Bowling News USA - December 20, 2011 The Schlemer Report - PBA World Championship: Billy Hardwick Division
After show number two of four, the Storm Nation is definitely making its presence felt. Going into the Billy Hardwick Division final, we knew we had the odds in our favor just by sheer numbers alone. What we didn’t anticipate was the Scorpion lane condition giving us so many fits. If you watched the show it was easy to see that the lanes did not transition as good as we hoped they would. Division leader Tom Smallwood selected this 41 foot pattern because it was his highest scoring pattern. That plan back fired since he was the low man out the first game with 190, while Shafer and Ruiz made the pair look easy. Well at least for the first game anyway; each lane transitioned differently and it definitely was not an easy task in trying to decipher what exactly was happening.
During practice before the show, it was apparent that for some reason the left lane was breaking down differently. None of us could figure it out. None of the players were playing tricks and trying to break one lane down one way and the other differently. All four players used fairly aggressive balls with just a little surface right of where they wanted to play in order to create more miss room to the right. In fact, during practice I even freshened the cover on Ildemaro’s Victory Road Solid just so it would read the lane better. Andres felt too much cover was not the answer for him and he felt he could just adjust his ball speed and hand rotation to get a good read with a pin up Marvel Pearl. So he was good. The player of most concern as we prepared for the show was by far Ryan Shafer. For whatever reason his ball would not strike on that left lane. He tried different balls, more surface, less surface, more speed, less speed, getting around it more, more up the back of it, but it didn’t seem to matter. Down the lane on that left lane, it seemed to get tighter and tighter, but as soon as he squared up and went up the boards, the ball would go sideways at about 35 feet. That is what we like to call “not so good reaction.” So as practice expired I had a thought, a premonition if you will. I felt that his Virtual Gravity Nano Pearl would allow him to move in just a little, but be strong enough to cut through the puddle. Ryan’s reply was “sure I will try it, right now I am looking at a 150 if I am lucky.” It was my gut call on that left lane that ended up the difference maker of the entire show. That’s why after he struck the first frame on that left lane he pointed off to the corner and gave me the ole “good call.” Did either of us think it would allow him to not move for three games and strike every time? No. It was one of those things that just happened and it turned out for the best.
As the show went on, both lanes kept transitioning differently and that is the reason there were so many ball changes. (Well excluding Ryan using the Nano Pearl the entire time on the left lane). In game two, Ildemaro got caught on that tricky left lane which led to his exit. After all was said and done, he felt he should have switched to the Anarchy he switched to in the middle of that game before the match even began. His gut was telling him to change and his mind said you just bowled a great game stick with the Victory Road Solid. Either way, the lanes were not getting any easier, so it was hard to say if the ball change would have worked. I mean the scoring pace dropped considerably from game one to game two. Bottom line, Shafer and Gomez were fortunate enough to have a comfortable lead as they both split late while trying to figure out how stay in the pocket.
Heading into the final game I can honestly say it was anyone’s game. Shafer may have had the upper hand because he still was locked on that left lane, but that right lane still wasn’t getting any easier either. And well, Andres has such good feel and touch at the bottom of the swing, he felt he would be able to stay soft and just grind out the win. Key word there was “grind.” Both guys not only kept changing targets, angles, and hand positions, they both changed balls too. Andres switched to a pin up Hy-Road in the middle of the last game on both lanes because he felt both lanes started to hook earlier and earlier. While Shafer felt that way only on the right lane. After switching to a Hy-Road in the middle of the second game on the right lane, he still wasn’t matching up. He decided to go back to the Marvel Pearl he started with on that right lane, which was not the answer. By the middle of the final match, Shafer decided a pin in the middle finger, Marvel Pearl may help blend out the right lane. Again, it was close, but he still didn’t catch up to it. After chasing that right lane the entire last game, Ryan then second guessed himself on the left lane and threw two bad shots based on psyche alone. Like he said in his postgame interview with Storm’s Randy Pedersen, he knew he had not moved the entire show and he thought maybe it was time to move or at least think about it. It was that thinking that led to the not so good shots that could have ultimately cost him the chance to advance. However, Andres still had to step up and get eight spare, strike to tie or nine spare, strike to win. Honestly I felt he would get at least eight on that first shot in the tenth no question. And I still can’t figure out how his ball left the 2-8-10 on the lane that kept hooking more and more with each passing frame. But it did, and it is Ryan Shafer moving on to the finals in search of his first career major title.