Bowling is similar to comedy in at least one respect: It’s all in the delivery.
And that’s no laughing matter.
The name of the game in bowling is to knock those pins downs any way one can, as long as it’s in accordance with the rules.
Just how one does it really doesn’t matter. It’s the end product that counts.
Different bowlers have different approaches and throwing styles. While Parker Bakowski throws the ball with a hooking motion, Matt Mullen has a more unorthodox approach, using both of his hands to hurl the ball in a sideways motion while at the same time putting tremendous spin on the ball.
Whatever works, right?
Both bowlers, in their second season on the Southold High School team, have made demonstrable strides with their games.
Bakowski scored an 88 in the only game he played last season, his first in the sport. The senior entered Tuesday’s Suffolk County League IV match against Comsewogue (a 32-1 win by the Warriors at Wildwood Lanes in Riverhead) with a team-leading 147 average. He has a high game of 201 and a high series of 476 this season.
“I used to just try to reach a hundred,” he said. “… Now my goal is try and pass 200.”
What accounts for the improvement? Bakowski believes it has to do with his delivery.
“I didn’t really expect to improve that much this year because I threw straight last year,” he said. “When I started curving it, something just clicked and I just doubled my high score from last year.”
Bakowski’s emergence has been something of a surprise. Southold coach John Myers said, “He’s my go-to guy this year.”
Similarly, Mullen made a change himself that has brought better results. Last season he practiced with the team but did not play in a match. That doesn’t mean, however, that he didn’t take anything away from it. He adopted the two-handed throwing style from teammate Stephen Hocker, who has since graduated.
“It’s really fun to watch him bowl because it’s rare to see someone bowl with two hands,” Bakowski said. “I watch other people try it and they just mess up. It’s just all natural to him. He’s going to be very good.”
Mullen, a freshman, has bowled a 200 game this season as well as a high series of 486.
Starting the day with a 122 average, Mullen rolled a 192 middle game as part of a 428 series. That earned him the right to sign his name on a black cap that Southold’s top player signs after every match. It was the second time this season that the cap was placed on his head.
“I wanted to play this year and get better,” said Mullen.
Southold, which sits in last place with six points from six matches, may be Suffolk’s ultimate underdog. It is the smallest school in the county among the 30 that compete in boys bowling. The First Settlers lost seven bowlers from last season’s team, which finished last but won their first game in six years, according to Myers. Not only that, but its bowling home, Wildwood Lanes, the nearest bowling alley to Southold High School, is a 40-minute drive away.
It’s not easy being a Southold bowler.
The difference between Comsewogue (135 points) and Southold was clear by the numbers. Comsewogue handily took all three games with a total wood of 2,767 to Southold’s 1,837.
Comsewogue junior Zach Weller enjoyed a splendid match, connecting game scores of 211, 225 and 267 for a 703 series. He recorded 23 strikes and 10 spares. Alex Smargiassi put up a 559 series (196, 203, 160) and Matt Miller capped a 548 series with a 221 game.
Mullen and Bakowski (389 series) were the only Southold bowlers to play in all three games. In the third game, Jon Baumann scored a 151 and Kevin Amador had a 150.
What did Bakowski think of his match?
“It was horrible,” he said.
Bakowski had 11 spares to go with five strikes. He said he usually hits more strikes “but the spares are kind of new. I’m not used to getting as many spares as I did.”
Photo caption: Southold coach John Myers meets with his players moments before their match against Comsewogue. (Credit: Bob Liepa)