Bowling in two high-powered scratch leagues, Mike O’Toole is usually content to fly under the radar.
Last week, however, the 23-year-old Schenectady High School and Schenectady County Community College graduate grabbed the headlines with two huge performances.
The left-hander with an unusual release delivered a 279-815 in the Sportsman’s Majors, and then came back with a perfect game en route to an 838 in the Capital District All Star league.
“It was kind of an unbelievable week,” said O’Toole, who works in environmental services at Ellis Hospital. “For the last three weeks, I’ve been focusing more on my mark. I’ve been going out and practicing more with my girlfriend. I’ve also been making a lot more spares lately, although I didn’t have to make many spares at all last week.”
O’Toole said at least one of his two big triples was aided by a teammate.
“On Monday nights, I line up around my teammate, Jim Parker. He’s a fellow lefty, and we both play down and in. We pretty much line up off each other,” O’Toole said. “If the shot is working for him, then I stay there, as well.”
O’Toole is averaging 227 in the Sportsman’s Majors and 225 in the Capital District All Star league. He has 10 800 triples and 11 perfect games on his resume.
“My highest average ever was a 235 in the Sportsman’s junior league back in the 2007-08 season,” O’Toole said. “I also bowled pretty well in high school. When we won the Big 10 title in 2007, it was the first time Schenectady had won it since 1994.”
O’Toole then tweaked his game for the SCCC Royals.
“Ray Ross helped me a lot at SCCC. He’s a great coach,” O’Toole said. “Our team made it to sectional qualifying in Allentown, Pa., and we were among the top 64 teams in the nation, including the Division I teams. We had to bowl against teams like Penn State and some other top Division I teams from our region.”
O’Toole, who has an associate degree in criminal justice, said his most memorable accomplishment on the lanes was finishing runner-up in the New York State Pepsi Junior Championships in Kingston, when he tossed an 812 triple.
But bowling with the big boys is different.
“I really respect all the guys I bowl with in those two leagues,” he said. “Maybe I’m getting a little more respect from some of the other bowlers, as well, but I don’t really look for the headlines. There are too many great bowlers in those leagues.”
A few more weeks like the one he had recently, and O’Toole might be a household name, as well.
High school bowlers take center stage in the next few weeks when the Section II tournament gets under way.
The girls in Class A, Class B and Class C/D bowl Feb. 7 at Spare Time-Clifton Park. The Class B boys roll off Feb. 8 at Boulevard Bowl, while the Class C-D boys compete Feb. 11 at Boulevard. Class A boys complete the tournament Feb. 12, again at Boulevard Bowl.
There will be two three-game blocks each day, with the morning block beginning at 9:30 and the afternoon block starting at 1.
Section II boys’ coordinator Bill Neumann, coach at Columbia High School, said to watch out for teams such as Colonie, Mohonasen, Columbia and Bethlehem Central in the girls’ tournament.
Colonie is paced by Tiera Gulum and Hannah Mochrie, while Chenya Darcangelis is the key bowler for the Mighty Warriors. Tori Burkins spearheads the attack for Bethlehem Central, and Sarah Morris paces Columbia.
Other individuals to watch in the girls’ tournament are Alyssa Pancake of Saratoga Springs and Lauren Piotrowski of Schenectady.
Among the powers in the boys’ large-school events are Mohonasen (Zach Porter, Peter Konrad, Steve Bennett), Colonie (Justin Carl, Nick Shaw), Guilderland (Austin VanBuren, A.J. Indovina), Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Chris Hanson, Zach Nasters), Schenectady (Zachary Schellenger), Niskayuna (Joe Battaglia, Aaron Simone), Shenendehowa (Connor Chatterton, Anthony Velardi), Saratoga Springs (Andy Marotta, Jeff Decker) and Bethlehem Central (Pat DeVoe and Tyler Lemke). Ryan Karabin of
Scotia-Glenville could figure among the leading individuals, while perennial power Hoosick Falls (Josh McCart), stripped of its title last year because of faulty paperwork, could return to championship form among the smaller schools.
The state championship will be held March 2-3 in Syracuse.
I thought the new PBA League format was a huge success last weekend.
Watching the best bowlers in the world take this format seriously was very interesting, especially when they only get to throw two shots per game in the Baker format. A lot of these guys felt worse letting down their teammates than they ever did if they missed a spare or left a big split when they were bowling just for themselves.
A great example was the way Pete Weber took a deliberate fine for a clock violation when he tried to regroup for his second shot in the 10th frame of the final match. He knew he needed a double to help his team win, and although he came up short, he gave it everything he had. He wasn’t going through the motions.
The PBA came up with a fine addition to their product. The league format should continue to add some spice, especially as teams jockey for position for the season-ending Elias finals.
