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Atom Splitters, Motown Muscle win as PBA League gets underway


The two-time past champion Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters will continue their bid for a third OceanView at Falmouth PBA League Elias Cup in the semifinal round, but the underdog Barbasol Motown Muscle will have a say in Silver Lake’s future after posting an inspired opening-round victory as the sixth edition of the Elias Cup competition got off to a thunderous start in front of a sold-out crowd at Bayside Bowl in in Portland, Maine.

The first two best-of-two-game quarterfinal rounds matches, which are part of the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour schedule, aired Sunday on ESPN.

In the first best-of-two-game match of the 2018 PBA League competition, the underdog Motown Muscle knocked out the top-seeded bowlingball.com L.A. X team, 233-194 and 219-210. The first game of the Baker format match included two strings of four strikes by Motown’s Josh Blanchard, Shota Kawazoe (left), Francois Lavoie, Anthony Simonsen and EJ Tackett while L.A. X threw only one strike in the first eight frames.

Game two was a nail-biter heading into the 10th frame where Tackett, working on a strike, left a 4 pin. L.A. X anchor bowler Jakob Butturff (right) needed two strikes and nine pins to send the match into a one-ball sudden-death roll-off, but he left a 7 pin to hand Motown’s its first sweep in the PBA League’s six-year history.

“That was exciting,” Motown manager Del Ballard Jr. said. “I thought (Butturff’s) second shot was better than the first, but he didn’t get the strike.

“We obviously weren’t overconfident (after qualifying eighth),” he added. “We’ve always had a good team on paper, but not when it counts. Today was a different day than yesterday. I just tried to keep my guys loose. I told them, when you think about it, we had a USBC Masters champion (Simonsen), a U.S. Open champion (Lavoie), a two-time PBA World Champion (Tackett), the best player in his home country (Japan’s Kawazoe) and we still didn’t stack up against (L.A. X’s Jason Belmonte, pictured left, a 17-time PBA Tour champion and four-time PBA Player of the Year).

“But the PBA League is about the team, not one guy. I didn’t want my guys over-thinking so we narrowed things down to one or two balls for each player to make decisions simpler, and it worked out perfectly.”

In the second match, the 2014 and 2015 Elias Cup champion Atom Splitters got off to a slow start against OceanView at Falmouth Brooklyn Styles, but Jesper Svensson, Dick Allen (right), AJ Johnson (featured photo), Tom Daugherty and anchor bowler Chris Barnes combined for a string of five strikes, taking the lead when Brooklyn’s PBA Hall of Famers Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Parker Bohn III (below left) left back-to-back splits. A late string of five strikes wasn’t enough as the Atom Splitters took a 223-212 decision.

Game two wasn’t as close. Silver Lake struck on seven of its first eight shots and ran away with a 257-205 victory after the Styles left seven single pins.

“The first game is always nerve-wracking,” said Silver Lake manager Mark Baker. “The adrenalin kicks in for everyone. You can’t explain to first-time bowlers what it’s going to be like with the crowds here. Even my heart started pumping.”

A pivotal shot involved Barnes (right) converting the 2-5-8 in the 10th frame of game one, which gave the Atom Splitters the win. “Chris making that spare was huge,” Baker said. “We won the first game, and when that happens, you know you will at least tie. When you win the first game, you know you’ve got a free swing at it in game two. It got all of our guys a little looser.”

Motown, which has never won the Elias Cup, will meet the Atom Splitters in the first semifinal round match that will air on ESPN on Sunday, May 6, at 1 p.m. ET.

The final two quarterfinal round matches – New York City vs. Dallas and Philadelphia vs. Portland – will air next Sunday, April 29, at 1 p.m. ET with the winners advancing to the second semifinal match on May 6. The Elias Cup finals will air on Sunday, May 13, at 1 p.m. All ESPN telecasts are being simultaneously streamed on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

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Oceanview at Falmouth PBA League – Quarterfinal Results

Single-elimination, best-of-two-game Baker format

Quarterfinal Match One:
Barbasol Motown Muscle (Josh Blanchard, Shota Kawazoe, Francois Lavoie, Anthony Simonsen, EJ Tackett) def. bowlingball.com L.A. X (Stuart Williams, Martin Larsen, Osku Palermaa, Jason Belmonte, Jakob Butturff), 233-194, 219-210.

Quarterfinal Match Two:
Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Jesper Svensson, Dick Allen, AJ Johnson, Tom Daugherty, Chris Barnes) def. OceanView at Falmouth Brooklyn Styles (Walter Ray Williams Jr., Parker Bohn III, Jason Sterner, Sean Rash, Matt O’Grady), 223-212, 257-205.

Oceanview at Falmouth PBA League ESPN Schedule

Sunday, April 29, 2018, 1 p.m. ET
Quarterfinal Match Three:
GEICO NYC WTT KingPins (Pete Weber, Marshall Kent, Sam Cooley, BJ Moore, Anthony Pepe) vs. Shipyard Dallas Strikers: (player-manager Norm Duke, Tommy Jones, Bill O’Neill, Rhino Page, Kyle Sherman).

Quarterfinal Match Four:
Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen (Dom Barrett, Tom Smallwood, Ronnie Russell, Matt Sanders, Chris Loschetter) vs. Port Property Management Portland Lumberjacks (Ryan Ciminelli, Wes Malott, Kyle Troup, DJ Archer, Jojoe Yannaphon)

Sunday, May 6, 2018, 1 p.m. ET
Semifinal Match One:
Barbasol Motown Muscle vs. Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters.

Semifinal Match Two:
GEICO NYC WTT KingPins- Shipyard Dallas Strikers Winner vs. Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen-Port Property Management Portland Lumberjacks Winner.

Sunday, May 13, 1 p.m. ET
Elias Cup championship finals (best of two games, Baker format team games; one-ball sudden-death roll-off will decide any ties)

Herbert Bickel

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