In the Pocket: The Zoo, Berschwinger dominate Vitalo
Let’s face it. A league that still bowls on Saturday nights must be pretty serious about the sport.
The Vitalo Classic, one of the Capital Region’s strongest scratch leagues, featured dominating performances on both an individual and a team basis this season at Sportsman’s Bowl.
Craig Berschwinger, with an outlandish 252 average, is about to break the league record for high average, surpassing Jamie Diamond’s 2009-10 mark of 246.
Meanwhile, The Zoo clinched its second straight team title and fourth in franchise history with four weeks to go and still has an outside chance of breaking the all-time league record for total points of 126, set in 1962 by the VI Phillips team.
The Zoo, including John Mango, left-hander Jay Diamond and Mark Ray, began the season by winning 29 of 30 points and 49 of the first 55 possible points. The trio captured the league crown in wire-to-wire fashion. The team posted 11 5-0 sweeps and won four of five points on 10 occasions. It also set all-time league records for consecutive wins (25) and consecutive points (31).
The team average of 717 will break its own league record of 715. The Zoo rolled a season-high 3,156 that included Diamond’s 1,069, Mango’s 1,067 and Ray’s 1,020, and it also hit the 800 mark for a single game four times.
These guys can flat-out bowl.
Ray, a two-time league average champion, averaged 244 this year with three perfect games and 14 1,000 series. He has 29 perfect games in Vitalo competition with a high series of 1,135. He was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame in 1998.
Diamond, who entered the league’s Hall of Fame last year, is averaging 240 with two 300 games. He set a USBC national record with 119 consecutive 200 games over the last two seasons, breaking his brother Jamie’s previous mark of 105. Diamond also has 14 perfect games in league competition with an all-time league high of 1,177 for a four-game series.
Mango owns a 231 average this year and has five career perfect games and 145 900 series in Vitalo play.
“I’m hoping we give the league record a shot,” said Ray. “I don’t plan on letting up. I’m not going to go through the motions. That’s not the way I am.”
Ray said that the team’s acquisition of Mango helped keep it on top.
“Picking up John Mango was a big key for us. He’s bowled well on the weeks that Jay or myself have struggled,” he said. “We always seemed to have two of us bowling well, and that’s the key.”
Ray said he’s fought off pressure to quit the league.
“To tell you the truth, my wife wants me to give it up because it’s on a Saturday, but because of the competition and the fact I’ve been in this league for 20 years, I find it hard to give it up,” he said. “I love the competition.”
On an individual basis, Berschwinger has been outrageous. His 16 1,000 series this season is a league record, and he has rolled six first-three 800s, with a high of 848. Berschwinger has 22 series of 900 or better and has 21 consecutive 900 or better series. His previous high average in Vitalo competition was a 238 in 2010. He took a year’s leave of absence in 2011.
“I’m just trying to keep a clear mind every week and have some fun,” said Berschwinger. “I don’t want to put any pressure on myself, so I try not to set any goals. I don’t really concentrate that hard on any numbers. The idea is to have fun, and that’s what I do.”
Berschwinger said he is loyal to Storm products and switches back and forth.
“They work for me, so why change? I’m kind of disappointed with the fact that the season is almost over, because it’s been an unbelievable season,” he said. “I’ve had the chance to bowl with some great guys, and it’s been a lot of fun, because not only do the guys I bowl with know the game, but they are also easy to bowl with.”
Longtime league secretary Dave Mennillo, who lives for numbers like these, said he’s never seen such phenomenal performances.
“I’ve been in the league for almost 40 years, and I’ve seen a lot of great teams and individual bowlers, but I can honestly say that The Zoo and Craig have had the most dominating years, both team and individually, in league history,” he said.
The Pepsi PBA Elite Player Championship, the final event of the eight PBA World Series of Bowling finals, will air Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN.
Jason Belmonte, the Australian powerhouse with the special two-handed release, will attempt to become the fourth former PBA Rookie of the Year to also take Player of the Year honors if he can win this week, but PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke will be attempting to spoil Belmonte’s party.
Belmont has already won three tournaments this year and will take on Duke, Mike Scoggins and Mike DeVaney in the four-player eliminator finals, according to a PBA press release.
Duke, who has 37 career victories, picked up his third win of the season in the Dick Weber PBA Playoffs. He also won the Detroit Open and the Roth-Holman PBA Doubles Championship with partner Wes Malott.
In other PBA news, the PBA Tournament of Champions concludes the regular season next week at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.
When the tournament starts Monday, PBA regional, senior tour, national tour players and PBA Women’s Series players who have won titles will begin the week-long battle to determine which four players advance to the live ESPN stepladder finals on April 15, at
Following are some of the storylines, provided by the weekly PBA newsletter.
A win by Pete Weber would make him the first player in PBA history to complete the “Triple Crown” twice.
A win by Walter Ray Williams Jr., the winningest player in PBA history with 47 titles, would make him the seventh member of the elite Triple Crown club as well as the third “Grand Slam” winner in PBA history. Williams also needs to reach the stepladder finals to extend his record streak of 26 consecutive seasons with at least one TV appearance.
NEST, WOMEN COMBINE
The New Era Senior Tour will join forces with area scratch women in a special combined tournament April 15 at 10:30 a.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl.
Each tournament will run independently, with its own prize fund. After each event crowns a champion, there will be a battle of the sexes.
Kim Julien Brown of Riverfront Insuring Agency will sponsor the battle of the sexes match and provide additional money for both participants.
