WILMINGTON — Elijah Martini had been in a slump. As bowlers are wont to do, he changed his bowling ball.
In a big way.
Martin ended a three-game skid of sub-200 games with his fourth game of 226 or better Wednesday night.
The capper was a perfect 300 game, posting 12 consecutive strikes at Royal Z Lanes for the first competition 300 in WHS bowling history.
Martini started the season with individual games of 203, 150, 194 and 179. On Monday, his scoring improved to 235 and 226 but he still wasn’t satisfied.
So he made the switch to a Hammer Gauntlet Fury bowling ball Tuesday during practice.
He liked the results.
“At practice the day before I had 9 pins or better on every shot,” said Martini, a senior and third-year bowler at WHS. “I thought I could have a good run of strikes with this ball if I can get a little luckier.”
The Gauntlet Fury is one of the first bowling balls Martini acquired. “It’s two years old now,” he said. “I just started using it this week. I started off the season in a slump and thought I’d give another ball a chance. This ball just hooks a lot more than the one I was using.”
Martini’s previous single game high was 266. He has two strikes, left a split on the third ball despite hitting the pocket, then recorded nine straight strikes. He’s started a game with seven strikes in a row so he was aware of the feeling he’d have as the pressure mounts in a bid for bowling perfection.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “The adrenaline’s pumping, so you know you’re going to throw the ball faster than usual, so you have to make adjustments.”
On Wednesday, on lanes 5 and 6, Martini had a 235 first game, matching his season high score.
In the second game, the two-handed righty started fast.
“The first five or six were all pretty pure,” he said. “That’s when the nerves started getting up a little bit. I began thinking about bowling a 300.”
Martini admits missing his mark in the next two frames but still the ball was good enough … barely.
“One still hit the pocket pretty well,” he said. “The other one about left a split but pin action knocked down the 4-10.”
While relieved to still have a 300 in sight, Martini said the pressure continued to build to unthinkable heights.
“I was just trying to think about anything but the 300,” he said. “Focusing on my routine, making sure I breath so I don’t pass out.
“My legs were burning they were shaking so bad. The people on the (other) lanes all stopped and watched. I had to keep that tunnel vision. It was a little nerve-wracking.”
In the 10th, Martini appeared to be anything but pressured. Each shot snuggled up to the 1-3 pocket and sent all 10 pins careening into the pit.
“They were all good shots,” he said. “On the final ball, right when it came off my hand, I knew it had a chance.”
In addition to Martini, the WHS team in general had a good night. Friend and competitor Grant Pickard had games of 248 and 235, good enough on any night but this one to be the Hurricane leader.
“It helped that I didn’t have to worry about trying to win the match,” said Martini, who only began bowling his sophomore year. “Really the only pressure was trying to beat Grant because we’re always trying to beat each other.
“Me and Grant tried to bowl over the summer as much as we could because this team has a chance to go to state. It would definitely mean more than the 300 (to go to state). I don’t care if I bowl 150 as long as the rest of the team bowls well and we sneak in there.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports