Mark James beat the odds in more ways than one during Sunday’s Jack Scaccia Sr. Memorial tournament at Boulevard Bowl.
The 43-year-old left-hander from
Watervliet wasn’t even supposed to appear on the season-ending event of the Huck Finn/Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s weekly “Capital Region Bowling Show.” He lost his qualifying match to Dustin Paupst, but was given a second chance to make the live television show as a pinch-hitter when Bill Neumann of Rensselaer had an appendectomy, and couldn’t bowl. As the top remaining qualifier, James took Neumann’s place in the final four.
Then, James almost forgot his bowling balls on the way to Boulevard Bowl. He had to drive back home to retrieve his equipment, and he got to the bowling center a half-hour later than he planned.
And when he started off his match against fellow lefty George Gorman of Troy, James discovered that he didn’t have the lane reaction he was hoping for.
But he made a late ball switch and cruised past Gorman in the semis before holding off Paupst, 234-233, in the finals to win the season’s most lucrative event. James split the $4,000 top prize with Neumann, who was on hand to root on his pinch-hitter.
“This is my biggest win, by far. Plus, it’s special because it’s the Jack Scaccia tournament, and Jack did so much for the game,” said an elated James, who is known as one of local bowling’s most energetic characters, both on and off the lanes.
“I couldn’t figure out the lanes, so I switched to a Black Widow Pearl. I figured I’d take a chance. Why not? I had to beat The King [Gorman] first, and he can be a tough bowler to beat.”
James didn’t get a strike in his first match with Gorman until the seventh frame, but after the ball switch, he struck on five of his last six shots to pound Gorman, 209-158. Gorman had two strikes in his first three frames, but he opened in the fourth, sixth and seventh frames.
Paupst, a 20-year-old Glenville resident and Shenendehowa graduate, struck five times in a row, but had to withstand a couple of open frames before squeezing past Nick Miseno of Amsterdam, 211-199, in the other semifinal.
That set up a rematch of the final qualifying game, one in which Paupst crushed James to earn a spot on the show. While the bowlers were warming up for the
final, James yelled across to Paupst that this would be “Round Two.”
Just as he did in his semifinal, Paupst found the line early, striking on his first three shots before leaving a 7-pin in the fourth frame.
James carried a swisher on his first shot, but then he tacked on three more strikes for a four-bagger before leaving easy one-pin spares in the fifth and sixth frames.
Paupst left the 4-6-10 split in the fifth frame, handing all the momentum back to James, who struck in the seventh and ninth frames.
But Paupst rallied back behind three strikes in a row. He kept his hopes alive by converting the 4-9 split in the ninth frame, and then struck out for a 233 to force James to record at least one strike in the 10th.
James posted that first strike, and all he needed was seven pins to win. He left an eight-count split, but got just enough to slip past Paupst.
“This is the first time I’ve been bowling on TV that I wasn’t really nervous at all,” said James, who owns his own carpet business. “I was bowling for Bill, and maybe that’s why I wasn’t nervous. This is a big relief for me. I missed eight cuts this year by less than 10 pins.”
It was James’ eighth career television appearance and second Huck Finn title. He also won a Huck Finn event at Hi-Roc Lanes.
For Paupst, Sunday’s strong showing in the finals continued a recent hot streak. He won the Northern Bowlers Association’s Bob Guild Memorial championship two weeks ago, and finished second to Ed McGaffin in Towne Bowling Academy’s Bracket Challenge last weekend.
The tournament is named after the late Jack Scaccia Sr., one of the area’s top proprietors who was influential in bringing back televised bowling to the Capital Region.
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