The new blue and white bowling shirts that the Riverhead High School boys bowling team broke out on Monday go well with their improved game.
This group of Blue Waves could make a case for themselves being the best Riverhead team in a long time. Given the one-sided results in this early season, who could argue the point?
In its opening two matches of the season, Riverhead has won five of six games and earned 52 points. That includes a 28-5 defeat of the Longwood Lions in a Suffolk County League III match at Wildwood Lanes on Monday. Riverhead swept the three games, 1,004-955, 1,076-982, and 996-873.
What was most impressive?
Was it Elliot Jones’ three-game series of 742? Was it the 86 strikes and 53 spares that Riverhead picked up? Or was it the fact that 10 of the 15 individual games bowled by Riverhead’s five senior starters were 202 or higher?
“I think we look great this year,” Riverhead senior Travis Walker said. “We’ve progressed every year. This is our golden year. We worked hard for this.”
The results are showing what that work has gone toward.
Jones, a senior who is in his sixth season on the team, said this is the best of the squads he has bowled for.
“We’re moving on up,” he said. “We’ve all been on the team for years. We all grew together. We all help each other out … and we’ve all just gotten better.”
The scores tell the tale. Jones strung together a 239, 266 and 237 with the aid of 26 strikes and nine spares on Monday.
Walker totaled a 611 series (185, 212, 214) and Anthony Trent a 605 (225, 228, 152) for Riverhead. Trent opened the second game with six straight strikes before he left three pins standing with his seventh ball.
Riverhead’s other two starters didn’t do badly, either. Adam Vail rolled a 572 series highlighted by a 202 and a 220, and Jonathan Horton had a 546 series.
“All of these guys have been bowling for a long time,” Riverhead Coach Scott Hackal said. “We don’t miss easy spares. For the most part, we make our one-pin spares. That used to kill us when we were younger. And now we’re able to throw strikes.”
He isn’t kidding. Jones wasn’t the only Riverheader throwing strikes on Monday. Trent and Walker recorded 17 apiece, Vail had 14 and Horton 13.
Longwood, which split the six games from its first two matches, took 33 points from those matches. Against Riverhead, the Lions received a 635 series from A. J. Melvin (215, 235, 185) and 614 series from both Sean Caspar (215, 208, 191) and Zach Monette (182, 214, 218). Melvin had 19 strikes and 12 spares, both team highs.
Jones, one of the top bowlers in the county who entered the match with a 241.7 average, bumped that average up to 244.5 on Monday. “He’s a machine,” said Hackal.
Jones bowled a 278 in Riverhead’s season-opening match, a 24-9 win over the Ward Melville Patriots at Port Jeff Bowl on Nov. 30. He said minor adjustments have helped him.
“I’m a little better on my spares now,” Jones said. “I don’t miss easy spares as much. I throw a little faster, which helps me out because I get more on the ball.”
Riverhead has never won the League III title before, but looks to be in contention this season. The Blue Waves will face stiff competition, particularly from the defending league champion Sachem East Flaming Arrows, who qualified for the state tournament last season. But Hackal believes his team can be competitive with any other team in the county, and his bowlers seem to think likewise.
“I think we bowled good,” Walker said after Monday’s match. “I think the next game is going to be better and the games after that, it’s just going to keep getting better. We’re going to progress throughout the year.”