Winning in South A Division a Tough Grind for Southern Bowlers
In the Shore Conference South A division, winning consistently is difficult when three of the state’s best teams sit at the top of it. But with just a few more matches to go before the state sectionals in February, the Southern Regional boys bowling team can make one claim to fame this season.
“We beat Brick Memorial once,” said coach Tony Salvatore, whose Rams, by record, are tied for the fifth spot in the division, even though their pin total puts them in last. “That’s not an easy thing to do when they’re averaging 1,047 pins per game. But they have six losses and one of them is to us. So that’s a good thing. Plus, we’re a young team, and that’s good, too.”
Indeed, the Rams are a young group, with no seniors among their top five bowlers: Tom McCann, Jack Hudson, Patrick Marucci, Steve Martin and Jeff Wilkinson. McCann is a sophomore and the rest are juniors, and all but one of them is averaging over 185 for the season.
Still, being a young and somewhat inexperienced crew in the South A division is like a young seal swimming in orca-infested waters. Brick Memorial, Brick and Toms River South are brutal teams, each averaging over 1,000 as a team. Combined, the three top teams in the division are 80-28 and Southern is 11-25. Even Central, at 13-23, averages nearly 960, so there’s no such thing as an “easy” match on the schedule.
“Being a young team in this division, it’s tough, but it gives our guys a chance to mature against good competition,” Salvatore said. “And we’re getting there. All of our guys have improved this year, and I’m hoping at this time next year they’ll be a lot better.”
But first, the Rams have to get through the rest of this season. And on Jan. 13, getting through the day meant having to endure a 3,123 team total by the Indians, which shut out Southern, 3-0. The Rams totaled 2,763.
In the first game, the Rams were led by Wilkinson’s 203, while Marucci tallied a 199 and McCann delivered a 191. In Game 2, Martin led the way with a 204, followed by Hudson’s 196 and Marucci’s 192. Hudson fired a 232 in the third game, while Marucci tossed a 202 and McCann added a 182.
For the season, Martin is carrying a team-high 196 average with a high game of 238 and high series of 651. Hudson is the second-highest scorer at a 195 average, with a high game of 257 and high series of 646. McCann is averaging 190, with a high game of 256 and high series of 645. Wilkinson, who averages 187, also has a high game of 256 and high series of 630.
Despite the tough schedule, Salvatore said his squad could have been more consistent, specifically with its completing spares.
“When you miss 80-90 pins of spares in a game, that hurts,” he said. “And that’s where the experience comes in. As kids get older, they tend to make more of their spares. So with more consistency on spare shooting, we should get better.”
Meanwhile, for the Southern girls, things aren’t any easier. They, too, are in an extremely brutal division, with undefeated and perennial state sectional contender Brick Memorial sitting atop the division, and Brick, Toms River North and Toms River South – all with 22 or more wins – in the standings well ahead of them.
“We’re trying to build off the wins we get,” said coach Ed Costa, whose Rams are 9-27, which included a victory against Toms River South in the second game of a 2-1 loss on Jan. 13. “Getting consistency across the board has been a bit slow in developing, but we’re a young team that’s still improving.”
Fortunately, the Rams have a leader in senior Ashley Hess, who’s averaging 165 despite a rough series against the Indians. She has the high game (227) and high series (621) thus far.
“Ashley was big in several of our wins this season,” Costa said. “We’ve needed her a lot during the past four years. She’s been consistent and has helped us in so many ways. And this season, we wouldn’t have had most of the wins we have without her being in the lineup. We’re definitely a better team with her as our anchor.”
Against the Indians, sophomore MacKenzie Olson led the way with a 180, while junior Keara Cousins registered a 159 and Hess recorded a 156. In the second game, won by Southern, 809-772, Olson tallied a season-high game of 214, while Cousins banged down 177 pins and substitute and senior Judith Urbina scored her high game of the season, a 160. In Game 3, Cousins delivered a season-high game of 205, while Olson managed a 155.
Olson, who’s averaging 168 for the season, finished with a 549 series, 11 pins shy of her season high (560). Cousins’ 541 series was her new high for the season. For the season, junior Sklyar Canlan has tallied a high game of 223 and high series of 528. Sophomore Reagan Hogan also has been a regular starter for the Rams.
— David Biggy