Washington High School junior Brandon Underwood was busy Wednesday, fine-tuning his game as he prepares for his first appearance at the Division II State bowling tournament coming up Saturday morning in Columbus.
Underwood, along with his Blue Lion teammates, competed in the District tournament at Shawnee Lanes in Chillicothe Friday, Feb. 24.
The Blue Lion team placed eighth out of 10 with a team total of 3,688.
Underwood shone through with a fine three-game series total of 660, placing third at the District.
Senior Tyler King of Hillsboro won the District with a 673 score. The Indians won the District with a 4,224 team score.
That means that King qualifies to State as a team member.
Second place, and the first individual qualifier, senior Ryan Clarke of Maysville, bowled a 671.
Underwood was the second individual State qualifier with the above-mentioned 660 score.
Bowling gets underway Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, located at 3224 South High Street.
Underwood began the District with a first-game score of 182.
He quickly ratcheted up his game with a 245 score in the second game and rounded it off with a 233 in the third game.
Teammate, sophomore Austin Knisley, was 17th with a 602 (205, 208, 189); junior Grant Mustain was 46th with a 479 (181, 147, 151); sophomore Allan Schreckengaust was 59th with a two-game total of 303 (156 and 147); junior Chase Spangler was 60th with a two-game total of 293 (123 and 170) and junior Alex Behrends bowled a two-game total of 284 for 62nd place (165 and 119).
“At first, I didn’t get the line down right away for my shot,” Underwood said. “As the second and third game came along, I found my line. Then I was able to repeat my shots and cover my spares.”
This will be Underwood’s first time competing at the State tournament.
“Last year, we didn’t do so well in the Districts,” Underwood said. “But two years ago, when we had an all-senior team, plus me, we were close to getting the team to State. I think lost that by 19 pins, something like that.”
What about goals for the State?
“I have a college coach that e-mailed me about this and he told me to just relax and have fun and enjoy the experience,” Underwood said. “So, I’m going to take his words and just go up there and have some fun with it.
“I know there are going to be lots of good teams and individuals there,” Underwood said. “I’m going to try my best up there, but, if I don’t place in the top 10 I won’t be upset. I’m just going to enjoy the experience.”
As far as his career-best three-game series, Underwood said, “I believe it’s a 723. That was a couple of years ago.” The 660 series is just six pins from his best series this season.
Underwood reflected on this season.
“We had had a really big match against Clinton-Massie,” Underwood said. “At the time they faced us, they were undefeated. That’s when I shot my first 300 game. That was probably our best match of the season.”
Underwood’s head coach is his father, Mark.
It’s a not unheard of occurrence in high school to have a parent coach one of their kids in a varsity sport.
“It’s special,” Underwood said. “You already have the bond of just living together. I know I can trust him with whatever he wants me to do. Maybe if I need to do something I don’t usually do, I can just try it and usually it ends up working. I just put the trust in him and just perform.”
In practice, Underwood said he is mainly working on just picking up spares.
“We don’t have the same (oil) pattern here as they will in Columbus,” Underwood said. “I had a couple of open frames down at the District. In one game I had two opens right in a row. I left splits in both frames. I still ended up with a (good score).”
Underwood was quite appreciative of his teammates.
“I’d like to thank my teammates for keeping me calm and making this fun,” Underwood said. “It was a really fun season and we’re not losing any seniors, so, I’m expecting (for next year) the same amount of fun. I’d like to thank all the people who have helped me with ball-drillings and new fingertips. The usual ones are round. I went to a clinic in Kentucky and a guy who owns a bowling company, Mo Pannell, he had me get oval tips, instead. He did that for me and it’s been working for me ever since. It’s (the release) so much more comfortable, it’s smoother. I’d like to thank him for that.”
“He’s worked for it,” Washington Blue Lion head coach Mark Underwood said. “He’s put a lot of work in. I’m proud to see him go on. It is quite the accomplishment.
“His 660 (at Districts) is the fifth-highest score going in to the tournament,” Underwood said. “He’s right there. If he goes up there and bowls like he can and stays within himself, I think he’s got just as good a shot as anybody up there, to be honest.
“There will be 96 boys up there bowling,” Underwood said. “The top five will get a medal.”
The father and son duo have a history of bowling together.
“I started him up here (at LeElla Lanes) when he was about eight,” Underwood said. “We joined the leagues here; the Mickey Mouse League, the Wild Bunch League, the Child-Adult League. We’ve bowled together.
“Through all that, I’ve learned his tendencies,” Underwood said. “I can see what he’s doing just standing behind him. So, it’s real easy to watch him, compared to the other kids on my bowling team, because I’ve seen him so much. I know his tendencies to the point that I can dial him in to a pattern pretty quickly.
“That’s part of the father-son relationship,” Underwood said. “We kind of think alike.
“Our District is probably one of the toughest in the state,” Underwood said. “Three of the top five scores in the state came out of our District. It’s pretty tough to come out of there as an individual. There was one 700 score shot and a 668. Those were the other two scores ahead of Brandon.” As well as the 673 and 671 mentioned above from the Chillicothe District tournament.
One of the primary keys to bowling a competitive game or series, according to Underwood, is, just pick up your spares.
“It’s 10 plus your next ball,” Underwood said. “It basically costs you 10 pins if you don’t pick up your spare.”
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1