Erie Community College no longer dominates the National Junior College Athletic Association Invitational Bowling championships, but ECC and Buffalo are still the home for the national tournament.
ECC will host the championship for the 43rd time next Friday and Saturday at AMF Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga.
ECC has won 26 women’s team titles, 18 men’s team titles and a slew of individual championships since the tournaments were inaugurated in the 1970s.
The Kats’ last men’s team title was in 2010, ending a three-year run by Vincennes University (Ind.). Mohawk Valley CC of Utica has won three of the last five women’s crowns, including the last two, and took the Region 3 title last weekend in Utica.
Vincennes, last year’s men’s team champion, has a freshman-laden team but is probably the favorite because the Blazers return last year’s men’s all-events champion Jalen Scott-Jones. Schenectady CC and Hudson Valley CC, the top two finishers in the Region 3 tournament last weekend in Utica, should be contenders.
The ECC men finished third in the regionals with sophomore Devon Miller of Dundee third in individual all-events.
Niagara County CC has made an impressive comeback in the sport. The NCCC men were fifth in Utica. NCCC won a pair of national JC championships in the 1970s, when it was led by the late coach Roy Sommer.
This NCCC men’s team, coached by Anthony Massop, boasts a lineup dotted with talent from Western New York including Eric Michalski (Amherst), Jake Hayes (Niagara Falls) and Tyler Laubacker (Lockport).
Brittany Macrina of Mohawk Valley, the singles champion, and Sara Edenhofer of Herkimer County CC, the all-events winners, are back to defend their individual women’s titles. Edenhofer was second to teammate Sarah Foley in the regional all-events last week.
Judging by the results of last week’s regionals, NCCC looks like the best hope for a Western New York women’s team champion. NCCC was second, ECC was third in the regional.
Hannah Mosher (North Tonawanda), Brooke Seiwell (Niagara Falls), Audrelle Gospodarski (Maryvale) and Jillian Phillips (North Tonawanda) scored well for NCCC in Utica.
Freshman Liz Szpara (Orchard Park), who was third in the regionals, and classmate Gabby Damin (Clarence), who was sixth, lead ECC.
Singles and doubles will be bowled Friday morning and a three-game team block will be bowled Friday afternoon. Three more team games and three Baker format team games will complete the competition Saturday.
Ciminelli battles back
Ryan Ciminelli is the last hope for a first USBC Masters Championship from Western New York pros.
The 26-year-old left-hander from Cheektowaga stayed in contention Friday by winning four matches in the elimination bracket.
Only Ciminelli and John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda of the five entrants with Buffalo ties made the 63-bowler cut to match play in the tournament in North Brunswick, N.J. However, both got into trouble right off the bat Friday morning with the start of double elimination (three games total pins) match play.
For Szczerbinski, it was case of meeting a hot bowler, who may have had some divine intervention.
Szczerbinski finished his first match with nine strikes for a 268 game. Problem was his opponent, John Brockland, a Roman Catholic parish priest from St. Charles, Mo., started with 11 strikes before leaving the 8-10 split on his last ball for a 298 in a 739-678 win.
He was then eliminated by Jason Sterner of McDonough, Ga., 671-626.
Ciminelli ran into bad luck in a loss to Michael Markis of Tafton, Pa. After a missed spare in the third and splits in the fourth and fifth, Ciminelli found himself 43 pins down in the third game and went on to lose the match, 715-640. He lost the third game, 258-169.
Ciminelli came back in the losers’ bracket with wins over Matt Gasn of Laurel, Md., Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, former Vincennes star Ronnie Russell of Indianapolis, and Scott Norton of Mission Viejo, Calif.
Next for Ciminelli when match play continues this morning will be Fr. Brockland, who averaged 240 in one league and 230 in a Masters Travel League in St. Louis as a regular league bowler.