O’FALLON — Lucas Pejakovich of Alton navigated his way through the crush of competition Friday in the opening day of the IHSA boys' bowling state finals.
And thanks to good pinmanship, the senior wrote his way into Saturday’s closing round at St. Clair Bowl.
Pejakovich shot a score of 1,367 for six games, putting him in seventh place halfway through the state finals. He averaged 227.8 in furthering his quest to become the first AHS bowler to earn back-to-back top 10 finishes.
“My goal is to get in the top 12 and be All-State again,” said Pejakovich, closing with a 259 game to boost his score. “I really wanted the entire team to get through, but that didn’t happen.”
He added, “So it will be entirely different tomorrow (Saturday). I’ll be on my own and I’ll need to stay focused and execute my shots.”
AHS coach Jeff Woszczynski said Pejakovich has the right approach for another strong state finish.
“It would be quite an accomplishment to finish in the top 10 again,” Woszczynski said. “He just needs to come out in the right frame of mind again and bowl his best. He wasn’t frustrated today.”
The Redbirds and Civic Memorial’s Eagles might have gotten a bit frustrated for not advancing their teams to the final day of competition. A dozen advanced. Alton was 18th with 5,821 pins. Civic Memorial was 19th with a score of 5,819 in the 24-team field.
However, senior Jacob Troeckler of CM made it to the finals. He had a 1,236 series and was in 53rd place after the first day.
Machesny Park Harlem (6,488) was the first-day leader, followed by Rockton Hononegah (6,422) and Lincolnshire Stevenson (6,354). Host O’Fallon was next line (6,351) and Lake Zurich (6,313) was fifth. Collinsville (6,078), cast in 11th, joined Southwestern Conference rival O’Fallon for the final day of team action.
Machesny Park Harlem’s Jacob Nimtz (1,489) is the overall individual leader. Tom Ochal (1,471) of Niles Notre Dame is second, followed by Justin Hess (1,393) of O’Fallon and Gavin Pisetta (1,389) of Triad. Then it’s Lincolnshire Stevenson’s Ricky Zenner (1,385), Rockton’s Brandon Mooney (1,384) and AHS’s Pejakovich.
CM, making its first appearance in the finals, sought sought a team date in Day 2, but were rebuffed.
Nevertheless, Eagles' coach Shawn Callies said the state showing was a welcome experience, particularly with Troeckler advancing.
“We had a police escort out of town and the parents came out and supported us,” he said. “It was pretty incredible and I know the guys enjoying going to state. They might have been a little nervous about it, but we had some good games.”
Callies certainly cherished the state finals opportunity.
“I coached football as an assistant for 11 years and this ranks right up there with the playoff team we had that made it to the semifinals,” he said. “It was sort of roller-coaster ride this season, but it was a lot of fun.”
Alex Zukas (1,170), Ryan Hayes (1,146), Dalton Harshbarger (1,139) and Phillip Ramos (1,128) also contributed to the CM effort.
“It’s great for the kids and the school,” Callies said of the state showing. “The kids took me for a good ride this season and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Alton, which finished in the top seven squads at the state finals five time since 2003, will put all of its resources on Pejakovich today. Mat Gorman (1,156) and Justin Amistadi (1,078) followed Pejakovich in the Redbirds’ scoring.
“We got better scores in the afternoon, but we didn’t have a good morning,” Woszczynski said. “But overall, we had a good season, considering we graduated 10 seniors from last year’s team.”