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Boys Bowling: Missed spares cost Riverhead

Two hands are better than one, right?

Well, not necessarily when it comes to bowling.

The Riverhead High School boys bowling team’s struggles this season can be traced back to a thumb problem one of its bowlers had last season. Because of that, he changed his throwing style to a two-handed approach. Five of his teammates liked what they saw and followed suit.

Mastering the two-handed delivery takes time, though. It can be tough for those bowlers to convert spares involving the 7 and 10 corner pins “because you’re putting the spin to curve that way,” coach Scott Hackal said. “So, in order to make that — you will never make it throwing a curve because it will go in the gutter — so you have to flatten it out or use a ball that will go straight and that’s what we’re struggling on. It’s killing us.”

Spares are the name of the game. Hackal gets sick when he sees how many pins the Blue Waves leave standing. On Tuesday there was more of the same as gutter balls and failed spare attempts cost them in a 23-10 Suffolk County League IV loss to Middle Country at The All Star in Riverhead.

“This sums up our season,” Hackal said. He added: “We have talent. That’s the thing that’s frustrating.”

The Blue Waves finished last season strong, and Hackal expected them to pick up where they left off. It didn’t happen.

“This year has just been a struggle,” he said.

Lukasz Karwowski, a sophomore with a 181 average, is one of the Blue Waves who converted to the two-hand style. Why?

“I think it just came naturally,” he said. “I think it was for more consistency.”

Consistency, though, has been an issue for the team. Players’ have fluctuated dramatically.

“I always think we could bowl better,” junior Casey Cawley said. “We just really need consistency because all of us are just up and down. We could all throw high 200s, almost 300s, but we all can go also down to 120s. We just need to be more consistent.”

Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Fifth-place Middle Country (130 points, 46 more than sixth-place Riverhead in the eight-team league) was more consistent. Anthony Roy, who ranks 15th in the league with a 205 average, opened the match with a 226 game, ending up with a 586 three-game series. Tom Oliveri also rolled a 226 in the opening game as part of his 568 series. The Cougars also had a 542 series from Troy Jones, a 519 from Ryan Witkin and a 499 from Ryan Brodsky.

Middle Country totaled 54 strikes and 59 spares to Riverhead’s 66 strikes and 49 spares. The Cougars took total wood, 2,714-2,497.

For Riverhead, Cawley (18 strikes, six spares) closed with a 209, but a gutter ball left him six pins shy of a 600 series. Karwoski’s 221 in the third game brought him a 572 series. He had 17 strikes and 11 spares. Sean Maki, who leads the team with a 184 average, added a 473 series.

Those missed spares are eating away at Hackal.

“Just think: If you convert those, it changes the game,” he said. “That’s what this game comes down to — making your spares.”

Spares are critical. The proof that every pin counts was shown in the second game. Ironically, a missed spare by Middle Country cost the Cougars, who were clinging to an eight-point lead before Karwowski came through with a strike on the last ball to win the game, 815-813.

Cawley, a lefthander who uses the traditional one-handed approach, said throwing with two hands makes the ball “harder to control because it moves a lot more. It’s definitely harder to master, but when you master it, it does a lot more for the pins.”

Like his coach, Cawley sees Riverhead’s potential.

“We should obviously be winning more, but I think we’re doing good with where we’re at,” he said. “We’ll all be back, pretty much, next year. We just got to be consistent and live up to it and we could easily be one of the best teams in our league.”