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PROS PICK EM: Selecting The Right Strike Ball Is A Process

Virtually every tournament bowler, and most serious league bowlers, carries multiple balls in his or her arsenal. High-level bowlers carry as many as six or eight. All, of course, attack the lanes in a different way. And the purpose of carrying so many choices is because lane conditions offer such diverse challenges.

Once you are on the lanes, however, selecting the right ball isn’t automatic. Throwing several balls during the practice time before a block or league session begins will give you the information you need to make a decision. Even then the choice might not be obvious. Sometimes none of the balls seem to hit the pocket. Other times you’ll find yourself striking with two or three different balls. When that happens, how do you choose the best option? The pros are faced with that dilemma occasionally, and several offered insight into how they come to a decision.

Mike Fagan: It’s a process, and I try to keep an open mind. I don’t want to come in saying, “This is the ball I have to throw.” I try to come in with a range of balls that will complement each other, but if the first one I throw feels good off my hand and reacts the way I want it, I might not even go to another ball. Most importantly, I don’t want to make dramatic changes as the block goes on. I might make a few subtle changes, like using the same ball with a different drilling, or using the same drilling on a different ball.

Mika Koivuniemi: I don’t like to throw too many strikes in practice because I know the lanes are going to change. If I strike too much with one ball in practice, I’m not going to throw that ball. If I have a ball that feels good and goes through the pins, I’ll stop using it until the end of practice.

Bill O’Neill: I look for the angle into the pins. Even if a ball is striking, if it’s deflecting in the pocket I know it’s not going to continue to strike because the angle isn’t right. And if I see a ball going too sharp into the pocket and running over the 8 pin all the time, that’s probably not the ball either because when I miss it’s going to split. So I look for the ball that runs straight through the pins between the 8 and 9. It’s not always there, so you may have to go with one of the other two reactions, but if more than one ball is striking I’m going to choose the one that runs through the pins best.

Jason Belmonte: The first thing I look for is how the ball is going through the pins. Several balls may go through the pocket, but rarely does more than one ball go through the pins they way you’d like. I like to see all the pins go backwards. I like to see all 10 in the pit, instead of the messengers or the trip-4 pins. If I see one ball that does that, fantastic. If I see two balls doing that, my decision becomes a little more strategic. Then I have to determine which ball I think I can hold onto the longest before having to change or move. In three-game sets, it’s really important that you see your ball going through the pins right because the difference between a ring-10 and a strike could mean the difference between winning and losing a match.

Chris Barnes: If I’m on fresh oil, the strongest ball that goes through the pins wins. By strongest I mean the earliest-rolling ball. The early rolling ball follows transitions better and they read easier. I’ll always go with the earliest-rolling ball, the lowest RGs and slower response cover. High-response covers respond a lot to dry and oil. Low response covers react much less. It’s like a snow tire versus a slick tire. I always go to the snow tire early on because it’s more predictable and the changes in oil will be much more gradual. If I’m in between I’ll always go with the one that has the smoother shape.

Wes Malott: I had to make that very decision recently. I had a good look with two different levels of bowling balls. At first I thought I’d go with the mid-range ball because I thought I could stay with it longer. I was afraid that if I used the higher-end ball I’d have to get away from it sooner. But by the end of practice I didn’t quite see what I wanted from the mid-range ball, so I chose the high-end ball. I ended up being able to stay with it the whole block. That’s a decision you have to make, and you have to commit to it. The next day on fresh oil I started with the high-end and had to go away from it after three games. Sometimes the lanes will let you do it, sometimes they won’t.

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