Weir boys, Dover girls win OVAC 4-5A bowling; Conotton sweeps 1-3A

St. Clairsville's Jesse Baker rolls during the OVAC bowling tournament held Saturday afternoon at St. Clair Lanes in St. Clairsville.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE–Weir coach Bob Babinchak knows every pin counts. After Saturday OVAC Class 4A/5A championships at St. Clair Lanes, he’s got a glowing example to illustrate that point.

His Red Riders came from 33 pins down to runner-up East Liverpool at the start of the Bakers to capture their second OVAC championship in a row and third since 2020 by one pin.

“It came down to the last shot, and that’s how it is a lot of times,” Babinchak said. “It was close. That’s why the Bakers are so exciting. We didn’t even know how it ended up until they made the official announcement.”

Weir took the early team lead after the first game, posting a 994. Harrison Central actually was second with a 981 while the Potters were a few pins back, tied with Parkersburg South for fourth with a 912.

The Riders maintained their lead after two at 1,968, but Liverpool made a major jump after all five Potters’ bowlers posted their best individual scores in the second. The result? EL trailed by four after two.

By the end of the third, the Potters were leading, setting the stages for the Baker comeback and that one final shot.

That shot, taken by East Liverpool’s Nate Kelly, put a damper on an otherwise incredible afternoon of work for the Potters’ senior.

Kelly captured his first OVAC individual bowling championship, compiling an impressive 731 series. Tasked with his team’s final frame in Bakers, Kelly misfired on his first attempt and left him needed to pick up a difficult split to force a tie.

“That one pin, it hurt, a lot. I’m still thinking about it,” Kelly admitted. “All I needed in the 10th was to throw a strike, instead, I had a 4-7-10. One of my teammates picked that up earlier, and I thought if he could get it, I had a shot.

“If I would have picked up all three, we would have tied. I just couldn’t them all to fall as I got two.”

He did get plenty to fall throughout the tournament, however. After rolling a 226 in the first game, Kell posted a tournament-high 258 in the second to stay a few pins ahead of Weir’s David Bloomer, who trailed by six pins heading into the final frame.

The individual title also came down to the final frame, as Bloomer trailed by seven pins heading into that final frame.

If he struck out, it would place all the pressure on Kelly to do the same in order to win.

“He was right beside me and I knew if he struck out, I needed to also,” Kelly recalled. “But he threw a nine count, then a spare, and then a strike. I knew if I got around a double, it would be close.

“I knew where I was (on the score sheet) but I was just trying to have fun.”

Kelly rolled his first strike, then after all 10 pins fell on his second shot of the 10th, he let out a yell as he pumped his fist in exhilaration. Kelly did strike out, posting his best series.

The Potters’ top bowler finished fourth at the OVACs as a sophomore, but failed to crack 600 last year, posting a 571 to come in seventh.

“Any time you can get a 600 (or better), I’ll always take that, but they were just falling today,” Kelly said. “I tried to have a lot of fun and not think about things an entirely focus on the fact of how many pins I needed each time to stay ahead.”

Bloomer finished 27 pins back at 704. Dover’s Caleb German came in third with a 672, while Wheeling Park’s Kaden Miller (668) and Weir’s Shane Arnold (662) rounded out the Top 5.


On the girls’ side, Dover jumped out of the gate early, posting an impressive 954 after the first round, 173 pins ahead of East Liverpool.

The leaderboard was heavy with Tornadoes as four of Dover’s top bowlers were in the Top 7, including Jaelyn Feebish after the first round, as the junior posted a 235 to stay ahead of East Liverpool’s Addison Rudibaugh.

Back in sixth sat Dover senior Kaylie Gibson with a 188, more than a few pins off the lead. But Gibson didn’t stay in sixth long.

Gibson regained her composure and unleashed a 256 game, the second highest of any competitor, boy or girl. Weir’s Bloomer also posted a 258 in the boys’ tournament to tie Kelly for best individual game score.

After two rounds, Gibson now sat atop the leaders with a 444, 28 ahead of Rudibaugh. Gibson stayed strong in the final regulation game, posting a 204 to finish at 648. Rudibaugh, the Buckeye 8 individual champion, finished in second (621), followed by Dover’s Natalie Nealey (604), Brooke’s Tegan Williams (548) and Feebish (546).

Dover’s consistency allowed the Tornadoes to hold off East Liverpool for the team championship, 3,216 to 3,098. Brooke came in third (2,592), followed by Harrison Central (2,551) and Wheeling Park (2,526).

The defending girls’ 4A/5A champion was in the house, but was unable to defend that championship. That’s because the 2022 winner, Weir’s Savannah Moore, was one of two girls on the Weir boys’ championship team. As the Weir girls didn’t have enough competitors this season, the two young ladies are playing in the boys’ half of the tournaments.

“That’s how we were, co-ed, during the first OVAC tournament back in 2019-20,” Babinchak said. “She would have liked to have competed on the girls’ side, but she’s happy to help bring back another trophy.


Conotton Valley sweeps titles

PARKERSBURG — Conotton Valley rolled, impressively, to a sweep of the team titles Saturday afternoon at Pike Street Lanes.

The Rocket boys knocked over 3787 pins, which was 459 more than runner-up Barnesville. Union Local was third with a 3195.

The Conotton girls were even more impressive, knocking 3593 pins over. They were more than 1000 pins ahead of runner-up Barnesville. Union Local was third.

Conotton Valley’s Robert Myer rolled a 669 over three games to win the individual title. Junior teammate Bobby Brennan was second with a 606 and Union Local’s Mason Porter was third with a 603.

Rockets’ junior Mackenzie Willoughby posted a 621 to win the individual girls title by four pins over senior teammate Daphne Stuber.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.73/week.

Subscribe Today