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, 2020-01-16 13:11:15
Photo: Scott Marion/The Intelligencer
EDWARDSVILLE – In terms of wins and losses, it’s been a long and sometimes frustrating season for the Edwardsville boys bowling team.
EHS, which was 0-13 in the Southwestern Conference going into Thursday’s regular-season finale against Belleville West at Bel-Air Bowl, is in the Mount Vernon Regional on Saturday at Nu Bowl Lanes in Mount Vernon.
The Tigers are the only SWC school in the 11-team field, which includes Mater Dei, Centralia, Metro-East Lutheran, Highland, Lebanon, Mount Vernon, Salem, Wesclin, Triad and Vandalia.
“We’ve probably bowled against about 60 percent of that field in the tournaments that we bowl in, but a lot of our conference schools are at Bel-Air Bowl (for the Belleville East Regional),” said EHS coach Craig Ohlau, who returned this season after a three-year absence. “I like that because we bowl against the conference schools all year and I know how competitive they are.
“If we bowl the way we aspire to bowl, we’ll see where we come out. If things click for us, we should move on to the sectional.”
The top four teams at the regional, plus the top 10 bowlers not on qualifying teams, advance to the Collinsville Sectional on Jan. 25 at Camelot Bowl.
Last year, Edwardsville finished 10th among 13 teams at the Salem Regional and didn’t have any individual sectional qualifiers.
EHS Boys Bowling
Mount Vernon Regional
Nu Bowl Lanes, Mount Vernon
9 a.m. Saturday
But throughout this season, the Tigers have steadily been narrowing the gap against conference rivals, and that makes Ohlau confident that his team will be competitive at the regional.
“It’s been a fun year so far working with these guys,” Ohlau said. “We had 10 guys at the start, and we have 10 guys now. There has never been a problem with people not showing up to practice or not making grades.
“We’ve seen really good exponential growth and we haven’t really plateaued at all. In the O’Fallon match (Jan. 7 at St. Clair Bowl), we bowled our best game of the year with a 1,014. We won the third game against them and Jackson Budwell had a 704 series, which is a career high. We want to continue that growth at the end of the season.”
If the Tigers do reach the sectional, Ohlau is counting on Budwell, a junior, to lead the way.
In a Jan. 6 match against Belleville East at Cougar Lanes at SIUE, Budwell couldn’t match his 704 series from Jan. 7, but he still had a team-high series of 582, with games of 197, 189 and 196.
“Jackson is a very hard worker and he’s a Picasso out on the lanes,” Ohlau said of Budwell, who has a team-high 184 average. “He doesn’t miss many spares and he’s probably our most consistent bowler. He recently got a new ball and he’s starting to feel comfortable with it. I’m looking for good things from him for the remainder of the season.”
The Tigers have a pair of seniors in Michael Jenkins, who had a 547 series with a high game of 196 against Belleville East, and Eian Sims, who had a 533 series with a high game of 199.
For the season, Jenkins has a 182 average, good for second on the team, with a high game of 232 and a high series of 604.
Sims has a 175 average, which ranks third on the team. He has a high game of 212 and a high series of 600.
“Michael is perfectly capable of bowling a 250 game,” Ohlau said. “He just needs to be consistent and he knows that.
“It’s a similar deal with Eian. He might be our best bowler in practice and his practice average is 10 pins higher than his match average. He needs to carry over some of that looseness and freedom from practice into his matches.”
Sophomore Steve Leitschuh continues to improve. His 546 series for the Belleville East match included a high game of 205.
Leitschuh carries a 171 average with a high game of 243 and a high series of 587.
“I would compare Steven more to Jackson Budwell,” Ohlau said. “He throws a more direct line to the pocket and he doesn’t get a whole lot of swing or hook on the ball. That tends to add a little more steadiness and consistency.”
Sophomores Trevor Fox and Derrick Newsome round out the varsity roster and have split time at the fifth and final spot.
Fox has a 167 average with a high game of 258 and a high series of 647.
Newsome carries a 146 average with a high game of 213 and a high series of 516.
“I thought it was Trevor’s spot for a little while, but Derrick got a new ball recently and just got it drilled,” Ohlau said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how he works with that in practice.
“It’s going to be up to him or Trevor to nail down that fifth spot for the regional. We’ll let it all play out in our last few matches.”
Reach reporter Scott Marion at email@example.com
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