Sectional bowling begins today

In every sport, there are teams or players that are considered favorites or that stand out from the pack.

On the bowling lanes this year, the teams to watch on both the boys’ and girls’ side are the Austintown Fitch Falcons.

“It’s an honor that teams think of us in that regard,” said Fitch boys coach Dino Balkin. “But when we get out there competing, when sectionals start, each one of them has to bowl as a team. We have to take it one step at a time and that starts today at sectionals. They know that every pin counts.”

The sectional tournament for the boys and girls will be rolled today at Bell-Wick Bowl in Hubbard. The girls will bowl first, followed by the boys’ tournament.

The reason the Fitch boys are one of the favorites to advance out of sectionals, and have a good chance to make it to the state tournament, is that they finished the season with a 13-5 record and finished fourth last year at state. They also won the All-American Conference, American Division title on Wednesday.

“They know they have to work as a team,” Balkan said. “They have to have each other’s back.”

Like the boys, the girls also won the AAC American Wednesday. But unlike their male counterparts, the girls have been playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. It’s a chip that still digs into coach Don Morrison.

“We missed state by four pins last season,” Morrison said. “That one still hurts.”

The Falcons have been doing everything in their power to make sure they advance to Columbus this season. Fitch goes into today’s sectional with a 16-2 record and have been putting up solid, consistent numbers.

“Consistency is a really big thing for us,” Morrison said. “And obviously, you can’t have the peaks and the valleys, you want to be steady. We’re putting ourselves around 915 per game, and it could be a little better, but I’m happy there.

“(At the AAC tournament) we went 925 first game. Apparently they didn’t like that because they went out and shot 1,074 the second.”

To capture the AAC title on Wednesday, the Falcons had to defeat the Hubbard Eagles, a team that handed them one of their two losses this season. On the other hand, the Falcons beat the Eagles twice, and Hubbard coach Carol Kozbial knows the Falcons are the real deal.

“They outbowled us both times,” Kozbial said. “They bowled well. They are the young, up and coming team in the area.”

While Kozbial gives credit to the Falcons, her team is another heavy favorite going into the postseason. The Hubbard girls have built a legacy when it comes to the state bowling tournament. The team has been runners-up the past two seasons and in 2010, the team finished in the final four.

Going into today’s sectional, the team is 15-2 and have prepared themselves the best they could for the upcoming postseason.

“We’ve bowled a lot outside of the county in different tournaments to see what else is out there,” Kozbial said. “When you go to different tournaments, it lets you see what else is out there, what the other counties have to offer.”

In today’s sectional, 23 girls teams and 24 boys teams will compete for the chance to advance to the district tournament, which will be bowled Feb. 23-24 at Crest Lanes in Warren. Out of the sectional, six teams and six individuals from both the boys and girls side will advance.