bowling titles today.
The Class I championships are set to start at 8:30 a.m. at the Paradise Lanes in Jackson. Among the teams in the field: the boys and girls teams from East Union, West Union and Tremont along with the East Webster boys and Kossuth girls.
The Class II championships are set to begin at 10:30 a.m. at Rebelanes in Tupelo. In the field: the Tupelo and Pontotoc boys and girls and the Itawamba AHS girls.
Last year, three of the four state titles were won by area teams – the Tupelo boys and Itawamba AHS girls in Class II and the East Union boys and Pisgah girls. For Tupelo, it was the Golden Wave’s third state boys title in a row.
It was a businesslike scene at Rebelanes on Thursday afternoon as teams from Tupelo, along with Pontotoc and Clinton, were going through their final practice sessions.
“They can all bowl well when it’s for fun,” said Tupelo coach Susan Dudley, who carefully watched her team’s workout, clipboard in hand. “But it’s all about learning to deal with the pressure of these big competitions.”
Dudley has two young teams in the hunt today, with only two seniors – both on a girls squad that’s seeking its first state title. Getting to compete at Rebelanes is “our homefield advantage,” she said. “It’s in our comfort zone.”
Today’s competition in Tupelo will feature the two bowlers with the best series in the North regionals – Tupelo’s Tim Hartigan and Lynnsey Cromeans of Itawamba AHS.
The smaller-school teams, including East Union, will have to get out of their comfort zones today in Jackson. That’s why they all arrived in town early enough on Thursday to get in some practice games.
“That’s the thing about championship bowling, it’ll favor the team that can really adjust to the lane conditions,” said East Union coach Brian Browning. “Anybody can go out and throw a bowling ball, you know? But these kids, they have to learn how to adjust.”
Each five-member team today will bowl four games. The two top-scoring teams will then square off in a best-of-five Baker-style final, with the five players each bowling two frames – the leadoff bowler takes the first and six frames and so on. The best bowler will take the fifth frame and the 10th – in which, if things go well, he or she will get to roll three balls.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” said East Union’s Browning. “A good team has to be able to go deeper in its lineup and that’s puts the pressure on the kids.”
In some ways, building a lineup for the finals is like figuring out a baseball batting order.
“Some kids don’t like to bowl first and some aren’t comfortable going last,” said West Union coach Barbara White. “You have to know the personalities of your bowlers.”
For the coaches and bowlers, the plot thickens with the Baker-style games. In last Friday’s North championships, East Union’s boys battled to a 3-2 win over West Union. “I think there’s a very good chance of seeing Union county teams in the finals,” said West Union’s White, whose girls won their North regional title.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them again,” said East Union’s Browning. “West Union is a fine, fine team and that regional was about as close as it gets. Honestly, once you get to this level, every team that shows up has a chance.”
Contact John L. Pitts at 678-1522 or email@example.com.