Progress typically doesn’t come in dramatic leaps and bounds, but gradually. Step by step. Piecemeal.
The Southold/Greenport high school boys bowling team took two significant steps earlier this season when it won its first two matches in, well, an awfully long time. They were 30-3 and 27-6 wins over East Hampton.
It had been a while since Southold rolled to victory. How long?
The team’s new coach, Mike Carver, couldn’t say exactly. “It’s been years, years, several years, more than a handful, I know that,” he said.
Those wins — Southold’s only ones of the season — are signs that the team is heading in the right direction, even if it seems painfully slow at times.
Southold had too many missed spares and gutter balls in a 32-1 loss to Middle Country Tuesday, but that’s going to happen with inexperienced, inconsistent bowlers.
“We got a lot of new people this year,” sophomore Matt Mullen, one of Southold’s most experienced players, said after the Suffolk County League IV match at The All Star in Riverhead. “They’re new to bowling.”
That rawness showed against Middle Country, which raised its season point total to 200. By comparison, Southold has 77.
Middle Country won the three games handily, 908-612, 847-664, 923-641.
Noah Axinn, who started the day with a 208 average, the sixth-highest in the league, was also tied with Sachem’s Nick Walker with a league-leading 20 match points. The senior turned in scores of 209, 183 and 191 for a 583 series. He delivered 16 strikes as did teammates Ryan Witkin and Jayden Peltz, who capped a 576 series with a 233.
Middle County also received series scores of 522 from Thomas Oliveri, 502 from Witkin and 495 from Anthony Roy, who knocked down a match-high 14 spares.
Mullen produced the highest series for Southold — a 453 with eight strikes and 10 spares.
Mullen has an unusual throw that he adopted when he joined the team as an eighth-grader. It’s a two-handed delivery from the right side, and it produces a wicked spin. He said he picked it up from former teammate Stephen Hocker.
“I never tried [to throw the ball that way] because I always thought if I tried it, I’d get it right in the gutter,” said Southold sophomore Devin Toman, who is in his first bowling season. “Some people can do it, some people can’t, but he just throws it like an animal.”
Carver said: “It’s easier to get the spin [that way]. It works for him, but he’s just got to be more consistent with it. I’m sure he’s unhappy about his consistency. He’s capable of bowling over 200.”
Southold also received series scores of 394 from Brendan Duffy, 390 from Toman and 338 from Mitchell Elliston.
In recent years, Southold had bowled at Wildwood Lanes, but now the First Settlers call The All Star their bowling home.
“This whole place is kind of comforting,” Toman said. “It’s modern.”
Not a bad place for a young bowling team to grow up.
“They’re all young,” Carver said of his bowlers. “There’s no doubt about it, they’re getting better.”
It’s called progress.
Photo caption: Southold sophomores Matt Mullen, left, and Devin Toman lead an inexperienced team that has picked up its first wins in years. (Credit: Bob Liepa)