After 5 brushes with perfection, Thomas Jefferson bowler bags elusive 300 game

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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Thomas Jefferson bowler Joey Nix tied the school record five times in practice.

Nix eclipsed it during a WPIBL match Jan. 17 against Norwin.

The sophomore bowling star rolled the first 300 game in school history at Spins Bowl in West Mifflin, his home alley.

“I have worked very hard to get a perfect score, so when it finally happened, I was very excited,” Nix said. “My whole body was shaking in the 10th frame. The excitement from my team, coach, family and everyone watching at the bowling alley was so much fun.”

The single-game record was 299, held by TJ coach Louie Scataglia, who bowled for the Jaguars from 2012-2016 and set the mark in his senior season.

“I feel extremely happy for Joey and could not be more proud of him. He’s bowled five 299 practice games, so this 300 game was something he deserved,” Scataglia said. “Joey is not a traditional bowler. He throws it with one hand but does not use his thumb. This places the ball on his forearm; bowlers who throw the ball this way need to have a strong forearm and need to be able to balance a 15-pound bowling ball until they make their shot.

“I have bowled for 15 years in youth and adult leagues, winning tournaments and excelling, and I have never in my life been able to throw the ball the way Joey does. Jordan Crisp also throws it this way.”

The 6-foot, 220-pound Nix competes with a Purple Hammer bowling ball. He ranked first in the section with a 202 average, the only bowler above 200.

“I have been bowling for about two years,” Nix, 16, said. “My highest series on my own is 787; my highest for the team is 735.”

Nix tossed that team-high 735 series that included the sensational 300 game to lead the unbeaten Jaguars past Norwin and closer to a third consecutive section title.

TJ ended up taking first place in the Southeast section of the WPIBL with a 10-0 record, ahead of Connellsville (6-4), Belle Vernon (6-4), Norwin (5-5), Elizabeth Forward (1-9) and Youth (1-9).

The Jaguars clinched the section championship Jan. 24 against Connellsville. Over the past three seasons, the TJ boys have generated a 29-1 section record.

Nix explained his unique and difficult “one-handed” bowling style.

“I bowl one-handed with my right hand,” he said. “Honestly, I used to just throw the ball straight down the lane and after watching other bowlers and YouTube videos, I learned to bowl one-handed with a curve.”

Nix is complemented in the Jaguars’ lineup by junior Dylan Roberts, who ranked fifth in the section with a 192 average and 681 high series. Roberts won the Section MVP award last year, averaging 192 for the season.

Two freshmen, Jacob Hrizo (175, 604) and Jordan Crisp (171, 612), and senior Aaron DeNardo, with a 164 average and 564 high series, round out the lineup.

Leading reserves are freshman Jayland Olivares and seniors Aidan Oeler, Greg Hritz and J.P. Andreola.

“I do truly think we have a special team here,” Scataglia said. ”Many of the schools who finished below us at the WPIBL championships have their lineups filled with 11th and 12th graders. Our youth is evident, but our bowling would have you think they’re all seniors.”

The Jaguars placed fifth at the WPIBL championships and were one of 19 teams that qualified for the Western Regional finals set for March 2 at AMF Noble Manor Lanes.

“Because we won the section, we automatically got a bye into the regional championships,” Scataglia said. “However, finishing fifth also would have qualified us had we not won the section. My thoughts (on placing fifth) are mixed. We were in third place after Game 1. The top three teams bowled in a step-ladder format. We were in fourth place after Game 2 and fifth after Game 3. Our first game was our best, and our last two ended up being pretty average.

“The third game, we were off to a wicked start, easily on pace to break 1,000 as a team. An incredibly painful last three frames really hurt our score. We finished that game with an 891, which is only eight pins below our team average. However, with the way we started Game 3, that 891 felt brutal.”

Hrizo was one of five boys named to the WPIBL all-tournament team thanks to his torrid 641 series.

“Jacob bowled the fourth-highest individual series,” Scataglia said. “His 641 series is especially impressive since he is a freshman.”

Scataglia took over as TJ’s coach this season after helping out as an assistant for two years. He believed all along that the Jaguars would make a strong playoff push in 2023-24.

“I had and continue to have strong expectations for this team,” he said. “The boys team has been represented at the state championships the last two years. Last year, a senior qualified for the singles championship; in the previous year, the team qualified and placed 10th.

“The team is having another strong season. It is filled with bowlers who don’t get too high or too low. My boys are very stoic and have shown the ability to perform under pressure.”

Thomas Jefferson’s girls squad, 19-1 the past two seasons, finished at the opposite end of the standings this year with a 3-7 record.

“The girls team had a down year due to a good bit of turnover,” Scataglia said. “They should bounce back in the 2024-25 school year.”

The TJ girls were led by seniors Madison Heiser and Hannah Cairns and junior Sydney Bagnell.

Top freshmen include Lila Moresea, Genna Fair and Isabella Stosic. Victoria Santoro, a senior, was one of the team’s reserves.

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