BREWER — The team names on the backs of their jerseys read “U.S.A. East,” but they may as well have been Team Sick Bed on Wednesday.
Even with two members laid low by a virus that left them sleep-deprived and dehydrated; another battling arthritis in his bowling arm; one suffering knee pain; and yet another trying to bowl with a hip injury and unexplained lethargy; USA East managed to win 22 of 24 possible points in three matches and maintain its position atop the Holiday Inn division at the World Team Candlepin Bowling Tournament at Bangor-Brewer Bowling Lanes.
USA East is first after six matches over two days of competition with an overall mark of 41-7, followed by Maria’s Sub of Massachusetts (37-11), the Campbellton (New Brunswick) Lions (34-14), Vacationland of Saco (26-22), Kingswood (New Brunswick) Lanes (24-24) and Moncton Fairlanes/Darney’s of New Brunswick (24-24).
In the Creative Digital division, Lucky Strike of Lynn, Mass., led a three-team leapfrog over former first-place team and multiple champion MacLaughlin T&T of Nova Scotia, which was in first with a 22-2 mark on day one, but finished Wednesday fourth at 36-12. Lucky Strike is 42-6 followed by A+ Halifax (Nova Scotia) Lanes (38-10), Total Chaos of Exeter, N.H. (38-10), MacLaughlin, and Big Shot Lanes of Nova Scotia (32-16).
Even amidst their excitement over their own success in a tough division, it was tough for member of some of the top teams in either division not to talk about USA East.
“I don’t think we’ll be shaking hands with those guys until they get better,” Mike Morgan, a former USA East member now playing for Lucky Strike, said with a chuckle. “It’s good they have a bigger roster. You need bodies at events like this.”
The 10-member USA East team needed all hands on deck, healthy or not.
“It’s not unusual to have one or two guys ailing, but when it’s the whole team, you all want to stay away from each other,” joked John Bird, who had to sit out a couple strings with arthritis in his right elbow.
Bird was one of five injured bowlers competing.
“Chris Sargent ended up going to the emergency room around 1 o’clock (Wednesday morning) feeling ill and was all dehydrated,” said Bird. “Shawn (Morrison) became ill, I guess because they’re rooming together, and was vomiting part of the day. Bob (Bettencourt) hurt his knee as the day went on and Nate (Nealey) had a hip problem give him trouble, plus he was kind of run down, and my elbow flared up while I was trying to bowl.”
Maybe they should hire a team trainer.
“Everyone was used and everyone except Shawn was pulled and subbed for,” Bird said. “That’s the upside of having 10 guys on your team. Some teams are reluctant to have more than six or seven, but at these kinds of events, depth really helps because you don’t have the luxury of a day of rest.
“If we were a six- or seven-man squad, we’d be just about gone now.”
The tourney continues through Saturday with preliminary round action giving way to playoffs on Friday.
Sargent bowled two complete games and substituted in two others, but Morrison never came out.
“He bowled through and had monster strings. I mean, he looked very dehydrated and pale, and you could tell he was ill, but he bowled all nine,” Bird said.
Morrison rolled a high string of 152 and a high series of 420 on the day.
High individual game score for the day was 182 by A+ Halifax Fairlaines’s Mitch Seary and high series was 456 by Campbellton’s Brad McDonald, who also had the high average at 134.89 to nose out Lucky Strike’s Shawn Baker (134.27).
“We’ve having a good time and even if we get behind, it seems like someone like Shawn picks it up and gives us a spark,” said Morgan. “We made a couple substitution moves and both of them worked.”
The quality and depth of talent, team-wise, is evident this year.
“You can’t underestimate anybody in this thing and you have to be able to finish,” said Jason Sparks of Vacationland. “There are a bunch of good teams here and nine or 10 who can win this thing.”
“This year, from top to bottom, it’s definitely a lot stronger tournament,” he said. “In past years, there used to be some teams that weren’t as strong, but you can’t take anyone lightly anymore.”