As defending BowlerMaxx York County Match Play champion, Eric Smith's first goal was to qualify for match play.
The smooth right-hander from Dallastown accomplished that in high style this past weekend when he qualified first in a field of 58 bowlers, which included nine former match-play champs.
Smith set the pace, averaging 250 for 12 games, six at Colony Park North and six at Suburban Bowlerama. He leads Josh Coleman, who finished second last year, by 23 pins.
When asked if he was where he wanted to be going into match play this weekend, he replied: "Absolutely. I'm very happy to be in first place."
Smith briefly fell out of first place after he rolled a 208 the first game of qualifying at Suburban Bowlerama on Sunday. He rallied, however, and secured the top spot with a strong finish, which included games of 279, 300 and 276.
Smith has a chance to become only the second bowler in the 24-year history of the tournament to win back-to-back titles. Five-time champ Adam Baer accomplished the feat in 2010 and 2011.
Smith hopes to widen his margin when the BowlerMaxx York County Match Play Championship begins with six games at 1 p.m., Saturday, at Lion Bowl, and concludes at 10 a.m., Sunday, at Laser Alleys.
"I look forward to head-to-head competition in match play," said Smith, one of 12 bowlers who advanced to match play. "I think that is one of my fortes. I believe match play brings out the best in bowlers."
In match play, each bowler receives plus or minus the number of pins above or below 200 each game and 30 bonus pins for a win.
Each bowler rolls one game against every other bowler in the field. The final game is a position round, pitting 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6 and so forth.
"Anything can happen in match play because those bonus pins are so huge," said Smith, who won all six of his matches at East Lincoln Lanes the first day of match play last year. "If I had won just five of the six matches, I wouldn't have won the tournament."
Smith went on to win four of six matches at South Hanover Lanes and defeat Josh Coleman by 12 pins.
In match play, bowlers start with the number of pins over 2,4000 they tallied in qualifying.
Bowlers in match play and their beginning scores are: Smith (603); Josh Coleman (580); Justin Mong (561); Terry Miller (557); Cody Shoemaker (522); Richard Wolfe (501); Kevin Appnel (496); Paul Wolfram (480); Adam Baer (422); Scott Schnur Jr. (411); Andy Carson (408) and Mike Spangler (402).
Reach Barry Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was provided through the York Area Bowling Proprietors Association.