Texas-Sized Performance

Commodores out in front at Kat Klash

CUT AND SHOOT, Texas — Vanderbilt corralled a Texas-sized lead on the Kat Klash field Friday heading into Saturday’s finale thanks to some torrid early shooting that required a trip to the program record books.

The Commodores lead host Sam Houston State by 325 pins with Louisiana Tech third, Prairie View fourth and Texas Southern fifth in this reshaped tournament that will be crown its champion by total pins. Both Vandy and Sam Houston went 3-1 on the day with all teams having a bye round in the uneven field.

“I have mixed feelings about the day because for the first two and a half games we were having one of the best days our program has seen,” Vanderbilt associate head coach Josie Barnes. “We let down a bit after the bye round, those byes can often change the dynamics. But early on we had just one missed makeable spare and I couldn’t find any fault.”

The second-ranked Dores came out with guns blazing.

Using a rotation of hometown product Angelica Anthony, Angelique Dalesandro, Mabel Cummins, Samantha Gainor and Caroline Thesier, Vandy quickly posted 5-Game Baker totals of 1,095 and 1,164 – the latter being the fifth-best set in program history.

Over one eight-game stretch, Vanderbilt tallied powerful runs of at least five and, twice — seven strikes six times — and one of the other two games contained a four-bagger. They were turning the Time to Spare Lanes into the Time to Strike Center.

It might be a measure of the quality of play that a near-300 game late in the day was not the obvious highlight.

The Commodores were trailing Sam Houston after two mediocre games when they exploded with a long, long string of strikes. Thesier, the freshman in just her second tournament, stepped up with the perfect game going in the 10th and threw two bullseyes to bring the attention to one last ball.

After some deep breathing and a pause, the ball was wide right and knocked down six pins for a 296, the sixth best Baker game in the books after five 300 games.

“I thought she handled herself well,” Barnes said, “but she just got a little fast and when that happens the ball tends not to break as much.”

Sam Houston would withstand the big game and hand Vandy its lone loss of the day. The Commodores defeated Texas Southern, ninth-ranked Tech and Prairie View by wide margins.

Gainor, the Vandy veteran, had an outstanding day — averaging nearly 229 (when scaled to 10 frames).

“Sam was able to go on some strong runs and loosen up,” Barnes noted. “When she’s comfortable and confident the team feeds off her.”

Saturday moves to team games and with the small field – the product of COVID-19 ramifications – the opposition will be the same.

“We will probably move our lineup around some tomorrow,” Barnes said. “It was apparent that we had a number of people zeroed in on the line today and deciding the rotation was not easy. I told the girls before we started that I had good news and bad news and they said they wanted the bad news first. I told them we could only bowl five people at a time.”

Play begins at 8 a.m. and is livestreamed on Vandy Bowling’s YouTube channel.