The winner and runner-up of the New England 9-Ball Series’ Tour Championships, held last weekend (January 15-16), returned to the tables after markedly varying amounts and types of absence. Lukas Fracasso-Verner, who went undefeated to claim the event title, has worked his way up the ‘revenue’ ladder in recent years, after what was his best earning year (2019) to date, when he won two stops on the tour and was also the Empire State 9-Ball Champion that year. The following year, thanks to the pandemic, he won just three (registered) events and finished runner-up three times in the NE 9-Ball Series. In 2021, he cashed in nine events, including a win over a 2nd Coincidental event on the Joss Tour and an undefeated run to claim the MD State 10-Ball title; his first major win in nearly two years. Fracasso-Verner kicked off 2022 with this most recent undefeated run at the $5,000-added Tour Championships, which drew 55 entrants to Crow’s Nest in Plaistow, NH.
On the losing side, where he won five in a row for the right to face Fracasso-Verner in the final, was 68-year-old Robert Lewis, in other words Chelsea Grinder and also in other words Machine Gun Bobby, who reportedly “hasn’t been on much lately”. He came back to the tables for this Tour Championship event, where his second-place finish led to his first (recorded) cash finish in any event, anywhere.
Fracasso-Verner (704) and Lewis (629) both came from the upper echelons of the event, where they met in a winners’ quarter-final for the first of two matches. Lewis had taken advantage of a first round forfeit, a 6-3 win over Daniel Simoneau and a shutout from Joe Meuse before facing Fracasso-Verner, who sent him to the loss 7-1. Fracasso-Verner advanced to a semifinal matchup against Chad Bazinet. From the bottom brackets, it was Paul Kazalski and Tiffany Vuong who advanced to their face-off in the semi-finals of the other winners.
Fracasso-Verner defeated Bazinet 6-3 and faced Kazalski in the hot seat match, who had sent Tiffany Vuong west 5-3. To his credit, Kazalski made the most of a (Fargo Rated) hot seat match that favored Fracasso-Verner by nearly 70 percentage points (84.6 to 15.4). Kazalski battled Fracasso-Verner to double the mound (9-3) before Fracasso-Verner closed it to claim the hot seat.
Meanwhile, “Chelsea Grinder” (Lewis) had opened his campaign on the loss side with a double hill win over Steve Sutton and backed it up with a 6-3 win over John Vitale, to draw Bazinet, coming from the winners semi-finals. Vuong drew Curtis Wright, who had lost his opening game to David Ty and was on a six-game win streak on the losing side that recently knocked out Adam Blair 5-2 and knocked out Ty 5-3 in a rematch.
Wright took it one step further, beating Vuong 6-1, while Lewis was busy advancing to the quarter-finals with a 6-3 win over Bazinet. Lewis then ended Wright’s series 7-3 in those quarterfinals.
Kazalski came into the semi-final against Lewis with a handicap similar to the one he could have used against Fracasso-Verner in the hot seat match. In the semi-finals, as Lewis raced to 8, Kazalski raced to 4. Kazalski came up one rack short to force a second straight, double hill, the deciding game for himself, but eventually Lewis pushed forward to take the 8. win -2.
The second meeting between Fracasso-Verner and Lewis turned out to be an exact replica of their first meeting in the winners’ quarterfinals. For the second time, Fracasso-Verner defeated Lewis 7-1 to claim the event title.
Tour Director Marc Dionne thanked Crow’s Nest property and staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Predator, Poison, Arcos II, BCAPL, USAPL New England, Fargo Rate, AZBilliards, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, MJS Construction , Master Billiards, OTLVISE, Outsville, Salotto and Just The Tip Cue Repair and Custom Accessories.
The New England 9-Ball Series returns to Crow’s Nest this weekend (Sunday, January 23) for the 2022 season opener, $600 added.