KENOSHA, Wis. — A 300 game and three of the best seven Baker sets in program history catapulted Vanderbilt into the first day lead at the LadyJack Invitational on Friday.
The torrid Commodores won their first four games of the day – two against teams rated in the nation’s top nine – with scores exceeding 1,100 before cooling off a bit in dropping the day’s finale. They lead second-place McKendree by 146 pins heading into Saturday’s play.
Vanderbilt was already sizzling with a 1,149-915 victory over ninth-ranked Youngstown State and was on the verge of clobbering 15th-rated Maryville when the day-long rotation of Mabel Cummins, Caroline Thesier, Alyssa Ballard, Paige Peters and Victoria Varano began the fifth game with three strikes, then five, then eight in a row.
The powerful “Black-Gold” strike chants boomed around the Sheridan Lanes as Peters delivered in the ninth. With the outcome of the match long decided, the drama was whether the freshman Varano could seal the rare deal.
Yes she could!
The Junior Team USA veteran calmly buried three pocket strikes for Vanderbilt’s fifth Baker perfect game in the 18 years of Commodore bowling.
“I had some nerves but I was pretty confident in my line and thought if I just threw a good shot there was a good chance of striking,” Varano said. “There was an adrenaline rush with the girls cheering behind me so that was more calming than nerve wracking.
“The second strike was probably the hardest one for me because my experience has been that is the shot that I’ve missed in past 300 chances. I’ve had six or seven personal 300s and the couple I’ve missed have been when I didn’t get the second strike. I was pretty sure if I got the second one I’d get the last one.”
It is not uncommon for a team coming off the rush of a big score (1,176) and a perfect game to lose focus in the next match, but Vanderbilt’s blistering pace continued with 1,102 pins against North Central and a whopping 1,185 pins against sixth-ranked Arkansas State.
The program record for 5-Game Bakers is 1,232, set in 2011. The 1,185 total is the program’s second best all-time, the 1,176 is the third best and the opening 1,149 is the seventh best. Tthe four game totals were the best four-game run in program history.
“I liked that we had the same approach every round,” Vandy head coach John Williamson said. “We had a general excitement about what we were accomplishing but we stayed mentally focused on trying to knock down as many pins as possible. It is pretty easy to get complacent when things are going so well.
“We were able to execute and repeat shots. When your first shot is consistent it makes everything easier.”
The closing match with No. 1-ranked McKendree promised to be the highlight of the day for the second-ranked Commodores, but on the heels of an already long day of red-hot scoring, the match almost seemed anti-climactic from Vandy’s perspective. The Bearcats were razor sharp, winning 1,176-1,014 as the Commodores were unable to sustain their momentum through another game.
Saturday’s play will be five traditional games starting at 9:30 a.m. and streamed on the Vanderbilt Athletic YouTube channel.
** A reduction in the number of competing teams has led to a revised format Sunday. There will now be three 5-Game Baker sets and just one, best 4 of 7 Baker. This will allow for a complete round-robin of pool play and the bracket game will pair 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, etc.