Splits, spares and strikes: Ayotte follows up 7-10 split with 20 strikes in a row for 300, 835

A nearly impossible 7-10 split put a damper on a big evening for Glenn Ayotte in the middle of his Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League session at Country Lanes last week.

But the 26-year-old Ishpeming resident with the rather unique two-handed bowling style took revenge the best way he knew how.

He never stopped striking after that, piling up 20 straight strikes to finish his session with not only a perfect 300 game, but an eye-popping three-game total of 835.

That tied a personal best series he first shot at the Ishpeming center earlier this year. Last week’s performance came despite recent personal challenges.

“I’ve had mono (mononucleosis) and the flu and I’ve lost about 13 pounds the last two weeks,” he said right after finishing his set using an 11-year-old, 15-pound Hammer Vicious reactive resin ball.

“It’s my favorite ball, but I only use it three or four times a year,” he said. He said because of the ball’s heavy use, he has to “sweat” out the oil conditioner that it absorbs after just that few number of times using it.

“I have a dehydrator that’s used to make beef jerky,” he said in explaining the equipment he uses to heat the ball and extract the oil.

Rolling games of 279, 256 and 300, Ayotte collected 33 strikes in 36 attempts. He was able to take the maximum number of shots because he struck out in the 10th frame each game.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. He rolled 11 strikes in Game 1, with only an 8-pin he spared in the third frame standing between him and 300 right out the gate.

Game 2 began with a spare, two strikes and then the pocket hit that left the “double tap” 7-10 split, of which Ayotte took out one pin. Twenty strikes in a row ensued.

What was odd for me was that I was bowling on the pair of lanes adjacent to Ayotte and I didn’t even know he had anything special going until I was informed just before he started his final frame.

Ayotte’s teammate and former Ishpeming High School athletic director and boys basketball coach Jerry Racine informed me as I was getting ready to walk out the door, whispering, “You might want to stick around to see him finish this game.”

I’m glad I did. His first two shots in the 10th frame were a bit light in the 1-3 strike pocket, which is actually a perfect hit for the powerful shot Ayotte generates using his two hands.

Anything “flush” or a bit high on the head pin can easily turn into a 7-, 8-, 9- or 10-pin if not a big split with the way the ball charges through the pin deck.

The final ball was even lighter in the pocket – meaning it nearly missed the head pin to the right – and the 7- and 10-pins fell together last, though certainly not slowly.

Some quick figuring showed that if Ayotte had struck when he left the 7-10 split, his 835 – already No. 7 in area leagues’ all-time list – would’ve jumped to 869, seven pins higher than the top all-time score set by Justin Stephens in April.

Ayotte is a product of the high school program at Ishpeming and Negaunee high schools originated by Clay Sandberg and now coached by Steve and Diana Windahl.

That program, Westwood’s and Marquette’s will all have tryouts for this year’s team in about 2 1/2 weeks on Nov. 14-15.

Coaches of all three teams said they’ll begin right after school at Country Lanes for Ishpeming-Negaunee and Westwood, and at Superior Lanes in Marquette Township for Marquette. First day of actual practice is the following Monday.

Now onto The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week:

Hope Virch obliterated the field with a 251-pin improvement on her 169 average in the Friday 800 Mixed at Superior. The 758 I detailed here recently was on games of 212, 268 and 278.

Next came leaguemate Bonnie Mattson at plus-117 over her 165 mean with 612 and a 225 top game, while in third was Amber Buckmaster in the Superior Wednesday Industrial at 95 over her 183 average with 644 and a 245 high.

For the guys, Scott Salminen shot 167 pins over his 197 average in the Tuesday Major at Country, shooting 758 on games of 232, 247 and 279.

Runner-up was Wayne Ross in the Superior Tuesday Night Mixed, 127 over his 189 average with 694 and a 254 game, while third was Glenn Hintsala at 119 over his 187 average with 680 and 232 game in the Wednesday Superior Iron Range Federal Credit Union loop at Country.