BETHALTO — Eryka Graham provided the Alton Redbirds with plenty of booster shots Wednesday in the Redbirds’ Bowling Invitational at the 32-lane Airport Plaza Bowl in Bethalto.
The senior finished second with a score of 1,247 in the 16-team girls’ competition. Teammate Ashley Heistand took sixth with a 1,208 effort as the Redbirds placed sixth with a 5,314 total for 6 games. The Birds are 8-0 in dual competition this season.
“We didn’t shoot what we wanted to in the first two games, but we made a charge and started to come on strong,” Alton coach Jeff Woszczynski said.
Graham, for example, averaged better than 224 for her final four games and Heistand averaged more than 209. Graham finished 34 pins behind individual champion Cassidy Ray (1,281) of Herrin.
“I’m happy with what I did and it feels really good,” said Graham also runner-up in last year’s tournament. “I went back to back to basics and felt like I got in a groove.”
Heistand said, "I think everybody was a little nervous at the start, but then we settled down and bowled better."
Tyler Stevenson supplied the highlight for the AHS boys’ squad. The junior shot a 300 during his second game of a 643 series. It was Stevenson’s first perfect game and he was proud of it.
“I was just shocked when I got it,” said Stevenson, who bowled a 290 game recently against Belleville East. “I never thought I would do it, but I did. The 10th frame was pretty nerve-wracking.”
He rolled a 150 in his first game, then decided it was time to do something different.
“I switch bowling balls and kept calm for the second game,” he said. “After the first four frames, I was locked in and knew what I had going. I stayed focused and that’s the mindset I need to have all the time. I don’t want to be thinking too much.”
Woszczynski said that Stevenson, 11th overall with a 1,238 score, continues to improve.
“He bowled for us as a sophomore last season, so he’s one of our key guys,” Woszczynski said. “Tyler is more of a finesse bowler than a power one and the ball comes out of his hand pretty clean.”
Stevenson’s dad, Elton, watched his son spin the 300 game and he knows plenty about quality bowling. “I think my dad has bowled about 12 perfect games,” Tyler said.
Highland’s Devon Frank just missed a perfect score when he shot a 299 in his second game.
Jacob Freand of Jersey recorded a 1,349 score, tops among the boys’ competitors. Collinsville won the team title with a 6,162 effort, or 17 pins more than runner-up Jersey. Alton (5,599) was 9th, followed by Granite City (5,495) at 11th and CM (5,404) at 13th in the 16-team field.
Ricky Hard, 15th at 1,233, paced Granite City and Devin Davis, 24th at 1,180, led CM. Justin Simpson of the Warriors was 21st at 1,185 and Chris Perkey of Alton wound up 25th at 1,176.
Herrin registered a 5,696 score for the girls' title and the Tigers finished 172 pins ahead of both Collinsville and Waterloo. Collinsville was the overall boys’ and girls’ team champion with a combined score of 11,686.
Elizabeth Hanke of the Alton girls came in 30th with a score of 970. Joanna Krankle of CM finished 32nd at 964 to spur the Eagles and Kennedy Rainwater of Granite City shot a 959, best for the Warriors.
Shawn Callies, CM’s coach, likes the way the Eagles are developing.
“I’m seeing improvement as we are going along and the kids are having a lot of fun,” he said.
He noted, “The boys’ team is really solid across the board. Most of them are juniors and we have a good group to work with — it’s similar to last year’s team.
“The girls have been a little more up and down, but (freshman) Ashley Westbrook and (junior) Joanna Krankle have been solid for us.”
Granite City coach Melanie Williams said the Warriors are a work in progress. She sees encouraging signs from both teams.
“I push for improvement,” Williams said. “As long as we get better from the way we started the season, I’m happy about it. And we are definitely doing that.”
She added, “The boys’ team is a little more experienced than the girls’ team. If we can get all five of the guys bowling well at the same time, I think we’d be awesome. The girls’ team is building this season and they have improved from last year.”