Amateur 9-Ball Battles Reach Critical Stages; Final Four Set for Women, Juniors
Down to eight each, seniors’ division up for grabs, open laden with hard hitters
by Paul G.D. Berg
It is down to the strong and the stronger in Valley Forge. In the Super Billiards Expo’s grueling test of amateur bar table 9-ball prowess, the multiple brackets in three giant divisions have become yesterday’s news. The players lucky enough to find themselves still in contention have already conquered a six-match journey through one field of 64, in the case of the 864- and 384-player open and seniors’ events, a match more on a final combined bracket. Eight players return Sunday morning at 10 a.m. to the Diamond tables at the Amateur Players Championship. Four women are left standing out of 168, and in 14- and 19-and-under juniors’ competition where 64 started, the semifinals are ready to go at 11 a.m.
While all eight in the open event have proven themselves formidable, one warrior stood out at the end of Saturday night’s harrowing play. Craig McPartlin from the Detroit area is one of two players from the same pool room in Lincoln Park, MI that have made it this far. For McPartlin, the path was long and winding. In his final two matches of a long day, McPartlin first escaped from the edge of elimination facing Ike Runnels, and then clobbered past high-finisher Bucky Souvanthong in a third set whirlwind. Runnels conquered the first race hill-hill, but then watched a 4-1 lead in the second set turn into a 5-4 defeat, with a ball in hand combination on the nine that could have ended the match unsuccessful, and multiple scratches in a decline to a 5-1 ending in the case race, eliminating a tired Runnels in a tie for 17th-32nd place with $595 in winnings.
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The final set to break the knot with Souvanthong was the epitome of determination. The rest of the field had a good head start on the 9 p.m. round as McPartlin’s bout with Runnels took extended time, and the Joss Northeast fixture Souvanthong pounced on his prey when McPartlin arrived with a 5-3 win in the first set. Once again, McPartlin came back, mounting a cautious 5-4 win before unleashing swifter run-out play in the final stanza. A key 1-9 combination with ball in hand, slicing the 9ball in with plenty of distance to the corner pocket and the length of the table between the two yellow balls, gave McPartlin the hill, and he ran down it in the next with his first opening for another 5-1 closer. Souvanthong joined a group of good players left in 9th-16th place and receiving $750.
Veteran Larry Price will be the next challenge for the Michigander in the quarterfinals. Next to them in the draw are the high-octane pairing of U.S. Amateur champion Bill McCollim and Joey Ryan. Both have their break working, and while Ryan has polished off Jason Klatt and Tom Formando in his last two outings, McCollim has looked impervious since toppling Lee Holt in the round of 64. Gary Lutman was no match, and while Shinji Hase came in red-hot, he was in a stupor by the end of his 5-3, 5-1 beating, which concluded before McPartlin and Runnels were finished in the round of 32. The Pittsburgh vicinity is the stomping grounds for McCollim, and he was simply capable of no wrong in the round of 16, getting bumps of balls for position if need be, and blasting in banks or rolling in cuts at will.
In the other half of the open draw, another player out of owner Jesse Nyikon’s Ball & Cue & Brew in Lincoln Park. Danny Barnes joins McPartlin as representatives of a Detroit contingent that tore up the open brackets, many more making lesser cashing efforts. Shannon Schroeder barely escaped with a win in the round of 32 but was confounded by Barnes’ defensive patience and measured ball clearance. Perhaps the uneventful run for Barnes will get a bit bumpier in the quarterfinals facing Nelson Oliviera. Mike Miller and Matt Clatterbuck are the final pairing, with the latter having an off day and advancing anyway, and a prohibitive favorite to take the crown amongst local railbirds.
In the senior ranks, Stan Tourangeau was felled by Carmen Lombardo, but Lombardo in turn bowed out to Steve Shaw. With the heavies gone, Shaw moved on to the last eight to face Freddy Scott. Mike Boyer and Dave Daya are in their half of the quarterfinals, with Daya perhaps the best odds-on shot to emerge out of the four in the finals. In the top half, Dave Fernandez and Bob Telford face each other, and Ken Brisbon will try his luck with Ed Latimer. To close his bracket of 64 and reach the last eight, Latimer broke in some timely 9balls and overcame Joe Stem Jr. in a close contest, joining seven others with one board behind them and one to go.
Brittany Bryant remains a contender for the women’s title, taking Liz Lovely down in the quarterfinals after she had done the honors of sending tough out Tina Meraglio packing. Meraglio joined a group in a tie for 9th-16th place, the first paid with $300. Lovely and those tied in 5th-8th place earned $500, Kathleen Lawless in that group when she was bested by Brynani’s next foe, Teruko Cucculelli. The other semifinal match pits Ming Ng and Sherrie Frederick, who deposited Nicole Keeny and Jamie Drobnick in the fifth-place bunch to earn their shot at the finals.
For the youngest juniors, it is down to four boys under fourteen, as tough competitor Briana Miller fell to the run of Kevin Sun, who dismissed Jackson Jeffries in the last 16 before taking the rising young lady out of the field in the round of eight. Jake Humphries is up next for Sun in the semifinals, with Daniel Satinoff and Charles Vergaro vying for the other spot in the final. The slightly older crowd in the 19-and-under tournament has been whittled down to clear favorite Chris Futrell, who will have to earn his spot in the finals through another popular pick, Mac Harrell. Feared young player Richard Barney came up short, ending up falling in the final round of Saturday to Luther Farley to finish tied for 5th-8th. Josh Newman would land there as well courtesy of Farley’s semifinal opponent Sunday morning, Daniel Hill.
Finally, the 32 player pro-am progressed through two rounds. Mike Dechaine took out little table monsters Steve Moore and Jose Parica to reach the guaranteed money-back third round. With a two-game longer race format than other amateur-friendly events, the 7-5, 6-7, 7-6 nail-biter over Parica booked Dechaine a date with Matt Krah, who was the fastest through his two bouts. Dennis Hatch was hot on his heels with short matches as well and will play Darren Appleton in the quarterfinals. Straying from the professional to the nearly professional, Eddie Abraham survived a close match with Joey Testa to advance to tomorrow to try Danny Green in the third round, as the Baltimore wild man laid it on Shaun Wilkie in his opening match and continues to play well during the Expo. Rounding out the remaining field will be Richie Richeson taking on Norm Wines, who upended a grumbling, mumbling, and half-asleep Ryan McCreesh. “The Genie Man” was good-natured in defeat, wondering aloud to the spectators how the third set became such a festival of missed shots after tip-top play in the first two.
Some go without sleep through the night, as Saturday is the last chance to get downstairs and mix it up through the long waits for a spot on a challenge table. McCreesh will likely join the party until the wee hours once again, as the Super Billiards Expo nears its conclusion. Keep up with all of the fun from Valley Forge on InsidePOOLmag.com.