Mika Koivuniemi wins 14th career title in PBA Viper Championship


    2014 PBA Tour #8

    Finnish native nips top qualifier Connor Pickford to end three-year U.S. television drought

    2014PBA08MikaKoivuniemi4.jpg2014PBA08ConnorPickford2.jpgFinnish native Mika Koivuniemi (pictured left) of Hartland, Michigan, defeated first-time television finalist Connor Pickford (right) of Charlotte, North Carolina, 224-214, to win his 14th career PBA Tour title in the PBA Viper Championship at the new South Point Bowling Plaza, ending a three-year title drought on American soil.

    The Viper finals, the second of five PBA Tour title events, was conducted November 1 during GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VI for tape delay broadcast on Sunday, December 14 on ESPN.

    Koivuniemi, 47, had won four PBA International titles after winning the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, but he had to throw three strikes in the 10th-frame twice to end a three-year winless streak in U.S.-based competition.

    2014PBA08MikaKoivuniemi3.jpg"I was lucky I finished on the left lane," Koivuniemi said of his victory over Pickford. "I was lined up much better on the left lane than I was on the right lane, but I still needed to make a good shot. I got a great break in the fifth frame, but it's about time some luck was with me. I feel like luck hasn't been on my side on TV very much lately.

    "It's been three years since I've won in the U.S. so, yes, it feels excellent."

    In the title match, Pickford left the 2-4-6-7 split in his fourth frame and failed to convert for the only serious mistake of the match. He followed the open with three strikes, but Koivuniemi took the lead when he carried a high crossover strike in fifth, converting that break into a turkey.

    Pickford failed to strike in the eighth and ninth frames, giving Koivuniemi room to lock up the title with strikes on his first two shots in the 10th frame and that's what he did.

    2014PBA08RonnieRussell2.jpg2014PBA08DomBarrett2.jpgIn the three-player shootout to start the Viper finals, a similar 10th frame performance got Koivuniemi into the title match. Koivuniemi started with four strikes and appeared to have the match under control, but he missed a 4-7 spare attempt in the fifth and momentarily lost his strike shot.

    He stayed out of trouble, leaving makeable spares until throwing three strikes in the 10th frame to lock up the match. His 221 game was too much for Ronnie Russell (left) of Marion, Indiana (190) and England's Dom Barrett (right; 126).

    Barrett, the reigning PBA World Champion, ran into early trouble, leaving splits he couldn't convert in four of the first six frames, and quickly bowled himself out of contention. Two more splits resulted in the second-lowest nationally-televised game in PBA history (the record is Tom Daugherty's 100 game in the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, also against Koivuniemi).

    Russell stayed close to Koivuniemi until he left the 6-7-10 split in the eighth frame. After a strike in the ninth frame, a 10 pin on his first shot in the 10th ended his title hopes.


    PBA Viper Championship

    South Point Bowling Center in Las Vegas, Nev., United States (Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2014)

    2014PBA08MikaKoivuniemi2.jpgChampionship Round:
    1. Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 445 (2 games), $20,000
    2. Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 214 (1 game), $10,000
    3. Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind. 190 (1 game), $6,000 and
    Dom Barrett, England, 126 (1 game), $6,000.

    Playoff Results:
    Shootout Match: No. 4 Koivuniemi (221) def. No. 2 Russell (190) and No. 3 Barrett (126)
    Championship: Koivuniemi def. No. 1 Pickford, 224-214.


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