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As a collegiate bowler for Erie Community College, Ryan Ciminelli is picking up just where he left off in his junior career.

The left-hander from Cheektowaga continued to add to his first-year resume when he was named first-team All-American and Rookie of the Year by the National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association. ECC's last first-team All-American was Joe Ciccone in 1994.

Ciminelli got word of his selection at the Intercollegiate Bowling Championships pretournament awards banquet this week in Rockford, Ill. His coach, Roy Decibus, had not alerted his star player to the honor that was about to come his way.

"I was definitely shocked," Ciminelli said. "I was hoping -- everyone hopes for it -- but I was not expecting it. Having one of the higher averages definitely helped, but it's not easy being a rookie and coming out of a community college."

The other first-team selections were P.J. Haggerty and Ivan Miyasato of Fresno State, Brian Valenta of Lindenwood and Rhino Page of Kansas. Ciminelli was runner-up to Haggerty in the voting for Most Valuable Player for the 2004-05 season.

Ciminelli is in Rockford with the ECC team for the IBC championships, strictly a team endeavor. All games are Baker games.

"I love the Baker. It's the only way to bowl teams," said Ciminelli.

Ciminelli will get his shot at individual glory May 22-24 at the USBC Collegiate Singles championship in Milwaukee. He qualified by winning the sectional qualifier in Allentown, Pa., averaging 243.7 for six games. In all, he won individual honors at four tournaments his freshman year. He captured the all-events title at the junior college nationals at Thruway and Lancaster lanes last month, when he averaged 234. He also captured the Nittany Lion Classic, averaging 238.7, and the Mardi-Bob Classic during the season.

"Probably leading the overall average for all collegiate bowling is the biggest thing," Ciminelli said of his highlight for the season.

Last year, Ciminelli won the prestigious ABC Junior Masters tournament in Milwaukee, defeating Erik Westfield of Depew, younger brother of ECC teammate Cody Westfield, in the final. Ciminelli thinks his game has gotten stronger since then.

"My physical game hasn't changed," he said. "The change is definitely mentally. I'm getting more versatile, smarter about lane conditions."

Another Western New York bowler, Lindsay Baker of Amherst, is making a splash on the collegiate bowling front. Baker, the niece of PBA bowler Tom Baker, made a major contribution last week as Nebraska captured its second consecutive NCAA women's championship in Orlando, Fla.

Baker, a freshman, averaged 234 for four games scored traditionally.

Pin chasers

The merger of the Buffalo Bowling Association, the Buffalo Women's Bowling Association, the Erie County Suburban Women's Bowling Association and the Erie County YABA cleared its final hurdle Wednesday night when the BBA's council of delegates passed the merger proposal, 48-0. The BWBA approved it last month, 28-0, at a general meeting. The new merged local association hopes to begin operations Aug. 1.

Ciminelli -- there's that man again -- bowled an 826 series (279-268-279) for Alden Lanes in a 17 1/2 -15 1/2 loss to Orchard Park last week in the BPA Buffalo Beverage/Miller Lite All-Stars traveling league. Spare Time opened a 23-point lead over second-place Southgate after routing Broadway, 28-5.

When it's time for the Don Smith Memorial League at Victoria Lanes in East Aurora to pass out awards, the late Stan Hoffman will be remembered. Hoffman, who died last month at age 59, was the league's top bowler, averaging 204 for the season.

The Buffalo Bowling Association's 79th annual Championship and Handicap Tournament gets under way Sunday at Spare Time Bowling Center in West Seneca. The tournament will run through May 7. . . . Entries close May 1 for the association's 42nd annual George A. Obenauer Masters Tournament at Thruway Lanes on May 10-15.

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