September 26, 2013

Week 4 Recap

Game 1: 219
Game 2: 192
Game 3: 158
Series: 569
Week Avg: 189
Season Avg: 211

Welp, reality hit me hard this week and the fantasy I was living on the lanes quickly came to an end. It has been feast or famine for me through the first four weeks of the season and this week was famine time.

Right away I got off to a rough start in practice. A recent cold snap here in western Pennsylvania caused my thumb to shrink a bit and I had to put some tape in the ball. It took a few throws to get my grip right and I never really threw a good ball during practice.

Not to be discouraged I made a guesstimate as to where I should stand to start the first game, moving my body and mark a board left from my usual line. Luckily it worked great and I started the night with a 5-bagger. In the sixth frame I missed my mark right by a board and the ball just hung out the length of the lane to leave the 1-2-8, which I chopped for an open. I struck again in the seventh frame and threw a couple spares and a strike before leaving an 8-10 split my second ball in the tenth frame.

The second game started with two opens, a missed 10-pin and a split. I struck in the third and had the ball hang out on me the next two frames to spare and split for another open. Instead of fighting the lanes which were running high when I hit my mark and hanging out when I missed slightly I decided to make a ball change in the sixth frame. The change worked great and I was in the pocket the rest of the game with five strikes and two nine counts.

The third game presented the same difficulties as the others. Accuracy was the name of the game and I just didn't have it Monday night. When I hit my marks I was in the pocket, but the Python wouldn't carry the corners. When I was off my marks the ball held right and I would leave pretty large groupings on the deck. Two bad opens, including a missed 7-pin, left much to be desired and I was lucky to escape with a 158.

I thought the oil played like a shorter version of the Shark sport pattern this week. Left of the 10 board was hooking pretty well, but anything to the outside of 9 wasn't coming back. Unfortunately I didn't have this epiphany until the drive home after the damage had been done. I probably should have stood at about 28 and played over 12, further inside than usual but the ball was moving well in the backends and would have produced good carry. I'm having a hard time picking up on how to apply my previous experiences to the changing conditions I've faced so far this season and it is something I will need to get better at quickly if I want to continue improving.

To make matters worse, I was not throwing a good ball this week. Adjusting to different fits was a concern every time I changed balls. My thumb was loose in the Python and when I switched back to the more snug fit of the C-System I was holding onto the ball way too long. The quick change in weather really had an impact on my thumb size and I'm looking forward to a more stable climate once autumn and winter kick in. The fit problem pulled me into a downward spiral of timing and balance issues that really did a number on my third game. Instead of trying to battle the lanes and my physical issues I should have just concentrated on fixing my game and let the lanes come to me in time.

As a great man once said, "A bowler's mind divided cannot strike" . . . or something like that.

September 20, 2013

Week 3 Recap

Game 1: 231
Game 2: 203
Game 3: 245
Series: 679
Week Avg: 226
Season Avg: 218

We finally had the whole team together this week and our opponent had four of five bowlers so we expected to be in for a long, but competitive night of action.

The lanes played pretty close to where they were the week before; however, most everyone was playing left of the second arrow and so I really only had to contend and adapt to whatever changes my ball made to the oil conditions. I struck right away and spared in the second frame before shooting the next six in a row. In the ninth frame I left a 4-7-10 and missed my mark on the spare attempt for a big open leading into the tenth frame. I managed to spare and strike in the tenth for a 231 game, but the open foundation frame really stung.

Throughout the second game I was struggling to find a new line that would carry. After starting with a double I came in high in the third frame and started to leave single pins. I scattered a few strikes in the game to keep within striking distance. I needed good pin count in the tenth frame to pull off a team win and a solid pocket hit left the 8-10 split. That is already the second game this year that was within my reach and I let it slip away.

The last game was much stronger. I was not going to let that second game happen again. Two members of the opposing team rolled off one game so they could leave early, so there were seven of us on the pair and the pace picked up a bit, which had the potential to screw things up. Luckily it didn't. I doubled, spared, and then threw my second six-bagger of the night. I left the 7-pin on my first ball of the tenth frame and another errant spare attempt officially cost me a 700 series.

I left the center pretty disappointed, but the drive home gave me some time to realize that I've reached a point in my game where I can be really upset about leaving three opens and averaging 226 in a night. This was the first time I ever came close to throwing back to back 700 series and I really wanted that. It was also unfortunate that one open fell in the ninth frame and two others came in the tenth. If any of those come earlier in the game I may have reached 700 and possibly won the team a game.

The season is still very young, but I'm getting a little concerned that my mental game suffered slightly over the summer. I spent a lot of time working on the details, but I really only threw five regular games and didn't have a chance to get in a pressure situation. Last year if the game was in reach I could go out there and get the job done, but so far that hasn't been the case this year. Hopefully it will come back to me as the season progresses.

