HANOVER — Mike Spangler was just a few minutes from capturing his first Bud Light York County Match Play championship at South Hanover Lanes Sunday morning.
Leading by a nearly insurmountable 112 pins heading into the final match of the tournament, it would have taken an epic collapse for the 27 year old to fail.
To everyone watching, the suspense was all but over.
But it wasn’t.
Averaging more than 220 pins per game during the two-weekend tournament, Spangler needed to stay within 82 pins of second-place Adam Baer in the final match of the tournament to claim the trophy. The winner of the final match received a 30-pin bonus.
But the pressure of playing for his first crown against a guy such as Baer, who has earned three of his titles in comeback fashion, proved more than troublesome. Throw in the tough conditions on lane five, one of the two that the final match was competed on, and things got more than a little dicey.
Baer did almost everything he could do to pull off an impossible feat. Needing to strike out in the 10th frame, Baer instead rolled a first-ball nine. That gave Spangler, who rolled just a 159 in the final, a chance to close it out with just 17 pins.
A spare and a final ball strike did the trick. The visibly relieved Spangler earned the crown after finishing with 1,302 pins, besting Baer, who finished with 1299. Baer rolled a 238 in the finals.
“It feels good now,” said Spangler, whose previous best finish in the event was sixth. “I knew that (Adam) wasn’t going to go easy.
Opens in both the third and fifth frames gave Baer a chance to make up a lot of ground in the one-vs.-two showdown. Baer took advantage by putting up strikes in four of the first five frames.
Needing six strikes over his final five frames, Baer missed twice, which left just enough room for Spangler to survive.
“I just got lucky a couple of times where he left the 10 pin,” Spangler said. “I knew I just had to keep fighting. I had to figure something out on lane five, but never really figured it out. But I was able to hold him off just enough.”
Not many believed that Spangler, who dominated the field through the first three-plus days of the tournament, would be under any pressure at all. That included Spangler, who at one point on Sunday led Baer by 144 pins.
“I was just thinking ‘go out there and throw another great game,'” he said of his thoughts before the final. “I was throwing the ball pretty well all day.”
After another open in the ninth, Spangler was teetering on the edge of collapse heading into the 10th frame. After leaving just the 10 pin on his first attempt, the right-hander connected on his spare attempt. He then threw a strike to end it, his sense of relief visible on his face.
“I missed four or five of those (10 pins) this tournament,” he said. “So that was sort of in my head.”
While Spangler was relieved, Baer was pretty frustrated with himself. Coming so close, all he could think about were the balls throughout the day that could have changed the outcome had he converted.
“I put myself in a bad spot,” he said. “But it’s never over until it’s over. I knew that Mike’s never been in this position before and that if I just put some pressure on him, maybe it would go my way.”
Despite his frustration, the four-time champ was gracious in defeat.
“I feel that I bowled well this week,” he said. “And Mike had some really good hits that went his way. It was his time.”
BUD LIGHT YORK COUNTY MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
At South Hanover Lanes
1. Mike Spangler, 1,302. 2. Adam Baer, 1,299. 3. Jimmy Plessinger, 1,159. 4. Andy Carson, 1,128. 5. Eric Smith, 1,111. 6. Terry Miller, 1,044. 7. Brent Hunter, 1,041. 8. Josh Coleman, 1,009. 9. Adam Mobley, 989. 10. Steve Carbaugh, 842. 11. Jerpy Reinhart, 660. 12. Zach Zelger, 624.