Lefty T.J. Mitchell put his foot down on the pedal and never let it up in the opening round of the 59th annual Times-News Open at Greengarden Lanes on Saturday and Sunday.
Starting with 268 in Saturday’s first game, Mitchell, the tournament’s 2018 champion, bowled 10 straight games of between 213 and 279 to finish atop the pack after the tournament’s 168-bowler, 10-game opening round.
“I was able to get off to a big lead and kept it, and now I’ve got to keep my foot down,” said Mitchell, 30, who owns a 102-pin lead over three-time defending champion Mike Machuga headed into Sunday’s 32-bowler semifinal at Westway Lanes.
Mitchell heads into the semifinal with a pin count of 2,483, while Machuga is at 2,381. Third-place Killian Kilpatrick, at 2,288, trails Mitchell by 195 pins, while Cory Bithell, at 2.283, is in fourth place. In fifth is eight-time TN-Open champion Lee Eighmy Jr,. at 2,269.
Mitchell, who teamed with Charlie Tuzynski Jr. to win the 2021 Times-News Doubles Tournament on Dec. 5, said that the mental part of his game played a major role in his outstanding performance, where he averaged 248.3.
"I got a couple of breaks, but I didn’t let the scores get to me, and just tried to get as many pins as I could,” he said. “I had a couple of boards to play with on each side, and I just tried to hit them, and keep my speed.”
Mitchell was the only bowler who bowled 200-plus in all 10 games over the weekend.
Machuga, 45, used his knowledge of the lanes and the game itself to vault into the top after Sunday’s B-Squad action, before being passed by Mitchell later in the day during A-squad play.
“I have a pretty good picture of what goes on in this bowling center, and I just kind of stuck to my plan,” said Machuga, who is seeking a record fourth straight TN-Open championship. “I used a ball that I could manipulate easily, and trusted it, and didn’t go fishing to try to find something special. I just stuck with what I knew, stuck with the game plan, and executed it pretty well.”
Times-News Open: Tournament website
Kilpatrick, 19, a two-handed lefty, wasn’t pleased with his performance in Saturday, where he started with 184, but he improved from there. But his game-plan worked better on Sunday, he said.
“Saturday I was throwing it slower and trying to finesse it too much, but then I came in today (Sunday) with a plan to think about less, and throw it harder and try to get them all to fall, and I ended up carrying better.”
Bithell, 49, also a lefty, had a mediocre day on Saturday, where he ended with two straight games of 185, but bowled five straight games of between 213 and 268 on Sunday to climb into fourth.
“I made a lot of bad decisions on Saturday with ball choice,” Bithell said, “but today (Sunday) I just focused on how I was going to attack the lanes, and I had the right ball and played the right part of the lane.”
In sixth place going into Sunday’s semifinal is Corey Rapela (2,264), while Tom Petroff (2,256) is in seventh. In spots eight through 10 are Cody Tomlinson (2,230), Dave Lanagan (2,191) and six-time TN-Open champion Mike Shady (2,185), respectively.
“I’m a little taller and a little smarter now,” joked Rapela, 24, who has grown from 5 feett, 8 inches to 6 feet, 4 inches since he first entered the tournament in 2015. “I could have done a little better, but I’m happy with the way I bowled this weekend, and now it’s onto the next.”
Petroff is making a comeback after undergoing hip surgery in September.
“I’ve only been back bowling for six weeks, but I’m happy with how I did,” said Petroff, 49. “Even though I’m pretty sore, I wasn’t going to miss bowling with all the guys, and getting out here and bowling in this once-a-year event.”
Tomlinson, who missed last year’s tournament with back problems, said that he’s doing well physically this year, and is thrilled to be back.
“Finally my back doesn’t hurt, I lost some weight, and it’s the best physically and mentally I’ve felt in some time,” Tomlinson, 29, said. “I made some boneheaded mistakes, but I’m very happy with how I did.”
Chris Jacobs, in 16th place (2,152), had the weekend’s only 300 game, in the first game on Saturday.
Dave Fetzner, at 2,073, was the last bowler to make the cut, while Paul Marnella, just three pins behind (2,070), was the first bowler out.
After Sunday’s semifinal, at 1 p.m. at Westway, the field will be cut to 16, with the 16-game match-play finals taking place at Rolling Meadow Lanes and Eastway Lanes on Jan. 29-30, beginning at noon each day.
1 Mitchell, T.J. A 1262-1221—2483
2 Machuga, Michael B 1208-1173—2381
3 Kilpatrick, Killian A 1123-1165—2288
4 Bithell, Cory A 1072-1211—2283
5 Eighmy Jr., Lee A 1171-1098—2269
6 Rapela, Corey A 1112-1152—2264
7 Petroff, Tom B 1118-1138—2256
8 Tomlinson, Cody B 1150-1080—2230
9 Lanagan, David A 1040-1151—2191
10 Shady, Mike B 1122-1063—2185
11 Kightlinger, Nick B 1081-1100—2181
12 Martin, Dan B 1156-1010—2166
13 Mackowski Jr., Dan A 1225-930—2155
13 Twaroski, Kylle A 1088-1067—2155
13 Bille, Dave B 959-1196—2155
16 Jacobs, Chris A 1084-1068—2152
17 Lariccia, Ryan A 1022-1125—2147
18 Dodson, Joshua A 1092-1054—2146
19 Warren, David A 1032-1109—2141
20 Francis, Daniel A 1061-1068—2129
21 Martz II, Jake B 1077-1038—2115
22 Johnson, Dave B 1063-1050—2113
23 Baird, Rodrick B 1141-970—2111
24 Jannazzo, Chris A 1075-1031—2106
25 Tuzynski Jr., Charlie A 1097-1006—2103
26 Goodman, James A 1054-1048—2102
27 Prue, Randy B 1001-1093—2094
28 Wyant, Edward B 1003-1078—2081
29 Lafuria, Lou B 1100-979—2079
30 Knittel, Andrew A 1115-959—2074
30 Berlin Jr., Ken B 1003-1071—2074
32 Fetzner, Dave B 984-1089—2073
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Mitchell emerges as Times-News Open leader