Storm Products climbed the ladder from bottom rung to top, capturing the
inaugural Manufacturers’ Cup in the Professional Bowlers Association’s GEICO Team Shootout hosted by Six Flags with a dramatic 167-159 Baker team upset
of Brunswick in the title match. The final two round-robin team matches and the Manufacturers’ Cup stepladder finals aired Sunday on ESPN. The fourth annual summer special event featured Baker format team bowling where each member of a five-player team bowls two frames to complete a full game. In the GEICO Team Shootout, an “endless 10th frame” bonus feature allowed a team to extend its 10th frame as long as it could continue to throw strikes. The entire series was conducted outdoors on specially-constructed lanes on the grounds of Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. Coming into the final qualifying round of the event, Brunswick had already locked up the top position for the four-team stepladder final and lost its final round-robin match to 900 Global, 200-194, on the PBA’s Chameleon lane conditioning pattern. Ebonite International sent Storm Products to the lowest rung for the stepladder finals, winning a 205-204 nail-biter on the Cheetah pattern, to give Storm a 2-4 won-lost record. Brunswick finished the round-robin portion of the event with a 4-2 record. Ebonite and 900 Global each had 3-3 records, but Ebonite International earned the No. 2 qualifying position based upon higher actual pinfall during the qualifying rounds. Fresh off its one-pin loss to Ebonite, Storm took out its frustration on 900 Global in the opening stepladder match, 242-200. As the higher qualifier, 900 Global selected the Cheetah pattern – which it had used successfully earlier in the event – but that decision ultimately played right into Storm’s hands as Rhino Page, anchor Norm Duke, Wes Malott, Jason Belmonte and Pete Weber ran off a string of nine consecutive strikes starting in the fourth frame to post the tournament’s highest score. “It was a weird event,” Duke said. “In all of our earlier matches, it seemed like we were bowling well enough, but we couldn’t win. We lost three times by one pin. There are so many ways you could find that one pin, and it kinda starts working on your confidence. But Global picked the Cheetah and we got it going.” In the semifinal round, Storm avenged its earlier loss to Ebonite International, 228-215, again on the Cheetah pattern. Despite a pair of open frames and a scare at the end, Storm put together a pair of four-baggers to charge into the lead. Ebonite had a chance to win after a Chris Barnes strike in the ninth and three more by Tommy Jones in the 10th created an “endless 10th frame” opportunity. Mike Fagan struck on the first “endless” attempt, but Bill O’Neill left a 10 pin on the second shot which ended Ebonite’s comeback bid. “Ebonite picked the pattern we had just bowled on and shot the biggest game of the event,” Duke said. “We didn’t understand why, but it was good for us. God forbid they had picked the Viper…” For the championship, Brunswick selected the Chameleon pattern to slow down Storm’s dominance on the Cheetah, but the defensive strategy resulted in an ugly finale. Strikes by Brad Angelo and Carolyn Dorin-Ballard in the first two frames gave Brunswick an early lead, but four open frames in the next seven erased the team’s advantage. In the meantime, Storm also was struggling, posting only two strikes the entire game, but it also had only one open frame heading into the 10th. “We did well on the Chameleon earlier and when we did that, we figured we’d pick Chameleon for the title match because we wanted tough pattern and we’d be the only ones who had bowled on it,” Brunswick’s Johnny Petraglia said. “We just didn’t get the job done.” “Outside in that environment, the Chameleon condition changed the most dramatically,” Storm anchor Norm Duke said. “It’s the thinnest application of oil. It was ugly. Everyone was afraid to make a shot because you had no idea how much conditions had changed. You couldn’t guesstimate what to do.” In the 10th frame, Storm’s Norm Duke left the 2-4-5-8 “bucket” and failed to convert. “The guys had me anchor because I can throw the ball straighter than anyone else,” Duke said. “I just wanted to get the ball to the pocket, but I over adjusted. I wanted a strike so bad, but I also figured I could make any spare on the left side if I missed. Then I leave the bucket and miss it. I honestly thought they were going to strike out to win, and they almost did.” Brunswick anchor Sean Rash spared and struck, giving his team an “endless 10th frame” chance to rally. Angelo struck on the next shot, but Dorin-Ballard left the 3 pin on the next shot, ending Brunswick’s hopes. “We got an early lead, but I left a washout and missed,” Petraglia said. “And it still came down to needing one final strike to win the whole thing. The pressure of Carolyn being the only woman, of feeling like you were bowling on a razor blade…there were so many different kinds of pressure on her. But we told her, it was win as a team, lose as a team. “All of us were throwing that last ball with her,” Petraglia continued. “If we’d gotten one other good shot, we wouldn’t have needed it. Duke let us back into the match when he left the bucket and missed, which shows how tough that condition was. And we still came within one shot of winning it.” “I’d have been happy having Carolyn make that shot,” Duke said. “She made a great shot. She just didn’t move far enough.” The competition between rival manufacturers conducted outdoors at one of the Atlantic Coast region’s most popular family theme parks drew raves from the players, regardless of who won. “It was fantastic, a really great event,” Petraglia beamed. “There was just enough in-your-face competition between teams, but nobody got mad at anyone. It was a terrific atmosphere, and it was great fun to bowl in a team concept again.” Storm Products players shared an $80,000 first prize and a crystal Manufacturers’ Cup for their sponsoring company.