Broc Baker took home his second Herald Handicap Classic championship by bowling 12-consecutive strikes for a perfect game.
The Herald Handicap Classic crowned its 46th champion, Sunday, at Lin Van Lanes.
The tournament has hosted a plethora of talent over the past four and a half decades; and, thanks to Broc Baker, this year will be marked in the tournament’s history books.
Out of the 46 competitors who took to the lanes in the preliminary rounds of the tournament, Jan. 23-24, only five remained, Sunday: Joe Snyder (5-seed), Ben Hutcheson (4-seed), Scott Williams (3-seed), Luke Hipple (2-seed) and Broc Baker (1-seed).
The champion would be crowned as the top five went head-to-head, bowling “TV style.”
Snyder and Hutcheson kicked things off, starting the finals round.
The match was close, but at the end of 10 frames, Snyder took the upper hand, beating Hutcheson, 239-185.
Snyder advanced, meeting his next foe, Williams.
The match was another tight game, but Williams took the victory to progress, rolling nine strikes and three spares, putting Snyder on the sidelines, 245-214.
As the bracket dwindled, the scores kept improving.
Waiting for Williams was Hipple, and the match was anything but disappointing. Hipple kept the match close, but Williams, again, emerged the victor. Williams put 10 strikes down the lane, along with one spare, capping off his 297-274 win.
Lin Van Lanes owner, Scott Baker, said “that match was one of the highest scoring finals matches I’ve seen yet.”
Little did he know, the best was yet to come.
Only two bowlers remained, and as the final match of the historic contest unraveled, the fans that lined the seats of the alley were ready to watch the pair battle it out for the crystal pin.
Williams’ seven strikes couldn’t keep his head above the water as Baker slashed his name in the record books.
Baker, who had won the tournament previously in 2014, was nothing but determined to win it again.
Strike after strike, alternating lanes, Baker put the icing on the cake, and after rolling 10 straight strikes, he added another one.
As the crowd hushed, Baker lined up for his final roll, all eyes on him. The ball left his hand in perfect form, and as tensions rose, the ball thundered through all ten pins, giving Baker a perfect game, finishing at 300 over Williams’ 212.
“I felt like I had to,” said Baker, regarding the pressure to put up a perfect game against the high-scoring games of his opponents.
Baker couldn’t pinpoint how his perfect finish made him feel, saying, “just… a lot of emotions.”
For the first time in the Herald Handicap Classic’s history, the champion bowled a perfect game.
And, although the tournament has never seen such a sight, Baker is no rookie on the lanes — the champion has rolled a total of 15 perfect games in his life.
A friendly hug from Williams, a handshake from tournament director Dick Alexander and the handoff of the crystal pin put an end to the 2016 Herald Handicap Classic.
Another trophy on Baker’s shelf; and another year in the books.
“It was a battle [down to the wire],” said Baker.
Alexander, who has been directing the tournament for the past 10 or so years, along with his wife, Linda, and son, Rick, said “that was one of the best.”
Year of firsts
This year, all of the top five bowlers were under 30 years old.
Before emerging in the top five, Hutcheson and Hipple bowled personal bests. Hutcheson rolled a 298, and Hipple scored a career high of 276.