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Ryan Ciminelli bowls 300 game during Obenauer title match

What do you when you find yourself 16 pins behind in the third game of a do-or-die bowling match? Easy. You start bowling strikes and don’t stop until you get to a 300 game.

That’s what Ryan Ciminelli did Sunday to win the 53rd George A Obenauer Masters championship at AMF Airport Lanes in Cheektowaga.

The 30-year-old left-hander from Cheektowaga won a striking duel over John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda coming from behind with a perfect game to take the three-games total pinfall match, 687-662, forcing a second three game match against his fellow PBA Tour pro.

The second match turned out to be anticlimactic.

Ciminelli rallied with three strikes in the 10th frame of the opener of the final match while Szczerbinski was unable to convert the 4-10 split. Once in the lead Ciminelli coasted to his third Masters title and became the first No. 1 qualifier to go on and win the championship at least since 1989.

Ciminelli started the second game with three strikes and Szcerbinski never had a chance, losing by 90 pins, 277-187. With a 104-pin lead, Ciminelli coasted through the final game, 248-211, to win the match 752-601.

Technically, it’s been five years since Ciminelli won the second of his two Obies in 2011. It’s three in a row as far as he is concerned.

“I really haven’t been able to bowl in it the last four years,” Ciminelli said. “So it’s three in a row that I’ve entered that I’ve won. Nobody’s ever won three in a row. I put pressure on myself to try and do that.”

Ange Ciminelli, a 1977 Obenauer champion himself, helped his son out by retrieving a ball out of Ryan’s car. It was the ball Ciminelli used to bowl his 300.

“At first I didn’t have that ball,” Ryan Ciminelli said. “I tried it in practice and it was terrible.”

Making the change, though, turned out to be “huge,” he said. “I was desperate ... I threw that ball for the first time in Game Two of the first match,” Ryan Ciminelli said.

Despite the success, Ciminelli used two different balls in the first two games of the final match.

Ciminelli and Szczerbinski met in three matches on Sunday. The first time Szczerbinski edged Ciminelli, 638-637, in the final match of the winners bracket. Meanwhile, Curtis Foss of Medina defeated Matt Johnson of Grand Island, 617-601, in an elimination match in the losers bracket.

Ciminelli then eliminated Foss, 638-591, after losing the first game by four pins.

That set up the dramatic final with Szczerbinski. In the third game of their duel in the final, they each struck in the first five frames.

Szczerbinski left a 10-pin in the sixth frame while Ciminelli kept on striking. Szczerbinski left only one other pin, a 10-pin in the eighth.

“If you told me I was leading by 16 pins going into the last game and if you told me I was going to shoot 259, I would have taken my luck any day with that,” Szczerbinski said.

But Ciminelli began his relentless push and didn’t stop until he got to the finish.

The win was worth $2,700 to the reigning U.S. Open champion – a check for $1,500, plus paid entry and expenses to the next USBC Masters Championship. Szczerbinski’s share of the purse was $900.