PORTLAND, Maine – In a playing environment unmatched in professional bowling, Kris Prather and Bill O’Neill advanced to bowl for $100,000 in the finals of the PBA Playoffs.
With a crowd at Bayside Bowl so loud the players could barely hear themselves think, Prather defeated Anthony Simonsen, 2-1, while O’Neill took down Sean Rash, 2-0, in the semifinals Saturday afternoon.
Prather and O’Neill will battle for the championship, but not a PBA Tour title, in the finals of the PBA Playoffs on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern live on FOX for U.S. audiences and FloBowling for international audiences.
Here’s a recap of the semifinal matches:
No. 9 Kris Prather 2, No. 4 Anthony Simonsen 1
In one of the most compelling matches yet in the PBA Playoffs, Prather advanced with a 2-1 victory over Simonsen. The pair split the opening two games, sending the match to a tiebreaker to determine the winner.
In the ninth and 10th frame tiebreaker, Prather finished first and posted a total of 49, giving Simonsen a chance to win the match.
Needing a double in the final frame, Simonsen nearly left the 7-10 on his opening shot but the 10 fell late. The seven pin, however, stayed up and allowed Prather to advance.
“I re-racked to settle myself down and when the rack came down I saw the four pin was a little left,” Simonsen told FloBowling. “I knew if it kind of mixed them up a little like that it probably wasn’t going to strike. I felt like it wasn’t the best shot, but it was one of those shots that could have struck. It just kind of seemed like it was his day. I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle the whole day.”
Both players got off to a shaky start in the opening game as they seemed uncomfortable when the atmosphere inside Bayside Bowl went from zero to 100 mph in a matter of seconds at the start of the broadcast.
“I have never been so nervous in my life,” Prather said. “I was nervous on my wedding day, but this tops all of it. I can’t even put it into words. I’m surprised I could shoot 210 or 220. I was shaking in my boots. It’s life changing money for me and my wife and honestly every dollar is already accounted for. I’m just trying to see how much money I can make for us.”
In Game 1, Prather managed to recover from an early foul in the second frame on a spare and went on to strike from the fourth to eighth frames to roll to a 217-179 victory. Simonsen tried unsuccessfully to throw urethane for the first seven frames and eventually made a big move left but it was too little too late.
In the second game, Prather led by 20 pins after he struck in the fifth frame but Simonsen mounted an incredible comeback to win, 247-216, and force the tiebreaker.
Just before the commercial break, Simonsen buried strikes in the fifth and sixth frames to even the match in the high-energy, emotional battle. After the break, Prather, working on three in a row, slowed down with a 10 pin in the sixth and four pin in the seventh, while Simonsen tossed three more strikes to run away with the game.
No. 7 Bill O’Neill 2, No. 6 Sean Rash 0
It was clear early on O’Neill had a good look, and he took advantage of that in sweeping Rash, 2-0, in the second match of the semifinals.
O’Neill held nothing back in Game 2 as he aimed for a sweep to advance. He blasted strike after strike after strike at Rash and eventually beat him into submission to advance to the final.
After starting out with a perfect strike in the first frame, O’Neill tripped the four pin in the second and had a messenger take out the 10 pin in the third frame. He continued to pound the pocket until the final frame.
O’Neill struck on his first shot in the 10th frame to secure the victory as Bayside Bowl continued to erupt. With the match now in hand, O’Neill needed just two more for perfection. Instead, he left a 10 pin where a messenger came up just short to end his run.
“It’s a whirlwind; everything happened so quick,” O’Neill said. “I was really fortunate in this match. Sean bowled unbelievable. Hats off to him. He bowled great. The reason why I’m standing here and he’s not is because I caught more breaks. But I bowled pretty good too, and I took advantage of those breaks. That’s what this game is all about.”
In the first game, O’Neill got out of the gates quick and ended up rolling to a 258-214 victory, though it was closer than the score indicates.
With four strikes to start, O’Neill built a big early lead after Rash opened in the first frame. Rash, however, started a string of five strikes in a row in the fourth frame to get back in the match.
Heading into the ninth and 10th frames, Rash could have struck out to put maximum pressure on O’Neill. Instead, he left and whiffed a 10 pin in the ninth frame to put the nail in his own coffin.