OTTUMWA – On paper, it looked like an even battle.
If the Fairfield girls bowling team had an average day, it would have been.
Instead, the Trojans pulled away early and never looked back in a Southeast Conference dual with Burlington. Both the Fairfield girls and boys posted their best team scores yet this season with a 2,325 leading the Fairfield girls to a 183-pin win over Burlington Thursday afternoon at Champion Bowl.
"From what I remember about Burlington, I thought we'd be pretty evenly matched," Fairfield girls bowling coach Lisa Greenig said. "When you look at our six varsity girls, five of them rolled series over their practice average. That's pretty consistent. That's pretty exciting."
Fairfield opened a 187-pin lead after two rounds of individual play, counting five averages of 150 or better. Karen Ehret led the Trojan girls for the second time this week, posting a 173 average boosted by a 215 second game to help pad Fairfield's lead before stepping in to anchor the baker rotation.
"I finally was starting to hit my mark towards the end of the first individual game and I finally started to get the line I needed to hit," Ehret said. "I feel like that just carried over to the second individual game. It helped a lot more knowing that I'm hitting my mark properly."
The key for the Trojans was the consistent play through both individual games. While Kayla Norton posted the top mark of the opening game for the Burlington girls with a 173, the Grayhounds dropped off by over 60 pins from their first to fifth individual scores.
Fairfield, meanwhile, counted five varsity bowlers that all scored within 30 pins of each other and finished within 46 pins by the end of two individual rounds. Burlington, meanwhile, had just three bowlers post above a 150-average, allowing the Trojans to open a sizeable lead.
"This is the first time I've had five bowlers with over a 300 series to count," Greenig said. "That speaks to why we ended up with the team score we did. Our 1,604 team score is about 200 pins over our average heading into bakers."
Burlington's bid to rally in the baker rotation was halted by a stellar opening game from the Trojans, leading just two of 10 frames open while adding 13 pins to the lead, going up 200 total pins with four bakers remaining. The highlight was a 2-5-7 split picked up by Lilly Huff in the ninth frame that prevented the Grayhounds from being able to cut into the Trojan lead.
"This is a huge game of momentum," Greenig said. "When you have to alternate lanes for bakers, what's hard for kids to understand is where you stand on the right lane could be totally different from the left lane. It's hard to make those little adjustments, but it's good to see the kids improving, see them gelling and experiencing some success. It's hard work, but the girls are living up to it."
The Fairfield boys also showed improvement on Thursday despite a 221-pin loss to a stellar Burlington squad. Fairfield topped 2,500 total pins for the first time this season, finishing with a 2,557 score that was 148 pins better than Tuesday's 2,409 team score posted in a non-conference loss to Davis County.
"Burlington can throw a ton of strikes, which in this format allows you to score really well. They have some kids that crank on the ball and do a lot of striking," Fairfield boys bowling coach Bryan Marlay said. "Can we get to their level? Yes we can. I look at our score and I can find 200 pins pretty easily. We're getting more consistent in our scoring, but we have room for improvement."
Isaac Wixom rolled seven strikes in a row at one point, posting a 411 two-game series for the Grayhounds before sparking Burlington to a 213 opening baker game, putting the Trojans behind by 250 pins. Four of Fairfield's six varsity bowlers posted 300 series scores led by Gannon Scott's two-game total of 381.
"Gannon bowled really well. That's his best score of the year," Marlay said. "Chris Kyle (after posting a 307 series score) bowled really well in our baker games. That gave us a chance. Wyatt (Baker), Drake (Drish) and Chance (Swan) are three guys that we can also count on to be pretty consistent. They were a little more up and down. If we can get all five of them bowling near their top end consistently, we can put a pretty good score on the board."
The Fairfield girls (4-2, 2-2 Southeast) and boys (1-6, 1-4 Southeast) compete next Thursday, Jan. 21 at Mount Pleasant. The Southeast Conference dual at Iris Bowling Center gets underway at 1 p.m.