Two in a Row—Appleton Now a Double U.S. Open Victor
U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships / Chesapeake, VA
Darren Appleton joined an elite group the eve of October 22—a group of only three 9-ball players, in fact. The players who have pulled off consecutive wins at the prestigious U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships now include Nick Varner (1989, 1990), Mika Immonen (2008, 2009) and now Appleton (2010, 2011).
At 1 p.m. Appleton faced off with the other undefeated player, Alex Pagulayan, in the hot seat match. Pagulayan, who won the Open in 2005 and was in the finals in 2002, staved off Appleton and held the lead at 6-4. But Appleton’s break was working, and so were his defensive moves. Though he had his chances, Pagulayan never won another rack in that match, as Appleton steamrolled through to an 11-6 win.
In the concurrent quarterfinal match, Dennis Hatch, who had played and won six matches Friday on the one-loss side to reach Saturday alive, and Shawn Putnam went up against each other. “Big Bubba” opened up the set with a four-pack and kept Hatch in his chair for most of the match. Finally Hatch won the eighth rack and raised his arms in the air to celebrate. Putnam took the next two and only allowed “The Hatchetman” one more game before breezing past him 11-2.
Putnam went on to meet Pagulayan in the semifinal match, where the score remained even for the first few games, but it didn’t take long for Pagulayan’s little mistakes to catch up to him. Putnam reached a 6-2 lead, but Pagulayan fought back to 6-4. A scratch by “The Lion” gave Putnam the next rack, and then he broke and ran the following one. However, Pagulayan wasn’t done—he took the next four racks to knot the score at 8.
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An empty break, though, spelled doom for him as Putnam was gifted a 4-9 combo to go up one and then employed his jump cue to win the next rack to reach the hill 10-8. The last rack was pure heartbreak for Pagulayan fans: A safety battle led to Pagulayan kicking in the 3 ball and hanging the 9 at the same time. He got out of line for the 6 and even worse position on the 8, which he and Jimmy Wych attributed to the balls skidding. A long sharp cut shot on the 8 ball was missed, giving Putnam the table with two balls left and the match 11-8.
The final match was a reversal for Putnam and his match with Hatch, as Appleton raced to a 6-0 lead in the extended race to 13. His break was dialed in, and Putnam really wasn’t allowed to the table too often. In the seventh rack Appleton scratched on the 4, and Putnam got on the board and won the next two as well. But when Putnam scratched on his next break, Appleton cleared that table and then broke and ran the next … and the next, with a long-rail bank on the 9 to top things off and bring the score to 9-3 in his favor.
They traded the next four racks, with a great deal of defensive play occurring. Appleton made three balls on his next break, and though they both missed the 3 ball, Putnam lucked in the 7 ball and ran out. But again, his problems with the break came up again and he scratched, and Appleton cleared the table to reach the hill 12-6. In the last rack, Appleton made one ball on the break—but it was all he needed. He broke apart the 2-8 cluster when he shot the 2, and as sparkling wine corks popped in the background, he coolly pocketed the remaining balls to take his second U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in a row.
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