Despite coming into the IHSA boys bowling tournament with an 18-0 dual record, Oregon had to sweat out the fourth and final qualifying spot at the Freeport regional.
The host Pretzels won at Four Seasons Bowling Center with 6,003 pins, followed by Rockford Auburn with 5,979, Boylan 5,684 and the Hawks with 5,538.
That score was only 30 pins better than fifth-place Dixon, a team they beat by 510 pins earlier in the week in a dual.
“We had beaten every team at the regional at least one time this season,” Oregon coach Eric Carlson said. “We just didn’t bowl well. I was getting extremely nervous”
After a disappointing 839 in game five, Oregon trailed the Dukes by 64 pins going into the final game. The Hawks kept their post-season hopes alive with a 948 in the sixth game compared to Dixon’s 854.
“We were still down going into the 9th frame,” Carlson said. “Then we put up almost 200 pins in the last two frames alone. A couple of the Dixon bowlers helped us out by missing the 10 pin.”
The bright spot for Oregon was Austin Strite claiming the individual title with a 1,372 series. As he’s done all year, the senior standout kept Oregon in the contest.
“Even Austin wasn’t on top of his game, but it was good enough,” Carlson said. “He had a 258 in that last game for us.”
It wasn’t easy either, as the powerful NIC-10 conference had Matt Seigel of Auburn and Ty Collalti of Freeport for Strite to contend with.
Seigel had the high game of 267 with Strite’s 258 next best; and had a 1,306 series to place second individually.
Collalti, who took seventh downstate as a freshman, helping the Pretzels to a state runner-up finish to Hononegah in 2018, bowled a 1,298 and was third.
“You get up this way and there are some good bowlers,” Carlson said. “We will be in the toughest sectional in the state.”
Other series scores for the Oregon coop were Justin Poole (Winnebago) 1,125, Kyle Strite 1,034 and Jacob Smith 1,065. Bowling partial series were Eddie Buttens (681), Isaac Kaltenbrun (140) and Charlie Bachman (120).
“Saturday, we didn’t have a second bowler to back up Austin,” Carlson said. “Our guys struggled. They were having trouble hitting targets and when they did, they were leaving 7-10 pins. Hopefully, we’ll get things ironed out this week.”
Up next for the bowlers will be that extremely competitive sectional Carlson mention. It will be at Don Carter Lanes in Rockford on Saturday. Beside state powers Harlem and Hononegah, who each were over 6,600 at the regional, St. Charles East and North come in with regional scores over 6,200.
“When we won the Oregon Invite, we shot almost 6,200 as a team,” Carlson said. “The key for us was going to the Belvidere Invite without Austin and shooting 5,816. We can easily pick up a score of 6,200 if everyone shows up.”
At the sectional, the top six teams advance to the state meet, along with 7-9 individuals not on qualifying teams. Last year, Strite grabbed the final individual spot with a 1,315.
With Hononegah and Harlem virtual locks for two of the spots, it will be wide open for the remaining four state berths, with Oregon right in the mix.