Still room to improve for bowlers shooting 300, 299

Justin Stephens and Vic Mahaffey were bowling on adjacent pairs of lanes at Superior Lanes in Marquette on Friday night.

Both accomplished a great feat in their second game, though they almost had a lot more, too. But they were thankful – or maybe a better way to describe it is philosophical – about what they did accomplish.

Stephens, 34, bowled his second 300 of the season in the 800 Mixed League but finished with a series of 792, the fourth time this season he’s shot in the 790s without hitting the magical 800 mark, which like a perfect game is a U.S. Bowling Congress honor score.

Nevertheless, it’s these big numbers that have formed the foundation for a record-setting season where he’s averaging an eye-popping 242 or 243.

“It’s hard to complain when you’re averaging in the 240s,” Stephens said.

He opened the night with 224 and finished with 268, making a solid run at 800 as he strung together 22 straight strikes – the final three of the first game, all 12 the second game and seven more to start the third.

Of all the pins this power bowler could leave to end the streak, a 5-pin on a pocket shot was among the most unlikely. He still had a shot at ‘8,’ but was stopped on the second ball in the 10th frame when a more typical 10-pin reared its ugly head.

Speaking of ugly 10-pins, that’s what Mahaffey, 58, left on his final ball for a 299 game. It tied his career best game he bowled in the same league in 2010, when he left a wobbling 6-pin that time.

The feat is pretty amazing considering he only has one eye – he lost his left eye in an accident at age 5.

“I’ve lived my whole life this way, so I’m used to it by now,” said Mahaffey, who doesn’t consider it a handicap, only an occasional inconvenience. “This is great, shooting 299. I think I’ve still got another shot at getting 300, too.”

Now retired, he has the time to bowl multiple times each week, something he credits for being more consistent and accurate than he ever has in the 25 to 30 years he’s been a league regular.

Changing gears a bit, I hope you saw my Sunday story on the Upper Peninsula Bowling Conference boys singles finals at Country Lanes in Ishpeming. Freshman Andy Maki worked his way through to become champion, beating two of his older teammates in the semifinals and finals as the last four remaining were all from the Ishpeming-Negaunee team.

I couldn’t fit all the information I wanted to in that story, so here’s a few more tidbits:

  • The oil pattern on the lanes was extra tough, as evidenced by this: of the 375 games bowled Saturday, just 27 – or 7.2 percent – were 200 games or better. And there were 13 games less than 100.

The second-highest game all day was 222, making a 10-strike-in-a-row 280 by No. 1 qualifier Al Tomassoni of Iron Mountain look like hall of fame material.

Though the big game allowed him to grab the top seed for match play by more than a hundred pins, Tomassoni was gone after his first match, losing to the 16th and final qualifier, teammate Zack Black, 328-275.

  • Qualifying 12th among the 16 match-play bowlers, Maki totaled 1,035 for six games to end up 183 pins behind Tomassoni and only 17 pins ahead of Black.
  • Here’s how some of the other area bowlers did:

The other three-quarters of I-N’s final four, all juniors, had better qualifying scores than Maki. Austin Wilkins made a late rush to finish in second with 1,110, Matt Kilberg was sixth with 1,078 and Tyler Windahl eighth with 1,065.

Wilkins’ match-play wins were 359-315 over John Hammar of Gladstone, 397-306 over Mason Kewley of Menominee, and 375-338 over Kilberg.

Windahl turned back Austin White of Menominee, 327-290, and the upset specialist Black, 328-275.

Kilberg downed Dakota Klatt of Menominee, 359-278, and Tim Lueneberg of Escanaba, 411-346. The 411 was the only finals match where a bowler averaged 200.

Marquette’s two sophomore qualifiers also had impressive scores. No. 4 Drew Scott totaled 1,096 while No. 5 Justin Flood, a two-hander, was at 1,086.

Maki knocked both Redmen out during match play, but before facing Maki, Flood beat Forest Nelson of Iron Mountain, 364-299.

Missing the qualifying cut by less than 25 pins were junior Kirk Guckenberg of I-N, in 18th place with 1,007, and three MSHS boys – Austin Dupras, 19th with 1,005, Andrew Virch, 20th with 1,003, and Jesse Bianchi, 21st with 996.

Westwood’s top finisher was Mackenzie Ross, 26th with 980, and L’Anse’s best score came from Freddy Dakota, 33rd with 928.

By the way, the UPBC girls have their singles tournament this Saturday at Michel’s Dome Lanes in Marinette, Wis., home of Menominee’s teams.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.