Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Matt McNiel's Lightning Almost Strikes Twice At USBC Open Championships

Matt McNiel made bowling history last year at the Reno National Bowling Stadium when he rolled 740 in the team event, 780 in doubles, and 806 in singles to win the all-events title at the USBC Open Championships with an astounding nine-game total of 2,326.

Not only did McNiel win the coveted all-events "eagle," but he also broke the "unbreakable" all-events record of 2,321 that Ron Vokes set at the Open in Las Vegas just a year before. It was an amazing performance.

So, when the 25-year-old left-hander returned to Reno last weekend to compete in this year's Open, all eyes were upon the defending champion to see how he would do this time around. And McNiel didn't disappoint. In the team event Sunday evening, he began with a 258, followed it with a 263, and finished with a 224 to shoot 745 and lead his team to eighth place in the team standings.

After reading about this in Jeff Richgels' column yesterday, I decided to tune in Monday evening to watch Bowl.com's live streaming of McNiel's doubles and singles outings. And, again, disappointment was in short supply. McNiel led off his doubles effort with a 245, then blasted a 300, and began with a five-bagger before going a little high in the sixth frame to leave an 8 pin and finish out with a 277 for an awesome 822 series. That 822 made McNiel only the second person in history to shoot two 800 series in the USBC Open Championships.

At this point, with a 6-game total of 1567, McNiel needed to shoot 760 in singles to break his all-events record, and he needed a 691 to take the lead in all-events this year. And if he'd been able to stay on the pair on which he began the evening, he might well have been able to do the latter or even the former. But having to move to a different pair presented problems with carry that McNiel was unable to fully solve, as he shot games of 236-215-223 for a 674 series and all-events total of 2241.

By normal standards, this was still an outstanding effort. Yet, "normal" is hardly a word one would use to describe the extraordinary accomplishments of Matt McNiel over his previous fifteen games at the Open.

Matt McNiel is an outstanding amateur bowler with a smooth yet hard throwing lefty style somewhat reminiscent to my eye of Ryan Ciminelli's. But you can judge for yourself by checking out his performance last night in the embedded videos below. The first video is of his entire performance, and the second video is of the tenth frame of his second game of doubles where he shot 300.

As a side note, McNiel shot 299 and 800 last year at the Open but didn't receive USBC sport condition honor awards for them because he didn't have a USBC sport league membership at the time. And he still hadn't upgraded his membership when he shot his first 300 on a sport condition last Thursday night. So when he got to Reno this year, he asked one of the USBC folks if he could upgrade his membership there, they let him do it, and it's a good thing he did.

You can read Jeff Richgel's excellent profiles of McNiel last year here, and this year here, and Bowl.com's recap of McNiel's entire outing this year here.

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