BEAVERCREEK — With district runnerup Grant Pickard leading the way, the Wilmington High School boys became the first Clinton County bowling team to advance to the state tournament.
The Hurricane finished third Thursday in the Division I Southwest District tournament at Beaver-Vu Lanes and earned a spot in 2020 OHSAA State Bowling Championship.
“I think most of us were pretty confident, especially after getting second last week,” said WHS senior Elijah Martini.
The 14th annual state tournament will be held March 6 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, South High Street.
Wilmington finished with a pinfall count of 4,352, trailing only district champion Centerville (4,514) and runnerup Butler (4,396).
Pickard said the team had goals of 1,050 each game then 1,200 in the six-game baker set. That 4,350 goal would put them “in the mix,” he said. As it turned out, the goals were right on the money.
“As soon as they announced our score (in the end), I raised my fist,” said Pickard. “It was an unreal feeling. I can’t even explain it.
“I really didn’t hit me until we left that we are going to the state next week.”
Pickard was second in the tournament behind only St. Xavier sophomore Jared Littelman, who had 725. Pickard had a school-record 722 three-game series, which included a perfect 300 game.
After the three-game team portion of competition Thursday, Wilmington was in fifth place and barely in the state tournament.
Following the first baker game, Sidney passed Wilmington (233 to 172) and pushed the Hurricane out of a state berth by 57 pins.
“The coaches pulled us aside and told us we were too good of a team to let this opportunity to go to state slip out of our hands,” said Martini.
The Hurricane rebounded and finished strong in the baker games, averaging 204 for the six games.
“The whole team was grinding it out but we had no idea we’d be third,” said Pickard.
Said WHS head coach Dustin Brown, “This was the best I’ve seen them bowl in bakers all season. That 172 (game) instead of deflating them, i pushed them. They kept building.”
Pickard paced Wilmington and would have qualified for the state tournament as an individual had the team not made it.
Elijah Martini, who had a 300 earlier in the season, finished with a 655 series while Hunter Gallion had a 615 total.
Martini’s 655 included a 189 game in the middle, book-ended by a pair of 233 games.
“I actually felt better after the 189 than I did after my 233 in the first game,” he said.
Martini said he opened in the 10th of the first game after seven straight strikes. That bad finish carried over, Martini said, as he had 60 through five frames of the second game. He wrapped up the second game in a good way and that helped propel him to a 233 in the third game.
Feb 27, 2020
Division I Southwest District
Centerville 4514 Butler 4396 Wilmington 4352 Sidney 4334 La Salle 4322 Tippecanoe 4317 Beavercreek 4312 Middletown 4270 West Clermont 4257 Elder 4215
1, Jared Littelman (St X) 297-245-183 (725)
2, Grant Pickard (W) 188-300-234 (722)
25, Elijah Martini (W) 233-189-233 (655)
46, Hunter Gallion (W) 234-174-207 (615)
62, Isaac Martini (W) 218-203-170 (591)
93, Jordan Tackett (W) 162-190-193 (545)
WHS-172, 196, 215, 221, 210, 210 (1224)
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports