Butler bowlers advance to regionals

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The success keeps coming for the Butler boys and girls bowling teams.

Both squads captured section championships and performed well at the WPIBL championships. The Golden Tornado boys finished third, and the girls placed sixth at the event. Both teams took part in this weekend's Western Pennsylvania Regionals at North Versailles Bowling Center with hopes of advancing individuals and teams to next weekend's state championship events at the same location.

For Butler's boys, the third-place finish at the WPIBL championship was the best in program history. The Golden Tornado scored a 2,759 to finish third in the 18-team field. Hempfield (2,926) won the title, and Norwin (2,865) was second.

“We went in with the intent to win the thing, but fell a little short. Our last game, we fell back a little bit,” Butler coach Bob Cupp said. “I think it was nice for the kids to prove to themselves they are among the upper echelon of teams in the WPIBL. We were thrilled. There were 18 programs there and some very, very intense competitions. We know we left some pins on the table, too.”

Senior Jacob Cookson led Butler with a 570 series at the event. Freshman Nick Huff rolled a 564, and senior Garrett Sexton was next at 554. The team's other starters (senior Cody Rosenbauer and sophomore Matt Wetzel) advanced to the Western Regional. Senior Andrew Barron and junior Dan Barren are on the roster for the event as well.

“We were one of three teams to qualify all five of their starters to the singles regional,” Cupp said.

The Golden Tornado wrapped up the Section 2 title with a 10-0 record and a 977 average. Cookson led the section with a 212.41 average, and Sexton was third at 201.92. Rosenbauer (195.45), Wetzel (195.04) and Huff (189.60) were next.

“With the caliber of bowlers we had coming back and two newcomers, we thought we would be competitive in the WPIBL and had a chance to go onto the state tournament. We're climbing the hill to get to that goal,” Cupp said. “We're real proud of where they did finish, taking care of the section and competing at the WPIBL championships. We're anxious to see how they do in the weeks coming up. We're hoping for the best. They are motivated to get their names on the wall.”

Butler's girls got their names on Family Bowlaway's wall when they captured the state championship last year. Three starters returned from that squad in juniors Megan Paul and MiKayla White and senior Kelly Bintrim.

The Golden Tornado defended their Section 2 championship and pushed their section winning streak to 50. In its five years of existence, the program has never lost a regular-season match.

“We kept that streak alive. That was a lot of pressure because you don't want to be the team that loses the first one,” Cupp said. “The girls did a great job handling the section even after graduating two big power hitters in Autumn Hepler and Brea Suchonic, who are playing collegiately.”

Butler finished sixth at the WPIBL championships with a 2,341. Norwin (2,651) won the title, while Hempfield (2,593), Gateway (2,525), Plum (2, 413) and North Allegheny (2,345) were next.

“We bowled some tough houses this year, and I thought the girls did a great job. Learning from those experiences benefited them. Even though they think they didn't bowl well, they still finished in the top six, which is impressive,” Cupp said. “We were four pins from being in the top five. I think the girls know they can do better and they have a shot.”

White rolled a 540 to lead the Golden Tornado. Paul was next at 504, and Bintrim (465) and senior Ciara Pellegrini (457) were next. All four advanced to the Western Regional. Junior Abby Bagley and sophomore Brianna Stivason are on the roster as well.

During section play, Paul led Butler with a 177.10 average, which was tops in the section. Bintrim (172.73), White (168.48), Pellegrini (159.19) and junior Baylee Verner (148.25) rounded out the starting lineup.

“They showed definite versatility. There was a good battle to be the team leader. Megan emerged as our average (pins) leader,” Cupp said. “They are a good group of competitive girls and they want to finish strong.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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