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It was almost a year ago when Adam Baer’s bowling struggles began.

His drive and his intensity — the traits that made him a four-time Bud Light York County Match Play champion — were all but gone.

That led Baer to question his spot in the sport. He dropped his Professional Bowlers Association card and thought about giving up the sport competitively. Things changed, however, one day in February when Baer turned on the television to watch the United States Bowling Congress Masters.

Suddenly, his competitive juices were flowing again. The drive to capture another major bowling title again became a priority.

Sunday morning at Lion Bowl in Red Lion, Baer found himself again holding a championship trophy. Leading by a very comfortable 101 pins heading into the final round of the 24-game tournament, Baer extended his Match Play record by claiming his fifth title.

The powerful right-hander tallied 1,530 pins to easily outdistance last year’s champion, Mike Spangler (1,360), by 170 pins. Eric Smith finished third with a 1,247.

“This is hard,” said Baer, who finished runner-up to Spangler in last year’s tournament. “To win it once is hard and to win it twice is even harder. There are like four guys that have ever won it twice (Baer included) in 21 years, so it’s hard.”

As hard as it may be, it was certainly more satisfying for Baer personally. He’s had to deal with some personal life struggles over the past year, which cast a cloud over his career.

“This means a lot,” he said. “I haven’t won a tournament since I won this back in 2014 so it’s been awhile. I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs personally," he said. "The guys that really know me know that the last year has been pretty hard on me. I kind of lost my competitiveness some and also my fire. But it’s coming back.”

Winning events such as the Match Play, which awards (or deducts) one pin for every pin above (or below) 200, will only fuel his desire. Winning convincingly won’t hurt either.

Baer, who was in third place after the first day of qualifying at Colony Park Lanes North, rebounded to take the lead after Day 2. He maintained his grip on that lead throughout the rest of the tournament by averaging an impressive 255 pins per game.

That made life difficult on the field, but Spangler did his best to give Baer some competition. The defending champ won his first match Sunday with Baer — which netted him 30 pins — after bowling a perfect 300 game. Baer, however, nearly matched him after rolling a 267 which netted Spangler, who was in third place at the time, only 63 pins against the leader.

Knowing it would take a miracle to defend his crown, Spangler was able to relax heading into his final match, and his second match with Baer.

“It’s different,” Spangler said, noting that last year it was Baer who was chasing him heading into the final game. “The pressure is off of me. It’s on the person that’s in first to stay there.”

Spangler did his best to make things interesting by rolling six consecutive strikes to begin the final showdown. But after leaving the 3-pin in the seventh, his chances of pulling off a remarkable comeback were all but dashed. An open frame in the ninth officially put things out of reach. Baer had a 270 in the finals, while Spangler had a 231.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

Bud Light York County Match Play Championship

At Lion Bowl

Final Standings

1. Adam Baer – 1,530

2. Mike Spangler – 1,360

3. Eric Smith – 1,247

4. Joshua Coleman – 1,210

5. Andy Carson – 1,175

6. Chuck Crone – 1,168

7. Dave Zelger – 1,122

8. Jerred Poff – 1,099

9. Guy Johnson – 1,084

10. Greg Bruff - 979

11. Paul Wolfram Jr. - 583

12. Cody Shoemaker - 563

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