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Qualifying for the BowlerMaxx York County Match Play Championship is this weekend, but Eric Smith already feels the pressure of being the defending champ.

"My biggest fear is not making match play," confessed the smooth right-hander. "But, this tournament is tough enough without any additional pressure."

Smith knows being defending champ doesn't guarantee anything.

"The defending champ doesn't receive any extra pins, and the pins don't care who you are. You never know what's going to happen in qualifying. But, history shows that you usually have to average  230 to 240 to qualify for match play."

Six-game qualifying sessions will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 6, at Colony Park North, and 10 a.m., Sunday, April 7, at Suburban Bowlerama. The top 12 bowlers advance to match play the following weekend at Lion Bowl and Laser Alleys.

Smith is aware of the fact that on several occasions the defending champ hasn't qualified for match play.

"You can't get ahead of yourself in this tournament," he said.  "All that matters is getting to the second weekend of match play. Then, anything can happen."

Smith, who finished 12 pins ahead of Josh Coleman to win last year's title, will have to overcome the odds to repeat as Match Play champion. In the previous 22 years, Adam Baer is the only bowler to win the tournament in back-to-back years (2010 and 2011).

"That just shows you how challenging this tournament is," said Smith. "The competition is always top-notch and the field always includes multiple past champs. This is a tournament every bowler wants to win."

The Dallastown resident  has typically performed well in match-play competition. Prior to winning the title, he earned finishes of second, third, fifth, seventh and 10th. But this is the first time he has worn the target of defending champ.

Smith expects his comfort level and confidence will be high the second day of qualifying, which will be held at Suburban Bowlerama. Smith competes in a league there.

The defending champ plans to take a similar approach to last year when he made it a point not to look at the standings board throughout the tournament.

"Although you have to throw every ball like it's the most important shot ever, I'm trying to avoid putting too much pressure on myself. But, that's easier said than done," he admitted.

Reach Barry Sparks at sports@yorkdispatch.com. This story was provided through the York Area Bowling Proprietors Association.

PAST BOWLERMAXX YORK COUNTY MATCH PLAY CHAMPS

1996: Dave Zelger

1997: Billy Heltzel Jr.

1998: Tony Lewis

1999: Jeff Hamme

2000: Dave Zelger

2001: Brian Lafko

2002: No tournament

2003: Steve Carbaugh

2004: Chris Lakatosh

2005: Steve Carbaugh

2006: Scott Farley

2007: Ken Dixon

2008: Adam Baer

2009: Terry Miller

2010: Adam Baer

2011: Adam Baer

2012: Greg Bruff

2013: Jerred Poff

2014: Adam Baer

2015: Greg Bruff

2016: Mike Spangler

2017: Adam Baer

2018: Eric Smith 

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