Nick Caruana has a few people he'd like to thank.
His dad, Toby, for sacrificing his Friday night to take him to the Right Approach Pro Shop in East Islip to get him The Ball. The owner, Frank Salerno, for providing The Ball. And Julian Valdaro, who drilled The Ball. "Oh, and my mom, Lauren."
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Truth is, the Sachem East sophomore has a lot to be thankful for after rolling a 300 in Game 2 and a 299 in Game 3 -- all after he switched to The Ball in the final frames of Game 1 -- to lead his team to a 6,707 win in the six-game Suffolk boys bowling championship, Saturday at Sayville Lanes. Middle Country placed second with a 6,600.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," said Caruana, who averaged a tourney-high 256.67 and will lead his team in the state tournament next month at Babylon Lanes. "I wasn't nervous at all during my 300 game. I was thinking of it as another game, another shot . . . and the new ball carried."
A fortuitous development that helped Sachem East overcome an early morning deficit. They were in third place after Game 2 and didn't catch up to front-runner Middle Country until strong afternoon showings. Eric Rostern bowled a 298 in Game 4 as Sachem East rolled a tournament high 1,219 as a team. Bobby Ramsey added a 232.85 average to the mix, fifth best in the tournament.
Meanwhile, defending champion East Islip couldn't overcome a slow morning of their own, finishing third at 6,570. Not that they won't factor heavily in the state tournament -- the Redmen's Justin Orobello and Jacob Klein both made the cut for the Suffolk All-Star team. Joining them will be Deer Park's Adam Zimmerman, Floyd's Pierce Field, Middle Country's Mike Ruben and Smithtown's Frank Masone.
"This is amazing," said Rostern, a senior. "This was probably the best feeling we've had all year and now we get to go to states."
Where they plan to have. . . a ball.East Islip girls dominate. You'd think that just because East Islip fell to Middle Country last year, or because they lost one of the best bowlers on Long Island this year, they'd be just a little bit concerned going into the county tournament.
Spoiler alert: They were not. "Surprisingly, I actually felt fine," Jordan Kruger said. "It got a little nerve-wracking at the end, just knowing that it's my last county tournament. This is the last time."
East Islip defeated defending champion and runner up Middle Country, 6,273-5,929 and never once trailed behind Kruger (215.83) and senior Megan Kuehne, who came in second in the tournament with a 225.83 average, including a 267 in Game 2.
Middle Country's Kelly Skalacki led all bowlers with a 228.83, and will represent Suffolk on the All-Star team, along with Laura Molloy (Smithtown), Emily Clark (Commack), Courtney Scholl (Sachem North), Brittany Arne (Patchogue-Medford), and Brooke Kelsey (Middle Country).
"The key was to stay calm and not let the nerves get the best of you," Kruger said. "It's just another bowling match."
It's not just another result, though. Middle Country denied East Islip last year, and with Kruger and Kuehne competing as seniors, they were looking forward to mimicking the dominance of yesteryear. Though this will be Kuehne's first trip, it's Kruger's third time.
"It's, like, amazing," Kruger said, grinning.
"Finally," added Kuehne, "we got it."