|2011 Ladies All-Star Champion, Kristy Penny|
The 31st annual Ladies All-Star tournament, organized and put into motion by the always caring and meticulous efforts of Bethesda, Maryland's bowling legend, Pat Rinaldi, never ceases to bring something noteworthy and unusual to the table. On the weekend of March 19-20, bowlers comprising a field of 83 entrants, traveled from as far north as Pittsfield, MA (Amy Sykes), and spanned southward from Aiken, SC (Nancy Skidmore) to convene at AMF Westview for the hefty $2,000.00 grand prize.
This year's event stepladder was about as evenly matched as one could imagine, since all 5 stepladder finalists advanced as the result of 4-1 divisional play records. Amazingly, there were a total of 8 bowlers who tallied a record of 4 wins and 1 loss. Unfortunately, there wasn't room at the bottom of the stepladder for 3 of these '4-1' finalists, due to lesser pinfall totals. Glenn Dale, MD's Mindy Thomas earned the wildcard spot with a superb 718 pinfall total. Marylanders Kristen Mack (Baltimore) - 656 pinfall, Stacey Gaegler (Finksburg) - 667 pinfall, and Janet Sauter (Parkville) - 703 pinfall, all were on the 'Left-Out Louise' list.
Opening the competition for the ladder finals loomed a matchup of past 'All-Star' champions—Mindy Thomas squared off against Baltimore, Maryland's Lisa Huber. Thomas got the jump in the early going, opening with 4 consecutive marks compared to Huber's 2 spares in the first 4 frames, and Mindy had a 22-pin lead after the first 4-frame block. Not much changed in the ensuing 3 frames as the 2 ladies exchanged spare/strike combinations, and Mindy still had a comfortable 20-pin advantage after 7 boxes. Thomas, however, opened in her last 3 frames which gave Huber a chance, needing a double-header in the 10th to pull out the win. Lisa was true to her champion's mantle as she struck on her first pitch, but couldn't come up with the all-important 2nd strike, and Mindy ended up with a 152-148 victory.
In the next match, Thomas would face another Baltimorean, Abingdon's Lauree Schreiber. Lauree was the top qualifier in the 7-game preliminary round with a stellar 1057 block total. The early going of the match against Thomas was pretty much even with Schreiber holding a 29-27 edge after 2 frames. But business picked up for Mindy as she strung 4 strong marks with heavy counts in frames 3 through 6, and opened up a healthy lead as Schreiber labored in the same series of frames. Lauree got her game together with spares in the last 3 frames, but it was too little too late as Mindy added an insurance mark in the waning moments to come away with a 151-127 victory
Next up was the Number 2 seed, Kristy Penny from Baltimore, as she stepped into battle against the now sharp Thomas. Mindy opened the match with an impressive 3 marks out the gate. But momentum would soon change sides. After opening the game with a spare and a 9-10 split, Kristy launched an offensive, starting in frame Number 3 with a resounding 4-bagger. Mindy hung tough, though, with 3 straight marks after opening the 4th frame. Normally 6 closed boxes out of 7 would be enough to cinch a lead in a match for an opponent, but Penny's 4-bagger earned Kristy a 17-pin advantage heading into the last 3-frame block of the contest. Penny then opened the 8th and 9th, which gave Thomas a chance to regain the lead, but Mindy couldn't summon the magic, and after another 'Penny strike' in the closing moments, Kristy earned a rugged 173-150 triumph.
With Kristy now taking the baton from Mindy, it would be a race to the finish line of the All-Star event, as Penny's opponent in the Number One seed position was the ever-formidable Amy Sykes. Based on the high scoring affairs in the previous 3 matches, there was no reason to suspect that the final would be any less of a scoring assault.
Amy opened the battle in impressive fashion with 3 straight spares, but found herself trailing after the 4th box as Kristy was able to top Amy with 4 strong marks in her first 4 frames. Penny added a strike in the 5th to attain a 14-pin edge at the halfway point. After both competitors opened the 6th frame, Sykes spared in the 7th to trim Kristy's lead to a slim 4 pins. But Penny regained her cushion with a strike in the 8th and another spare in the 9th.
The pressure was on Amy now. Since she had opted at the beginning of the match to let Kristy bowl first and finish last, Sykes was in a position of needing marks in both the 9th and 10th boxes to force Penny to perform in the 10th for the championship. Down by 15, Amy did in fact toss a strike in the foundation 9th frame, but couldn't come up with the necessary mark at the end. Kristy finished out and was crowned the 2011 Ladies All-Star champ in a well-deserved 160-147 win to close out the event.
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