Gateway boys bowlers leaning on experience

Sunday, January 17, 2021 | 9:01 AM

Experience is the calling card for the Gateway boys bowling team.

A group of five seniors — Mason Servello, Cody Beckwith, Nathan Clark, Anthony Zappa and Liam Brown — front the Gators in matches as they hope for big things in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Bowling League and beyond.

So far, so good, as the team was 3-0 in East section matches through last week’s victory over Burrell.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to go five strong with any one of us being able to perform well. That’s a lot of fun to be a part of,” said Clark, the team captain who has bowled for Gateway since his sophomore year.

“We could see this coming together two years ago as we all were getting better. We’ve all been waiting for this opportunity. We were a little worried for a second that (the season) might not happen, but we’re grateful we’ve been able to have three matches. Hopefully, we’re able to keep the season going.”

As sophomores, the group helped Gateway, along with then-senior Dom Rocco, qualify for the WPIBL team championship tournament. The Gators finished 12th out of 18 teams.

Last year, Gateway finished third in the East section and missed out on the WPIBL team tournament, but Servello, Brown, Clark and Beckwith earned spots in the league’s singles competition.

Now, the experienced Gators are hoping to put it all together.

The Gateway boys started with a victory over Burrell the day before Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-week shutdown orders went into effect Dec. 12.

The Gators returned to competition Jan. 11 and toppled Plum, 7-0, in a key section matchup. They won the first game, 864-860, and increased their pin total in the second and third games.

Clark clinched the Game 1 victory with two strikes and an eight in the 10th frame. He struck six straight times starting in the sixth frame.

“Everyone contributed to that win,” Clark said. “That’s the way it is with us. The game was close, and we knew it was within our reach. Four of us struck in the ninth frame to put us in good position to win it in the 10th. Everyone got the marks they needed, and it just turned out that I got the two strikes to win it.”

Gateway kept up its momentum two days later against Burrell with its best score so far this season. The Gators topped 1,000 pins (1,003) in Game 3 to finish off a 7-0 victory. There were eight games with 200 or better scores, led by a 246 from Beckwith in his third game.

Servello tallied a team-leading 646 series with games of 210, 237 and 199.

“I am excited for what this team can accomplish this year,” Gateway coach Joe Bowman said.

“In the covid climate we’re in, both teams are happy to simply be out there bowling and competing. Three of the boys have been at it for four years, and the other two, it’s their third year. Last year, four of the five were averaging in the 170s, and you could see the 190-200 range was going to happen at some point.”

The Gateway girls team, Bowman said, is in more of a building mode, but he liked what he saw in effort and determination in the early-season matches from senior Kaycee Tokarsky, juniors Anyssa Keeling-Oliver and Rebecca Whealdon, and freshmen Jayla Chase and Gelsy Stone.

Five seniors were lost to graduation after last season, including WPIBL qualifier Tifani Wilkerson. Tokarsky is the lone team member with high school bowling experience.

“They have a great attitude despite their inexperience,” Bowman said.

“They are excited to learn and improve their games. They are having a great time, they’re working hard, and they’re working together. They never get down on themselves.”

Tokarsky’s 140 game against Plum was a team-best through the first three matches. Keeling-Oliver owned the top three-game series, a 386 also against Plum.

“Our match of the year is going to be against Valley,” Bowman said. “They have the same basic beginner skill set that we have. That match should be competitive, and the girls have that match circled on their calendars.”

Gateway was set to return to action Wednesday against Penn Hills, and the match was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition. The Gators will host Plum at New Great Valley on Thursday.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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