Franklin Regional’s Smith bowls pair of 300 games in 879 series

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Monday, February 18, 2019 | 12:37 PM


Alex Smith knows how to draw a crowd. The Franklin Regional High School junior and standout bowler figured out all he needs to do is roll strikes.

Smith showed up at Nesbit’s Lanes in Plum on Saturday morning to compete in his youth bowling league, having never bowled a perfect game.

When he walked out a few hours later, he not only bowled one, but two perfect games en route to breaking the Nesbit’s Lanes house record for a three-game series.

“I just woke up feeling like it was a normal day,” Smith said. “I went to the bowling alley, and I wasn’t expecting to do anything out of the ordinary, and I did that.”

Smith recorded consecutive scores of 300, 300 and 279. His series score of 879 is a City of Pittsburgh region juniors record. Smith also broke the long standing house record of 868 set in the 1970s by Ron Ramicon. Nesbit’s Lanes has been in business for 73 years.

“The atmosphere was electric,” Nesbit’s Lanes’ owner Rich Nesbit said. “I gave him a big hug. These are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

The odds of bowling a perfect game are 11,500 to 1. There are just 33 recorded 900 series recognized by the United States Bowling Congress. The feat ranks Smith second in the state behind Shane Tetterton’s 889 series set in 2006. Smith also moved into a five-way tie for fourth place nationally in the open-youth category.

“I really didn’t miss my mark at all,” Smith said. “I’m so glad that I have so many people that supported me there. I have so many people there that have helped me become the bowler that I am.”

Smith will receive some jewelry from the United States Bowling Congress. He’ll receive rings for a 300 game, another for an over-800 series and also an award for rolling 11 strikes in a row.

“It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid,” Nesbit said. “He’s the real deal.”

It didn’t take long. Smith started crushing pins from his very first throw. After each strike, passersby slowed down, glanced up at his score on the the monitor and stopped. Before long, the few cheers from family members grew to a roar that echoed through the alley. The open space behind lanes No. 5 and No. 6 was transformed into a gallery that became standing room only. The only thing missing were the stepladders.

“Seeing the crowd that was formed, I started to get a little nervous,” Smith said. “As I got into the later frames, everybody’s cheers got louder, louder and louder.”

Smith treated the gallery to 10 turkeys, rolling 31 strikes in a row. Smith was simply “throwing rocks.” His opponent in the lane next to him stepped aside, gave him “bowlers’ courtesy” and became a spectator.

And then came the eighth frame of his third game. Smith stepped to his mark, rolled the ball down the lane, hit the sweat spot of the pocket and once everything came to rest, the No. 10 pin stood alone and untouched. The streak had ended.

“Everyone was dead quiet when that 10 pin stood,” Nesbit’s youth league coach Shawn Pilyih said. “You could just hear the air let out for a few seconds. I think the most challenging shot he had to make was to pick up that spare. I think everyone felt relieved for him when he made it.”

Smith rounded out his final game with four more strikes to finish his three-game series hitting 35 out of a possible 36 strikes.

Saturday was just the icing on the cake for Smith. On Wednesday, Smith anchored a Franklin Regional team that won its second consecutive Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Bowling League boys team title. He also was named to the all-tournament team, earning high-singles honors with a 703 series.

“Alex is one of the most hard-working and determined bowlers I’ve seen,” Franklin Regional coach Gwen Richards said. “He shows such calmness in tough competitions, and we are seeing just the beginning of what he is capable of this past week. He is incredible.”

There was plenty of irony on the way to bowling an 879 series. Smith got a new ball last week before the WPIBL championships. Like any kid, he was excited and looking forward to bringing it out for the first time Saturday. Until dad (Ben) stepped in.

“I got a new bowling ball, and I wanted to throw that on Saturday, and my dad convinced me not to,” Smith said.

Saturday wasn’t supposed to be all about Smith. It was supposed to be about his younger brother, Brandon. It was Brandon’s 13th birthday, and the plan was to go home and celebrate him becoming a teenager.

“He’s was all right with it,” Smith said. “He posted on Instagram how happy he was for me. I was happy that he was OK with it, and I was happy that he was happy for me.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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