Butler boys sneak into states, girls roll to 1st region title


BUTLER TWP — Jacob Cookson did the math and did not like what the numbers were telling him. 

No matter how many times the junior on the Butler boys bowling team tallied the figures, the Golden Tornado came up a few precious pins short of sixth place at the Western Pennsylvania Regional tournament and a spot in the Pennsylvania State High School Bowling Championships. 

“We were all crushed to think we were going to miss it again,” Cookson said. “We all did the math a bunch of times.” 
As it turned out, their math was a little off. 
The Tornado were sixth, not Hopewell. For the first time in the program’s short history, Butler was off to the state tournament, which will begin Friday and conclude Saturday at Dutch Lanes in Ephrata, Lancaster County. 

“I was actually the one that kept my head down the whole time,” said senior Brandt Fleming. “I was the one who had a huge doubt that we were going to make it. When they announced (we made it), it was insane. Everyone around me who saw me said my face went from this blank expression to complete joy in just four seconds.” 
Butler had knocked on the door to the state tournament in recent years, only to be denied. 
“The boys have been trying for four years to get to states,” said Butler boys and girls bowling coach Bill Fay. 

That made getting there this season all the more satisfying. 
“We all started crying, basically,” Cookson said. “We were so happy.” 
Cookson also will compete in the singles tournament, which will be held on Friday. 
Fay said that will be a huge advantage for Cookson when it comes to team competition on Saturday. 
“He’ll get to know the lanes, get a feel for them,” Fay said. 
Cookson and the Butler boys won’t be alone. The Butler girls team also will be competing for a state title. 

The Tornado girls took a bit of an easier road to Lancaster County, winning the regional for the first time in school history. 

“I think they have a terrific chance (to win a state championship),” Fay said. “We don’t know a lot about the teams on the Eastern side of the state. All they can control is how they do. If they do their best, I think they have a great shot.” 
Senior Autumn Hepler said the team has a great deal of confidence heading into the state tournament. 
“We have really good momentum built up right now and we’ve been working really well as a team,” Hepler said. “That came out even more at regionals — that was the best we have worked together as a team all season. It was just a really good feeling.” 
Teamwork is important because of the way the state tournament is structured. 
Teams bowl three traditional games and then six “Baker” games. 
In the Baker Format, five teammates combine to bowl one 10-frame game. The first bowler rolls frames one and six, the second bowler frames two and seven and so on. The fifth bowler, usually the top scorer on the team, bowls the fifth and the all-important 10th frames. 
That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on each bowler to make his or her two frames count. 
“It’s so much different,” Hepler said. “In a regular game, you can throw a bad shot and make up for it next time. In this format, you get two frames per game. That’s it. Your focus has to be there.” 
Hepler, though, said the format gives Butler and edge because of how well they fit together. 

“If you’re not together as a team, you’re going to really struggle,” Hepler said. “It’s a great format for us because it really brings out the team who can really work together and who can handle the pressure as a team and perform when they really need to. We’ve done that well.” 
Senior Brea Suchonic agreed. 
“I’m just proud of all the girls,” she said. “We just have to keep going the way we’ve been going, focus on your own game and pick up the spares. We all get along really well and we all want to do well.”