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U15 defending champions repeat at 2018 USA Bowling National Championships

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Spencer Robarge threw a lot of strikes in the 15-and-under championship match of the 2018 USA Bowling National Championships presented by Sixlets, and the two most memorable ones helped lock up a second consecutive title.

Robarge and his 3 Rights Make a Left (featured photo) teammates, representing the Midwest, averaged nearly 223 over five games at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas, to defeat the Lower Great Lakes regional champion, 3-2, in the best-of-five modified-Baker format.

CBS Sports Network aired the title match Tuesday night, which was decided by scores of 247-193, 216-233, 239-202, 182-236 and 229-206.

In the unique Baker format, the first two bowlers in the lineup each bowl three frames per game (1-5-9 and 2-6-10, respectively), while the other two team members bowl two frames each (3-7 and 4-8). Each team bowls an entire game on one lane, and the teams alternate lanes with each subsequent game.

In this year’s title match, all five wins came on the left lane, with 3 Rights Make a Left averaging more than 238 in three victories there.

“Since the first four games had been won on the left lane, that definitely gave us confidence going into the last game,” said Robarge, who struck 17 times in 24 opportunities during the five games. “Once we got there, we made the best shots we could. When we saw an opportunity at the end of the game, we did what we had to do to take advantage.”

Robarge was joined in the victory by Brandon Bonta, Silas Limes and newcomer Piper Reams. Robarge, Bonta and Limes were part of the team that won the 2017 title in the Cleveland area.

Halfway through the deciding game, 3 Rights Make A Left led by nearly 20 pins, but a seventh-frame split allowed THE Ohio Storm squad to take the lead with strikes in the seventh and eighth frames.

When the Lower Great Lakes squad failed to strike again in the ninth frame, consecutive strikes from Limes and Bonta in the eighth and ninth frames left Robarge needing a strike and nine pins to claim the title. He doubled in the final frame to seal it (right).

“Going into the 10th frame, I knew I needed two shots to win the game,” said Robarge, who won the U12 boys title at the 2015 Junior Gold Championships. “That’s what we work for. That’s what we get ready for. All of the preparation, time and practice get you ready for that moment. I went up and did what I had to do.

“It was really fun to throw a lot of strikes, but, more importantly, we made our spares, which allowed us to be in the position to win.”

Robarge and his teammates again were under the guidance of head coach Kelly Bonta (featured photo on the right), but the group had an extra set of eyes this year in Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Chris Barnes (left).

Even with a new team member and a new coach, nothing changed concerning the team’s cohesion or intensity.

In qualifying this year, 3 Rights Make A Left also became the first team to roll a Baker 300 game at the USA Bowling National Championships.

“They talked about doing this when they won last year, and even though we lost Peyton (Montgomery), the goal was to find someone who could fill that spot and help get us back here,” Kelly Bonta said. “We’d known Piper for a while and knew she was talented, as well as a great spare shooter. She seemed to do everything we needed her to do. It was a perfect fit.”

The wins were as different as they were the same for 3 Rights Make A Left, but the down-to-the-wire finish in 2018 was as exciting for the players and coaches as it was for the bowling fans.

“This win was special in its own way, and it definitely was exciting,” Bonta said. “For both teams, everyone’s shot was super meaningful every time, especially when it got into that last game. You could tell both teams wanted it really badly, and we were fortunate to get a couple of breaks that made the difference. It also helped that we had one of the most knowledge bowlers of all-time with us as a coach.”

The 2018 USA Bowling National Championships included two divisions – 12-and-under and 15-and-under – each with its own TV show. Both shows were taped July 21 in conjunction with the 2018 Junior Gold Championships for broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

The 2018 USA Bowling National Championships started with 30 teams – 14 in the U12 division and 16 in the U15 division – which bowled 13 and 15 one-game Baker matches, respectively, at AMF Garland Lanes in Garland, Texas, on July 18. Their win-loss records determined the seeding for their respective double-elimination match-play brackets. Ties were broken by total pinfall.

Match play took place July 19 at nearby USA Bowl in Dallas and featured best-of-three Baker matches to see who advanced. CBS Sports Network televised the final of both divisions for the third consecutive year.

On the way to the TV show, 3 Rights Make A Left posted a 4-0 match-play record at USA Bowl, which was highlighted by great teamwork, camaraderie, communication and the top-notch coaching.

The Lower Great Lakes (pictured) lost its first match and then rattled off six consecutive victories, including back-to-back wins against the undefeated The Thunder from the Coastal South, to lock up a spot in the final.

THE Ohio Storm squad returned all five players from a successful 2017 USA Bowling run, plus one additional player for good measure. The roster included Ryan Hanzak, Kyle Hanzak, Angelo Biondo, Nolan Blessing, Jillian Martin and Kaylee Hitt.

All rounds of qualifying and match play leading up to the televised finals were broadcast on BowlTV.

The USA Bowling program was introduced at the regional level in 2013 and grew to include the first USA Bowling National Championships in Indianapolis in 2016.

The 30 teams competing in the Dallas area all earned their spots at the national event by winning one of the regional tournaments held across the country throughout the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.

The USA Bowling program was designed as a team-based youth program to introduce competitors to the sport, and it follows the same structure as other youth sports. It places children on a team, provides a coach for each team and conducts regular practices, along with weekly competitions.

USA Bowling is a product of the Youth Education Services (YES) Fund, a joint initiative of the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America and the United States Bowling Congress, supported by top bowling brands, including Bowling.com, Brunswick, Columbia 300, Ebonite, Hammer, QubicaAMF, Roto Grip, Storm and Track.

For more information on the USA Bowling National Championships presented by Sixlets, click here.

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