And as a sidelight, the team format also gives the PBA Tour more of a chance to sell its merchandise. There are plenty of new T-shirts, sweatshirts and other clothing with all the team logos available on line.
HUCK FINN CORNER
Two of the most popular events on the Huck Finn/Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York Capital Region Bowling Show schedule will be held in back-to-back weeks.
This weekend will be the Super Bowl Doubles with a first-place prize of $2,000 guaranteed for the top scratch tandem. There will be a qualifying squad Saturday at 3 p.m. at Spare Time-Latham, and then one more qualifier Sunday at 10 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl, followed by the finals at 1 p.m.
The following weekend, the Huck Finn Mixed Doubles tournament will be held with one qualifying squad at Sportsman’s Bowl Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. The finals follow at 1 p.m. There will be a same-day TV taping at Iroquois Lanes in Canajoharie for both the Super Bowl Doubles and the Mixed Doubles.
In the mixed doubles, the men bowl scratch, while the women receive 100 percent handicap of a 220 average.
Reservations for both of these double events is strongly recommended. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628.
STRIKES & SPARES
* Helen Waite rolled a four-game series of 259-904 to win the New Era Women’s Tour stop at Sunset Recreation last weekend. The event was sponsored by Kim Julien-Brown/Riverfront Insurance Agency. Waite earned $350, while Jenean Bailey (236-899, $220) was second and Marissa Martinek (246-850, $150) was third. Suzie Neumann (227-810) and Danielle Manuli (225-807) rounded out the top five in a 16-player field.
* Zachary Porter of Schenectady led wire-to-wire and beat Austin Van Buren of Altamont, 231-192, to win the Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour tournament at Burnt Hills Lane Saturday. Porter earned a scholarship for $275, while Van Buren got a $175 scholarship. Chad Sutliff of Valatie ($110), Chris Hanson of Ballston Lake ($75), Vernon Billington II of Hartford, Conn. ($50), Jonathan Bowman of Peru ($40) and Eli Burham of Kingston ($35) also earned scholarships.
* Clifton Park’s John Walther III won his second Troy Plastic Ball Open with a 696 triple Saturday at Hometown Lanes. Walther earned $225. Ron Gardner of Troy was second with a 649 ($140), and Alex Weglarz of Schaghticoke was third with a 634 ($70). Watervliet’s John Dolny was fourth with a 632 ($32).
* Zeph Kozakiewicz of Sunset Lanes rolled a perfect game and a 739 in the Joey Schmidt Capital District Junior Pro Scoring League last weekend at Sportsman’s Bowl.
* Schenectady Bowling Association Hall of Famer Brian Brown shot a 987 in the Vitalo Classic Saturday night and became the third bowler in league history to shoot 300 900 series. Brown, who had the top score on the night, also led his Bob’s Pro Shop team to a 4-1 position-round win over Town ’N Country.
*Towne Bowling Academy announced its Open Double Scratch Challenge, with qualifiers set for Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m., and Feb. 17 at both 9 a.m. and noon. The finals will start 3 p.m. Feb. 17. First place will be $2,000, and second place will be $1,000. Entry fee is $130. Teams will bowl four games, skipping pairs after each game. One in five teams advance to the semifinals. The top eight teams move on to the bracket finals, with the top team off each squad receiving an automatic berth into the bracket finals. The semifinals will have a two-game format, with five teams advancing. A sport pattern will be used. Call Towne at 355-3939 for reservations or more information.
* Dylan Mennillo, the 8-year-old grandson of Schenectady Bowling Association Hall of Famer Dave Mennillo, recorded his first 400 triple over the weekend in the junior program at Sportsman’s Bowl with a 164-448.
* The Troy Bowling Association’s annual 700 Tournament will be held at Hi-Way Recreation in Wynantskill Feb. 16. To be eligible, a bowler must have a sanctioned 700 triple in the TBA. Three-game qualifying squads will be 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The top four bowlers from each division will compete in a stepladder finals. Cost is $30. Call Mike Hodlik at 326-4238 for reservations. Jeff Zielonko is the defending champion.
* Boasting one of the top fields in area women’s bowling, the 43rd annual Women’s Doubles Invitational will be held Feb. 23 at Boulevard Bowl. For information, contact Kathy Nucci at 458-7639. Entry deadline is Feb. 15.
* Sports Are For Everyone (SAFE), a not-for-profit organization that runs sports programs for kids with special needs, launches a bowling program at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy on Saturdays at 10 a.m. The progam will run from Feb. 16 to March 23. Participants 5 years old and older with mental and physical challenges are encouraged to participate at any point during that period. Call 383-8076 for more information.
* The annual Electric City 600 Club Tournament will be at Sportsman’s Bowl Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. Entry forms have been delivered to the lanes and labeled with the names of the bowlers that have bowled a 600 series. All entry forms must be turned in before Feb. 14. Contact Marianne Hogle at 393-8907 if you need a form.