The Stanhope Elmore girls bowling team capped off a dominant regional tournament with an AHSAA 2022 South Region Class 6A/7A girls bowling championship on Friday afternoon.
Stanhope, which was part of the eight-team south region field bowling at Spanish Fort’s Eastern Shore Lanes, cruised past its three opponents to claim the region championship.
The Mustangs beat McGill-Toolen Catholic 4-0 (659-474) in the quarterfinals, then beat Gulf Shores 4-0 (744-521) in the semifinals and Thompson 4-1 (864-806) in the region championship.
It was Stanhope’s first win over Thompson in school history.
The top four teams – Stanhope Elmore, Thompson, Baker and Gulf Shores – advance to play in the AHSAA Class 6A/7A state championship this week held at Alley Bowling Center in Gadsden on Jan. 27-28.
They’ll be joined by the North’s top four teams (Sparkman, Spain Park, Vestavia Hills and Southside-Gadsden).
“There wasn’t much coaching from my part this week,” Stanhope coach Bridget Wilson said. “Our girls know how to bowl. I thought our girls rallied together. […] Pretty much my girls just went in with a positive outlook, positive attitude and great sportsmanship. And they just worked well as a team. I couldn’t be more proud of how they stuck together when it came down to it.”
This year’s tournaments are now played in a baker format instead of traditional pin count. That means that each team will send out their best five players and they will rotate throughout the bowling match.
The first bowler will bowl frames 1 and 6, while the second bowls frames 2 and 7, third bowls 3 and 8, fourth bowls 4 and 9, and the fifth bowler bowls frames 5 and 10. The winner of the game is determined by which team of five has a higher score after 10 frames.
The two teams play a best-of-7 series to determine an overall winner.
That changed from the traditional pin count during COVID, and this is the first full season to have it implemented.
Stanhope’s team consists of seven girls who rotate throughout the five-player rotation. The seven players included are senior Meghan Best, junior Kaylee Watts, sophomores Alyssa Ward and Samantha Wilson, eighth grader Chassity Abbott, and seventh graders Madison Morgan and Mya Taylor.
Wilson said the baker tournament levels the playing field for teams that aren’t necessarily powerhouses like Thompson or Stanhope Elmore since it’s not a traditional pin count.
Before the format was changed to bakers, teams like Stanhope could rack up over 1,000 pins in a game and their opponent may only get 600 or 700 and then they’re too far behind to catch up.
With a baker game, the total pin count doesn’t matter and teams just have to be able to win a game of 10 frames, which makes the playing field more level.
“The playing field is leveled when you play like this,” Wilson said. “It’s all about making your spares. You can make your strikes all day long, but if you don’t make your spares then it’s going to be tough to win. Going into state, the north has some fabulous teams as well and it’s going to be interesting to see how the baker format changes the look of the tournament.”
Stanhope looks to be the favorite coming out of the south region after winning its three games in dominant fashion, while the north features some very talented teams as well.
Sparkman won the north regional last week, beating Northridge 4-0, Spain Park 4-0, and Vestavia Hills in the championship 4-1 (926-686).
“Obviously I think we have to keep the same mindset we went into regionals with. Teamwork and sportsmanship is always a plus. We just have to keep a positive attitude. Thompson was always that school we couldn’t beat, but now that we’ve beat them finally, I think that can help us get that push and maybe beat them again. I think we have some good momentum going into state. We will go in as strong as we always have. If we bowl well, we will do well.”
The Stanhope Elmore boys, coached by Kenny Wilson, Bridget’s husband, also played in the south regionals hosted last week. The Mustangs, however, were knocked out in the quarterfinals round by Baldwin County 4-0 (1,234-1,066). They did not advance to the state championship this week.
Baldwin County went on to win the boys regional championship.