RAIDERS 17, BLUE WAVES 16
Huddled together in a corner of Wildwood Lanes, the members of the Riverhead boys bowling team let out their prematch chant: “Playoffs on three! One, two, three — playoffs!”
Those words say it all, as far as Riverhead’s mindset for what it wants to achieve this season is concerned. The Blue Waves are aiming to qualify for the Suffolk County tournament for the second time in three years. They will do just that if they finish the regular season among the top three teams in League III.
Riverhead was the third-place holder prior to Thursday’s matches, but the Blue Waves suffered something of a setback that day. They won two of the three games, but Patchogue-Medford took the total wood and a 17-16 victory in Riverhead’s home alley. Call it an opportunity missed.
The result left Riverhead with 157 1/2 points. The Raiders, who were sixth in the standings at the start of the day, have 116 1/2 points on the season.
“We’ve been getting better each match,” Riverhead coach Scott Hackal said. “We had a bump in the road today, but it’s been getting better.”
James Knoebel rolled a 226 and then a 253 in the first two games on the way to a 662 series for Patchogue-Medford, which outpinned the Blue Waves, 2,830-2,788. Knoebel, a senior, put away 20 strikes and eight spares.
Another Patchogue-Medford bowler, Scott Welsh, had a 508 series, with the aid of 11 strikes and a match-high 14 spares.
Riverhead was led by brothers Jonathan and D. J. Visek. Jonathan, an eighth-grader in his second varsity season, was consistent, with scores of 214, 199 and 203 for a 616 series. It was his third 600 series of the season. D. J., a junior with an unorthodox two-handed throwing style, shot a 237 in the final game for a 602 series.
Some nice individual games were thrown by other Blue Waves. Kyle Irwin rolled a 202. Nick Giannillo threw a 194. Austin Douglas had a 193. Forrest Vail put up a 192.
Riverhead’s scores in the three games looked like two peaks sandwiching a valley. The Blue Waves started the match well enough, winning the first game, 956-866. But then they dropped the second game, 1,057-804, before winning the third, 1,028-907.
“The second game killed us,” said Hackal.
While Riverhead outgunned Patchogue-Medford in strikes, 80-69, it was the Raiders who held the advantage in spares, 59-42, giving further evidence that spares are the name of the game in high school bowling.
Jonathan Visek (20 strikes, eight spares) is undoubtedly one of the county’s bright, up-and-coming bowlers. When he first joined the team last season as a seventh-grader, his older brother warned him that he would be dealing with pressure.
Pressure? That hasn’t seemed to be a problem for him.
Jonathan Visek bowled a 300 game in practice earlier this season. With Thursday’s performance, he brought his season average to 196. In 23 games, he has registered 10 game scores of 200 or more. His season-high single-game score is 232, and his season-high series is 653.
How good of a bowler is Jonathan Visek?
“I have to say he’s a great bowler,” D. J. Visek said. “He got a 300 in practice, a perfect game. … I realized he was something. He was a lot different from everyone else.”
D. J. Visek is enjoying an even more successful season than his brother. D.J. Visek was left with a 203 average after Thursday’s match, no small thanks to his relatively new throwing style.
A severe slump prompted to D. J. Visek to go to the two-handed approach, something he saw other bowlers do at a tournament last year.
“I was kind of in a slump for about, I’d say, eight months, where as opposed to getting 200 games and having a higher series, I went down,” he recalled. “I wasn’t getting games over 150 or 160. I think switching to double-handing gave me the look and the feel of the ball that I wanted to have, and it improved a lot.”
So, last summer he made the switch. He said it took him about a month to feel comfortable with it, and the results since then speak for themselves. This season he has recorded seven series scores of 600 or more, eight games of 200 or more. Among them are a 279 high game and a 676 high series.
“Over a summer I was able to completely switch to double-handing and come back with my highest average ever on the team,” D. J. Visek said. “Basically, it takes away using your thumb. It was easier for me to hook the ball. … I feel like I can put the ball where I want.”
Now the Blue Waves are hoping to finish the season where they want: in the county tournament.