Elsner holds on to win in final-frame thriller

Leland Lanes

Three final bowlers with one pin each remained. All three pins stood, but only one bowler stood with them.

After three thrilling rounds of bowling, senior Keegan Elsner held on to be crowned champion of the Fourth Annual Roll Tide Bowling Tournament at Leland Lanes Tuesday night. Elsner held off senior Josh Gaines and senior Joseph Bodenbach with a final round score of 36 in the win.

“I’m going to Disney World. I’m about to break down (crying). Best day of my life,” Elsner said.

Elsner, Gaines and Bodenbach entered the last round of the competition after finishing with three of the top four scores (120, 119, 103) in the first round and the top three in the second round (47, 46, 46) to advance to the final.

All three bowlers struggled with their forms in the three-frame finale, allowing for one last bowl with one pin remaining for each of them to either seal the deal, or seal their fate.

Elsner bowled first out of the trio, knocking down nine pins on his first attempt in the third and final frame and leaving just one on the far left side. Gaines followed suit and left only one pin – in the dead center – standing up. Lastly, Bodenbach, too, struck nine pins on his first attempt, leaving only one left.

Elsner just missed his last pin on his second attempt, cutting him short of a spare, but was not eliminated from contention as he held the lead after two frames. This meant Gaines had to bowl a spare to have a chance at winning, but he also missed by inches on his second attempt, leaving Bodenbach as the only other bowler who could still win.

Bodenbach, 21, from Alton, Ill., had originally arrived late to the competition, midway through the first round, but was still allowed to bowl due to a JN 418 class rule. His tardiness paid off.

Even after a slow start, Bodenbach was able to advance out of his lane of five bowlers largely because the other four completed all 10 frames before him. This allowed Bodenbach to bowl five consecutive frames without stoppage, helping him get into a “rhythm” and advance out of his lane as the top bowler with a score of 103.

So when it came down to one final pin left for Bodenbach to potentially knock off Elsner as champion, the pressure was a lot different from what he had grown accustomed to in the earlier rounds.

Bodenbach gutterballed the second attempt, giving Elsner the tournament title. Gaines finished as the tournament’s runner-up with a final round score of 30, while Bodenbach bowled a 26 to end up in third.

“I like to think that I surprised myself,” said Bodenbach, despite coming up short. “I came out not bowling so well, and then once I got the pitcher of beer it started to flow.”

The three finalists had outlasted a competition that began with 18 bowlers but was dwindled down to eight after the first round and three after the second round.

Lars Anderson, 42, from Lincoln, Neb., was the early surprise of the tournament, not only for his tournament-high score (130), but because he was not originally scheduled to bowl at all. Anderson said he got a “special exemption” from the host of the tournament, allowing him to bowl after another bowler told the host she could not make the tournament.

At the time, many bowlers had doubts that they would be able to top Anderson in the later rounds.

“I thought I had a small chance, but I didn’t feel too great about it – numbers were against me,” Elsner said.

With the win, Elsner earned bragging rights over the class for the rest of the semester and potentially a new career plan.

“To the PBA, I guess,” he said. “That’s the next stop.”

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