September 11, 2013

Week 2 Recap

Game 1: 236
Game 2: 234
Game 3: 245
Series: 715
Week Avg: 238
Season Avg: 214

When we arrived at the lanes this week we found out that they filled our team with a nice couple that were in the league last year. From a pacing stand point this was a relief. It should also make for a fun and more competitive season. One of our regulars had scheduled vacation this week, though, so we will have to wait until week 3 to get the whole team in action.

This week was the complete opposite of week 1. The lanes were being oiled as I walked in the door and so they played pretty similarly to the majority of last season. I was also a bit more focused this week and made a conscious effort to make better decisions and adjustments.

After starting the first game with a couple of light pocket hits I moved a half board right in the third frame and really never looked back. After a strike in the third and a missed 10-pin in the fourth (my only open of the night) I struck the next six in a row and spared to finish the tenth frame for a 236.

The second game was pretty similar with a spare or two breaking up a string of strikes. I shot a 234 in the second. I started the third game with two more spares and then had another six bagger. I started running a little high and so I moved up a few inches on the approach, but never really got back to form to finish out the evening. I needed to strike on my first ball in the tenth to get the win for the team, but I left the 4-pin. I spared and left the 8-10 to finish the game with a 245 and a 715 series.

If there is such a thing as an effortless 700 series this was it. As long as I put the ball between the second and third arrows it was a strike. When I did leave something it was a corner pin and when something was a bit off it was easy to identify and correct. My one shot outside the pocket was a Brooklyn strike.

This was probably the most consistent high series I've ever had and despite the success I never found myself feeling rushed or nervous. I've finally thrown enough bigger names to stay calm and focus on the task at hand. I can now act like I've been there before because I have; now its just the matter of getting up to that next level where I start to feel the butterflies again.

Nights like this are fun, but they make for a terrible weekly blog post, don't they?

September 4, 2013

Week 1 Recap

Game 1: 180
Game 2: 222
Game 3: 168
Series: 570
Week Avg: 190
Season Avg: 190

Our team is down to three bowlers this season with two "Vacancies" filling in the fourth and fifth spots. It might fill in in the coming weeks, but for now we might be looking at early nights all season long. This will put a lot of emphasis on quick decision making and also run the risk of a faster pace than is really needed. We will have to be mindful that we are bowling at a pace that works best for us, or else we'll be putting ourselves at a disadvantage every week.

Unfortunately one of our bowlers had to work and so we were down to only two bowlers for opening night. The lanes were a bit drier than I remember seeing seeing all last year. Perhaps the center forgot leagues were starting that night. It took some time, but by the end of practice I thought I had found a line that worked well for me . . .

I was so wrong! I started the first game of the season with four straight splits. A 4-6, 5-7, 8-10, and 3-10. Luckily I managed to convert the last one. There were even a few pocket hits in there and I think the other team started to feel bad for me. All I could do was laugh, really. I switched down to a weaker ball and managed to throw a turkey and spare out for a 180 game. The three straight opens killed me.

As the first game wore on I started coming in a bit light. I thought that this was being caused by the front end oil being pushed further down the lane so I decided to go on the offensive. I switched back up to the C-System and was able to throw my preferred line for most of the game. By the end of the game the oil was gone and I switched back down to the Python. I left a 3-9-10 in the seventh frame, but managed to convert the spare and finish with a clean 222.

The third game was a lot like the first. Some mixed success, but overall I wasn't very comfortable. I left two additional splits this game, converting one of them. I missed a 10-pin on my last ball in the tenth frame for my only non-split open of the night. It was a hard fought 168 to be sure, but I was thankful to escape with that and live to fight another day.

I know what you're thinking because I was thinking it to: "Zach, this summer you practiced playing all those different lines, why didn't you just do that?" I did move left a bit to catch some oil in the middle of the lane, but either the ball wouldn't grab or I wouldn't get good carry when I did hit the pocket. Could I have fine tuned a better line to the pocket that was more successful? Probably. Actually that is most likely what I will do from here on out.

But my thinking was this: I carry two different balls for a reason and with my style of play these conditions seemed better suited for the Python. I transitioned from ball to ball without any issue or "lost frames," so I think the summer practice did help me in that regard. Plus it was week 1 of 34, if I am going to start experimenting this was the perfect time to do it.

I think it is important to look at the positives from this week's outing. The first positive is the seamless transition from ball to ball that I mentioned before. The other big one is the successful implementation of the offensive strategy I outlined above. In the second game I read what was happening on the lanes and worked the oil to benefit me. Without that big game I don't know how this week would have turned out, but I think it would have taken more than the Labor Day break to recover.