COLUMBUS — After his team secured the final state qualifying spot at districts, Stow-Munroe Falls boys bowling coach John Martin said he wasn’t concerned about scores, as long as his team got a shot to show their prowess at states.

Stow got their shot and took full advantage of it.

After finishing with the sixth-best qualifying score of 3,563 pins at the Division I boys state tournament March 9, Stow was able to reach finals in the championship round. The Bulldogs lost to Celina in the final three Baker games to one, but brought home the state runner-up trophy.

On March 10, things didn’t go quite so well for the Stow girls at the Division I girls state tournament. Stow finished 12th in the team qualifying race with 3,161 pins and did not advance to the team finals. Both state tournaments took place at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.

Martin was ecstatic for his team after the win

"We wanted to grind it out and get to the end and we did," Martin said. "It was a lot of fun. The atmosphere was great. A couple of guys were pretty nervous about the tournament. My freshman, Nolan Snowberger, did a great job handing the atmosphere."

Martin noted Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl had synthetic lanes and oily shot pattern, which were conditions that Stow was accustomed to. He noted the strategy for Stow at states was simple: All for one and one for all.

"I encourage the kids to only look at the bottom of the line in terms of scoring," Martin said. "That’s where the team score is. If you focuse on what you need to do for the team, everything takes care of itself. Everyone did that."

Stow opened by bowling a 949 in the first game before finding its stride with a 1,058 in game two. Martin said his team was struggling in game three, but every bowler was able to strike out in the 10th frame to salvage a 928. 

Stow was sitting 2,935 pins and fifth overall — but just two pins behind Beavercreek in third — heading into the game Baker series.

Stow rolled Baker games of 234, 194 and 200 to finish with a 628 series and qualify in sixth place. While the Bulldogs were sixth overall, they reached the finals with room to spare, finishing 250 pins ahead of eighth-place Wadsworth in the final qualifying spot. Cincinnati Oak Hill was the top qualifier with 3,737. 

Individually, junior Alex Ridings found his form, leading the Bulldogs with a 645 series (225-199-221) to finish in 12th place. The top five individuals earn All-Ohio places.

Senior Nick Arlequeeuw rolled a 600 series (217-216-167), while senior Alex Snowberger rolled a 579 (189-235-155) and Nolan Snowberger rolled a 549 (201-188-160). Martin noted Stow got a big boost off the bench from junior Will Bender, who rolled a 220 in game two and a 225 in game three.

"Once you get to match play anything can happen," Martin said. 

The match play finals at states involve a three-round, single-elimination bracket, which each team playing best of five Baker games to advance.

Seeded sixth, Stow opened the finals by facing Westerville South.

"One of the kids that I preach the kids to do all season was to play at our own pace," Martin said. "They had a problem on their lanes, but we just kept bowling. When it came time for them to try to beat us, they couldn’t do it. Our big thing is we will not be beat ourselves and that’s what we did all day."

Against the Warhawks, Stow took game one 192-175, but dropped game two 209-148. The Bulldogs came back to win 164-158 and 225-186 to advance to the semifinals.

In the semifinal match, Stow needed all five Bakers to get past Centerville. Stow split the first four games 145-142, 212-247, 189-197 and 184-181 before winning the decisive game 166-146.

"We had kind of eked out that fourth game in a miracle," Martin said. "Centerville couldn’t come back from that. 

In the state title match, Stow faced Celina and dropped the first two games 195-153 and 216-208, before taking game three 190-186. However, Celina won game four 234-200 to clinch the title.

"The reality of it was, when we went up against Celina, we had some really good Baker games, but they just beat us," Martin said. "There’s nothing wrong with that. My guys weren’t disappointed fishing second. We just got beat. That happens."

Martin will say goodbye to Arlequeeuw, Alex Snowberger and senior Evan Koch this spring, but has no doubt the future of the program is strong.

"Don’t be surprised if were back in the same position next year," Martin said.

Stow girls finish 12th at states

Heading into states, Stow girls coach Rachael Ritzinger said she mostly wanted her young team to gain experience at the state level. 

Ritzinger’s expectation level proved on point, as the defending Division I state champions were unable to retain their title.

The Bulldog girls got off to a decent start, rolling a 901 in game one and 908 in game two, but an 802 in game three dropped Stow to 12th place heading into the Baker games with 2,611 pins. 

"We started out the day really well," Ritzinger said. "When we saw the standings and that we were in sixth place, we thought there was a lot of competition. Then in the third game, everything kind of fell off. That’s when we kind of the realized that we weren’t going to make it. 

"I don’t if it was the lanes," she added. "They were probably getting tired at that point, too. There’s a lot of things that come into play."

Stow needed a big number in the Baker game series to reach the final, but didn’t get it. The Bulldogs rolled a 525 Baker series (191-186-148) to finish with 3,136 pins. Stow finished 95 pins behind North Canton Hoover for the final qualifying spot (3,231 pins, while Gahanna Lincoln was the top qualifying school with 3,389 pins.

"I think the girls were a little upset, because we were trying to live up to being the state champions," Ritzinger said. "I think everyone realized then that it was a completely different team. The [Roberts] twins were the only ones back from last year and its a difficult when you have six new girls at states."

Lincoln won the Division I girls team title, beating Kettering Fairmont 3-0 in the final.

In the individual race, junior Hayley Roberts once again led the Bulldogs with a 591 series (202-217-172) to finish in 20th place. Sophomore Kayla Flake was just one pin behind, tying for 21st place with a 590 series (178-225-187).

Junior Taylor Roberts rolle 506 series (179-199-128), while sophomore Natalie Rockwell rolled a 464 (159-147-158). Freshman Jessica Lawrence had games of 183 and 120 for Stow, while freshman Allie Rudman rolled a 157 in game three.

With her entire state squad back, Ritzinger is looking to make another run at the state title next winter next winter.

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, mleonard@recordpub.com or @MLeonard_RPC