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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: Ciminelli’s run adds more fuel to the debate

Would a victory in Thursday’s finals of the Rolltech Professional Bowlers Association Championship have moved Ryan Ciminelli ahead of Tom Baker to the top of the all-time men’s list of pros from Western New York?

It would have been the second major for the 29-year-old left-hander from Cheektowaga and his third straight title on what’s left of the PBA Tour. That certainly would have opened the discussion as to who is the best pro bowler to come out of the area.

Already Ciminelli has more titles, four, than other accomplished pros from the area − Brad Angelo, Jack Jurek, Joe Ciccone and John Szczerbinski. And he has more championships than past greats Tom Harnisch, Dick Ciprich and Jimmy Schroeder. Angelo, Ciccone and Brad Kiszewski won PBA Rookie of the Year, but none has captured as many titles or majors as Ciminelli.

Ciminelli would have been the first from Buffalo to win two majors. The only other Western New Yorker to win one was Baker, who at 61 is still competing on the PBA50 (the former Senior Tour). He won the World Championship in 2004 at age 49.

Also, Baker is the only local pro in the PBA Hall of Fame. He made it in the veteran status in 1999. He didn’t join the Senior Tour until 2005, when he won the first of his eight titles on that circuit.

On the regular tour, Baker owns 10 titles, the first in 1980. The last was the World in 2004. When wrist injuries nearly ruined his career, he went 10 years between titles, from 1986 to 1996. His Tour earnings to date are $2,119,468, not big money compared to the cash doled out in Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and even the NHL these days.

On Thursday, Ciminelli was bidding to become the first to win three consecutive PBA titles on American soil since Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia did it in 1971. He had won the Xtra Frame South Point Open and the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open last month in Las Vegas.

Ciminelli won the World Series of Bowling V Chameleon Championship as the top qualifier in 2013, defeating England’s Tom Barrett, 258-203, in the title match. In 2012, he was second in the Tournament of Champions, losing to Sean Rash, 239-205, in the final. His first Tour title was the Earl Anthony Memorial in Dublin, Calif., in the 2010-11 season.

Ciminelli did not shame himself with his performance in the 247-237 loss to Gary Faulkner, Jr., in the semifinal stepladder match on Thursday. Fighting to stay in the match, he struck in the sixth through the 10th frames. He left a 10-pin on his second ball in the 10th. A strike there would have put his max score in the 240s and added to the pressure on the less-experienced Faulkner. It certainly would have made things more interesting.

Faulkner did not buckle, however. He converted the 7-pin in the 10th, after it looked for an instant like he would have a 7-10 split to face and a possible open frame. Faulkner, 25, who helped Webber International University to the 2012 Intercollegiate Team Championship, went on to rout top qualifier EJ Tackett, 216-178, in the title match and became the second African-American to win a PBA title. The first was George Bradham, who won five Tour tournaments including the 1993 Tournament of Champions.

You again?

Coincidentally, Ciminelli faced Faulkner again Friday night in a single-game elimination semifinal of the World Series of Bowling PBA Viper Championship. Jakub Buttruff and Kim Bolleby met in the other semifinal with the one-game championship match to follow.

Johnson drafted, traded

Back from a successful week bowling in the World Women’s championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Liz Johnson made more history this week.

One of the highlights of Thursday’s draft of the Professional Bowlers Association League was Johnson’s selection by the Dallas Strikers. The Player of the Year in the revived Professional Women’s Bowling Association and the winner of the 2015 USBC Queens and the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Women’s Open, she became the second women selected for a PBA League roster. Kelly Kulick was the first in 2013. Later in this year’s draft, Danielle McEwan was selected by the Barbasol Motown Muscle.

Before the draft was over, Johnson and Ciminelli were traded by Dallas Strikers’ player-manager Norm Duke to the Portland (Maine) Lumberjacks in exchange for Shawn Maldonado and BJ Moore III.

In the World Women’s Tournament, Johnson won a gold in the team competition, silvers in all-events and Masters and bronze in trios.

Pin chasers

• The Board of Directors of the New York State USBC changed the eligibility rules for the annual Masters and Queens tournaments as they pertain to youth bowlers. Effective for the 2016 events, New York’s USBC-certified adult members will be eligible.

According to Roger Buckman, state association president, the change was made to encourage youth bowlers to compete in as many state and local youth USBC tournaments as possible and to safeguard youth bowlers’ amateur status.

Sara Snyder, a youth bowler from Depew, won the Classified Division of the 2015 NYS Queens Tournament. She would not have been eligible under the new rules.

• Jurek finished fifth in the PBA50 Challenge that winds up Saturday when Pete Weber and Parker Bohn III meet in the final match.