Warriors pin down Section One title

By on February 8, 2017
Warwick bowlers (left to right) Ashley Sham, Cole Snavely, Ben White, Isaac Erickson, Tony Lutz and their coaches and teammates claimed sole possession of the Section One title Tuesday at Dutch Lanes. Photos by MIke Shull

Warwick bowlers (left to right) Ashley Sham, Cole Snavely, Ben White, Isaac Erickson, Tony Lutz and their coaches and teammates claimed sole possession of the Section One title Tuesday at Dutch Lanes. Photos by MIke Shull

Describing his bowlers in just one word is an easy assignment for Warwick coach Neal Vital.

“They’re competitors,” he said. “That’s the number one thing.”

That trait is certainly coming up big this winter.

On Tuesday, facing Manheim Township at Dutch Lanes in their regular-season finale, the Warriors clinched their first Section One crown since the 2009-10 season.

Entering the day with a 68-16 record and holding a seven-game lead over second-place Penn Manor (61-23), the Warriors needed to win just one game to seal it. And they did exactly in the opener, as Ben White (224), Cole Snavely (213) and Isaac Erickson (205) led the way to help Warwick knock off the Blue Streaks.

The Comets, coached by Neal’s brother Chris, finished runner-up, ending their run of five straight Section One championships. Hempfield, who had a 33-51 record entering their final match, was a distant third.

“The fact that we are unseating an at least four-year defending champion means a lot,” said Vital, whose Warriors will compete at the L-L League Championships next Tuesday, Feb. 14 at Cain’s Lanes in Manheim. “That, and the little extra with the brother-brother coaching rivalry, it’s not a huge thing between the two of us, but it adds a little flair, I guess.”

White delivered some flair to Warwick’s 5-2 conquest of the Comets last Wednesday, Feb. 1, bowling a perfect 300 games to help put his team on the doorstep of the title. That was part of a match-high 727 series from White, who rolled scores of 224 and 203 in his final two games.

“That was pretty amazing under the circumstances … 300’s don’t come around that often,” Vital said of White, who carried a Section One-best average of 225 into the match against Manheim Township. “And especially at that age and in that moment against Penn Manor in your home house? Really. He’s the ultimate competitor and he seized the moment, man, I’m telling you.”

For that matter, the Warriors, as a team, have seized the moment this year.

They graduated State singles qualifier Austin Barilar, who averaged 205, from a year ago, but they brought back White, Snavely, Ashley Sham and Erickson from their top five, and Tony Lutz, who had an average of 185 in just 13 games last year, has stepped up nicely, posting an average of 213.

“(Tony)’s easily the most improved on the team,” Vital said.

The Warwick keglers were expected to contend and they didn’t disappoint.

“Both teams (Warwick and Penn Manor) had been to the State finals last year and most everybody from both teams was back,” Vital said.

Knocking down 1,133 pins, to Penn Manor’s 1,030, in the opening game last Wednesday was indicative of the Warriors’ tendencies this year.

“That’s been the theme of our team,” Vital said. “They just come out the first game and it’s amazing. I’d be willing to bet that we are averaging a hundred pins higher the first game than we are the second and third, which is good, and then it also makes me wonder where it goes after the first. But it does get the other team, like, ‘Wow, these guys are tough.’”

Between White and Erickson (219), Warwick has two of the Section’s top three averages. Sham (208) and Snavely (203) are close behind.

All in all, the Warriors’ top five have essentially taken turns at some point during the season of leading the way on the scoreboard. If it’s a closer they’ve wanted, Sham and Lutz have grabbed that distinction, coming up with clutch performances late in matches to help deliver the knockout blow.

“Both of them done it at least half a dozen times this year,” Vital remarked. “They’ve led a charge down the stretch to blow it open, or just squeak by in some close games too. Being at the top of the order, two of the top three, they’ve sorta set the tone for the two guys at the bottom, Isaac and Ben. And they’ve gotten it done.”

After all, they are, in fact, competitors.

More often than not, their game faces are on.

During breaks between rolls, there have been times this season that Vital has had to remind them to continue to concentrate.

But those instances are rare.

“They’re focused,” Vital said. “They’re high school kids, so you can easily see their focus wane a little bit when they get to talking between frames. I mean, bowling you throw a shot and then you sit there for five minutes until it’s your turn again. I don’t do a lot of chattering at them during a match, but if I see just a little bit of lack of concentration going on, I will lean in and sorta give them a throat-clearing, ‘Guys, we’re still in a game here.’ That’s the one thing we can’t lose track of because being up at the top, the other teams want to get you. And they’re not going to give up. But they are (competitive) I haven’t had to do that much. They’ve pretty much taken care of themselves.”

*****

Behind White’s 727 against Penn Manor last Wednesday, Erickson had the second best score with a 672 (219-219-234), as the Warriors prevailed 1,133-1030 in game one and 1,047-1,013 in game two, before suffering an 1,102- 1,080 loss in the third.

Lutz (631), Sham (630) and Snavely (600) rounded out Warwick’s top five.

 

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