Hometown champion

Avery takes top slot in state bowling tournament

BALDWIN — Brandon Avery has one more sports season left as an athlete at Baldwin High School and can think of only one other feat he could accomplish that might equal his state championship performance in bowling:

“Throwing a no-hitter in baseball against Mason County Eastern,” the Panther senior smiled.

Baseball practices start on Monday. But for now, Avery can still savor his individual state championship bowling performance in Division 4 last Saturday at Sunnybrook Lanes in Sterling Heights.

“My goal when I first started was to make the top 8 as I did last year and maybe go further,” Avery said.

But as far as winning the state title, “I thought he had a chance right from the start,” said Baldwin coach Nick Miller. “I figured once he made the cut, he was going to do fine in match play. I had a feeling he could win the tournament. You feel good about it but actually having it happen is a totally different thing too.”

Avery had qualified for the state finals by finishing sixth at the Division 4 regionals. He said he bowled “three to five times better” at the state tournament.

“I think it was my determination that I really wanted to be up there in the top,” he said. “This would be my final stand in my senior year.”

This was his third time at state. His best finish seventh last season. He was 20th as a sophomore.

There were 60 bowlers in the qualifying block, who rolled six games apiece. Avery had scores of 249, 248, 226, 143, 179 and 215 for a 1,260.

Avery then advanced to the Round of 16 where he beat Zach Ball of Sandusky 378-313 with games of 188 and 190 compared to 104 and 209 for Ball.

The Baldwin senior then went into the quarterfinal round and bowled games of 178 and 255 for a 433 to defeat Dan Oglenski of Harbor Beach, who bowled a 227 and 177 for a 404.

In the semifinals, Avery had scores of 205 and 188 for a 393 to defeat Robert Dietlin of Rogers City with a 188 and 182 for 370.

Avery advanced to the finals to face Keaton Holtz of Bad Axe and won handily 416-323.

“I felt like I dominated him,” Avery said. “I felt like mentally he wasn’t there which is why I pulled through. I know that we were both very excited to be there. It was his first time in the finals too.”

Avery had games of 242 and 174 compared to 161 and 162 for Holtz.

“I really didn’t start thinking of the state title until the second to the last match,” Avery said. “Before that, I was taking it one game at a time.”

“His mental game was really good,” Miller said. “He was determined. He stayed consistent. He bowled well under pressure. When he was down, he always came back. There was a time he was down by 49 pins but bowled seven (strikes) in a row to take the lead and put the pressure on the other guy.”

Avery started realizing he was going to be the state champ halfway through the last game.

“I realized he wouldn’t be able to catch back up,” Avery said. “I was smiling, but I kept bowling to finish the game.”

Also a quarterback for Baldwin’s football team and a pitcher for the baseball squad, Avery said being a bowling state champ is his biggest thrill as an athlete “by far.”

How does he top this?

“I would say pitching a no hitter against MCE,” Avery smiled, referring to Baldwin’s arch-rival, Mason County Eastern.

Avery is Baldwin’s first bowling state champion. He’s the first Baldwin bowler, Miller said to get past quarterfinals.

“He’s been there since the ninth grade on,” Miller said.

The school’s athletic director, Abe Williams, said there have also been Baldwin state champions in boys track.

Gracie Lemieux also bowled for Baldwin at state after finishing 10th at the state finals. She’s a junior and will return next season. She finished 30th with scores of 145, 167, 137, 172, 203 and 176 for a 1,000.

“She did extremely well,” Miller said. “I was very pleased with her performance. She averaged almost 180 her last three games of the tournament. I’m looking forward to next year’s season with Gracie returning. I have some good starting blocks for next year’s team.”

At the regionals last month in Alma, Lemieux placed 10th in singles to qualify for the state finals.

Her average has been a 160 this season and her best game is a 184.

“I’ve improved a lot,” she said. “I’m hoping to place in regionals and make it to state in singles and as a team.”

Looking ahead to 2011-12, Lemieux is hoping to have even more success.

She also plays softball.

“I enjoy both bowling and softball,” Lemieux said. “Bowling gets my arm ready for softball.”

Lemieux anticipates making the move from center field to first base this season.