Because of an unfamiliar oil pattern, Wildwood Lanes had not been Jeremy Milito’s favorite bowling alley. But the Sachem East High School senior may be feeling more kindly to the Riverhead house after what happened on Monday night.
Milito rolled his second career 300 game, and the Flaming Arrows needed it, too.
With the help of Milito’s perfect game, Sachem East won the third game by 22 points, 1,073-1,051, capping a 21-12 victory over the Riverhead Blue Waves and taking first place in Suffolk County League III. The matchup of the league’s top two teams saw them split the first two games on Monday, with Riverhead winning the first game, 1,047-913, and Sachem East taking the second game, 1,081-909.
Defending county and league champion Sachem East raised its point total to 184, seven more than Riverhead. Furthermore, the Flaming Arrows hold the advantage of a match in hand.
Milito, Sachem East’s anchorman who entered the match with a 228.3 average, also threw a 207 and a 237 for a 744 series, his fourth 700-plus series of the season. He finished with 25 strikes and six spares.
Last season Milito bowled a 300 in Sachem East’s home alley, Bowl Long Island in Patchogue. He might have even surprised himself by duplicating the feat at the Riverhead venue, which hasn’t been kind to him or the Flaming Arrows over the years.
“I’ve struggled here in the past,” Milito said. “I’ve never bowled good here before, but I just came in with a good mind-set and took a game plan. It’s really rough because the lanes are really touchy, so you have to be pretty good, accurate.”
This is the second 300 this season for Sachem East. Matt Hecker, a junior, threw one a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s very special,” Sachem East Coach Mike Stanek said of Milito’s big game. “He bowls all the time. He’s in the tournaments, he travels. He’s lefty. That helps. He’s a great kid. His attitude is superior. He’s very confident and that’s what it takes.”
Riverhead senior Jon Horton is familiar with Milito’s work, having seen him bowl on numerous occasions. “He hits his mark every time, which is why he bowls 300s,” Horton said. “He makes it look so much more simpler than it really is.”
With “Xs” dotting the monitor next to his name, Milito headed into the 10th and final frame with more than a tight match on the line (Riverhead might have won had Milito not thrown a strike on his first ball in the 10th frame).
“It’s really nerve-racking. It’s kind of scary,” he said. “You really want to be concentrated, but you don’t really want to be too tense because then you’ll miss your shots. You want to be as relaxed as possible.”
A hush fell over the crowd of spectators and bowlers as Milito let go of his final ball of the day.
“I was just praying that they would all go down,” he said. “One went down late.”
After all 10 pins fell, Milito received high-fives and hugs from happy teammates who congratulated him.
“That guy there is topnotch,” Riverhead Coach Scott Hackal said. “He threw one ball that was marginally high, maybe. The rest were all great shots.”
Stanek, who said it was his team’s first win at Wildwood Lanes in six or seven years, remarked: “That was huge. We needed every bit of it.”
Sachem East also received a boost from Steve Sabella. Sabella scored a 688 series with games of 212, 244 and 232. He had 22 strikes and 10 spares.
Riverhead, which had beaten Sachem East last month at Bowl Long Island, was led by Adam Vail, who recorded 22 strikes and eight spares. Vail’s opening and ending games of 237 and 247 helped him to a 675 series. Anthony Trent added a 642 series with a 241 high game. With the help of 17 strikes and 15 spares, Elliot Jones finished with a 621 series for the Blue Waves. Travis Walker had a 565 series and Horton a 504.
“It was a big match,” said Walker, who scored a 224 in the third game. “We lost a pretty close game. A guy bowls a 300 with a spare. You can’t do much about that.”
Milito said this 300 was more gratifying than the first one he had rolled because he felt he did more to earn it. Recollecting his final shot of the night, he said: “There was so much satisfaction in that shot, too. It was all worth it.”