HARAHAN, La. — Vanderbilt was good, but Sam Houston State was in midseason form Sunday as the Bearcats beat the Commodores 4-2 to win the Allstate Sugar Bowl Invitational.
With Vanderbilt leading 2-1 in the championship match, Sam Houston went on a strike barrage that produced scores of 256-244-222 and that was the difference. The Commodores had corresponding pin counts of 202-216-217 – often enough to win – but it was simply not enough at Colonial Lanes.
The sixth and deciding Baker game dripped with tension. Sam Houston had taken a precarious lead with a five-bagger in the fourth to eighth frames, but the Commodores hung in there, bowling clean and posting a late three-bagger of their own.
Vandy’s All-American anchor Maria Bulanova, who had struck out the prior two games, and who has pulled out so many victories over her career, had another chance for heroics. Her first ball in the 10th left the 5-pin teetering before toppling for a strike.
Sam Houston’s anchor was unable to match so Bulanova could have sent the match to Game 7 with another bullseye – but her second attempt left the 10-pin ultimately allowing the Bearkats to escape, 222-217.
Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson had shuffled his lineup for the title match after splitting the day’s earlier bracket games, losing to Sam Houston and beating 17th-ranked Louisiana Tech in the bracket semifinal, 4-1.
The Commodores used a rotation of freshmen Mabel Cummins and Amelia Kiefer followed by Angelique Dalesandro, Samantha Gainor and Bulanova in the finale. In the sixth game, Emily Rigney was inserted for Dalesandro and the rotation modified to Rigney, Kiefer, Cummins, Gainor and Bulanova.
“I thought we competed alright,” Williamson said. “We made a few too many mistakes and Sam Houston was on fire. There isn’t much one can do when the opponent is bowling that well.”
Dalesandro was honored after the tournament as a member of the all-tournament team, based upon her fifth-place individual showing. It was the first all-tourney honor for the Illinois-native sophomore.
Vanderbilt will have some time on the practice lanes as it awaits its next tournament, Stephen F. Austin’s Ladyjack Hammer Classic in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Nov. 15-17.