Steve Jaros and Mark Williams had things their own way Friday and dominated the match-play qualifying at Eastway Lanes for today's final of the Professional Bowlers Association $180,000 SplitFire Spark Plug Open.
Jaros led the last five rounds in the six-game block preliminaries and averaged 240 for 42 games to earn the top seed. Today's stepladder finals (3 p.m., Ch. 7), worth $39,000 for the winner, will be held in the Erie Civic Center before an expected crowd of more than 4,500.
A two-time winner in his 12th year on the PBA Tour, Jaros was 16-8 in match play with 10,090 actual pins and a 10,570 total, including a 30-pin bonus for each win.
Williams, a six-time champion in 16 Tour seasons, averaged 238 and went 15-9 in match play. He was 98 total pins behind Jaros.
Trailing Jaros by 330 pins, Danny Wiseman held on to earn the third seed. Walter Ray Williams Jr. moved up from eighth entering the sixth round to claim the fourth position, 437 pins out of first. And Mike Edwards, 450 pins out, soared from 14th to earn the fifth spot for today's finals.
Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, who won last week's Tum's Classic in Windsor Locks, Conn., finished 16th and earned $2,300 after being as high as 10th with six games left.
Jaros started slowly Friday night but picked up the pace in the last five games.
"I thought the Lanes hooked a little bit more tonight than they had earlier in the week," Jaros said. "I had to get the ball to the break point a little earlier and I was able to make a better shot. When that happened, I was able to put a little distance between myself and Mark."
Mark Williams was steady Friday night until hitting a bumpy stretch in the middle of the round. "I just never got any strikes going and they threw a couple of 250-games against my low 200s, but I still had a good week," he said. He was 15-9 in match play.
A TV finalist three weeks ago, Mark Williams expects high scoring today, "but the atmosphere will be the same for everybody. I've averaged 240 this week (actually 238.6), I'm just gonna go out and bowl my best and if the scores are high, that's fine with me."
Wiseman, who has won four titles in eight PBA seasons, held third place throughout Friday night's round. He averaged 234.
Walter Ray Williams, who won here in 1993 and has won 15 times in 16 PBA seasons, defeated Joe Firpo, 249-199, in the position round to clinch fourth place. He averaged 230.9 for the 42 games.
Edwards, who has one title in 14 seasons on the tour, was drained after his climb from 14th. "It was absolutely nerve-racking," he said after beating Brian LeClaire in the position round and edging David Traber for the last TV spot by seven pins.
Jurek was hopeful entering the last round of play.
"I narrowed the gap a little bit. Stranger things have happened out here," he said. "I've watched it so maybe I can be a part of it for a change."
Jurek opened Friday night with a pair of 258 games, both victories, before going off stride.