This newly named New Era Women’s Tournament should be very interesting, because it’s one of the rare opportunities for area scratch women to compete outside of league play. I would love to see a packed house to go along with the regular NEST event for the senior men.
By the way, the NEST has added two more events. Redwood Lanes will host an event May 5 at 11 a.m., while Sunset Recreation will hold another 11 a.m. event on June 16.
For more information, contact Jim Burton at 209-4748.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u Qualifying for the Huck Finn Kenny Hall Tournament of Champions will be held Saturday at
2:30 p.m. at Towne Bowling Academy. The finals will be taped April 15 at 6 p.m., and it will air April 29 at 11 a.m. on Fox23.
u Meanwhile, qualifying for the Huck Finn Jack Scaccia Sr. Memorial, which offers a $4,000 top prize, will begin April 14 at 1 p.m. for seniors only and at 3 p.m. for open-division bowlers at Alpha Lanes. There will be two more squads April 21 at 1 and 3 p.m. at Town ’N Country Lanes and then two more squads April 29 at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The live TV finals will be held May 6 at Alpha Lanes. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations.
u In the last regular scratch singles qualifier of the year at Cove Lanes, Nick Miseno, Alex Weglarz, Craig Schoonmaker and John Pulver made the TV finals. That show will be taped April 15 at 4:30 p.m. at Saratoga Strike Zone.
u Just a reminder that Towne Bowling Academy is offering free bowling to senior citizens every Wednesday this month from noon to 3 p.m.
u Sportsman’s Bowl will conduct a 10-week PBA Summer League on Thursday nights, beginning May 17 at 7 p.m. The three-person teams will bowl four games each week on five different PBA patterns. Call Paul Adkins at 355-4330 for more information.
u Also at Sportsman’s Bowl, there will be a 10-week Tuesday Night Classic, beginning May 15. Three-person teams will bowl three games each week. Team
average cap will be 675. Handicap will be 80 percent of 220, and weekly dues will be $20. Call Sportsman’s to reserve a spot.
u The Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour will hold its next event April 14 at 2 p.m. at Towne Bowling Academy.
u Del Lanes will host the final event of the Northern Bowlers Association season, the annual Bob Guild Championship, on April 15. Joe Mazuryk and Craig Taylor have two wins apiece this season, while Matt Sherman, Jeff Voght and Tony Palumbo are the other winners. Also at stake will be the Cuby Cup points champion.
u The Schenectady-Scotia USBC Women’s Bowling Association’s City Championship begins April 30 and runs through May 12 at Sportsman’s Bowl. Weekday squads begin at 6:30 p.m., while the Saturday squads will be held at 11 a.m. and as needed. Team competition will have one division, while the doubles and singles will have Class A, Class B and Class C. Handicap will be 100 percent in each event.
u Redwood Lanes’ Cutting Edge Doubles league will expand to 24 teams next season at 6:15 p.m. on Monday nights. Membership fee will be $150. There will be more than $26,000 in prize money. Last year, the league paid out $17,500 with 14 teams. There will be a 455 maximum scratch limit per team. The league will bowl for 32 weeks, plus a week of tournament play. Call 869-3581 or 496-7812 for more information.
u The 79th annual Schenectady USBCBA City Championship Tournament at Boulevard Bowl. The event runs April 30 through May 11. Entry fee will be $80 ($20 per person) for the four-person team event, $40 for doubles, $20 for singles and $5 for all-events. Handicap will be 80 percent of 240. Prizes will be paid on a one in eight ratio. For more information, call 399-2942 or 355-5632.
u The USBC New York State Bowling Open Championship will be held at Spare Time-South Glens Falls, beginning April 14 and running through May 6.
u Rolling Greens will host the Scotia-Glenville Little League No-Tap Tournament April 20 at 7 p.m. and April 21 at 7 p.m. The event will feature five-person teams. Contact Rolling Greens at 381-4848 for more information.
u The Schenectady League at Rolling Greens Lanes is looking for bowlers for next season. The league bowls for 28 weeks at a cost of $25 per week. The league operates on a point-system basis. Interested bowlers should call Rolling Greens at 381-4848 or Cliff Ruth at 847-8089.
u Towne Bowling Academy will be offering various summer leagues, including sport leagues and adult-junior leagues, beginning this month and running for 10 weeks. Among those leagues will be a PBA Sport Trio league on Wednesday nights, beginning April 25. The 10-week program will cost $20 per week, and will run through the last week of June. There will be an orientation meeting April 18, and bowlers can compete on the same of the patterns that will be used on that night. Call 355-3939 for more information.
u Rich Ralbovsky shot a 510 and won $80 in the weekly Sportsman’s Bowl Eliminator. Floyd Waver (472, $40) was second, while Mike DeGenero Jr. and Rit Szczpenski earned free entry into next Monday night’s finals. Bowlers can qualify for $10 through their leagues at Sportsman’s Bowl, or they can qualify for $15 when lanes are available. To qualify, bowlers must shoot a handicap total of 665 or better. Handicap is 80 percent of 240.
u Spare Time-Clifton Park will host a “Crazy Cash” handicap doubles league this summer, with a guaranteed $1,000 going to the winning team. The league will bowl Tuesday nights at 7. Entry fee is $20 per week, and handicap is 100 percent of 200. The league will run for 15 weeks, and brackets and jackpots will be available. The league is hoping to have an overall prize fund of $10,000. Call Brant Insero at Spare Time-Clifton Park at 371-4000 for more information.