$TC Top qualifier Sandra Jo Shiery left the window open last night, but Diana Teeters couldn't climb through.
Shiery was cruising toward an apparent victory in the final match of the $50,000 Hammer Eastern Open at Country Club Lanes in Essex.
She had a 33-pin lead through eight frames and entered the 10th needing only a nine-pin first ball to clinch the $9,000 first prize.
But she threw an "awful ball" and then failed to convert the spare for an eight, her only open frame of the match. "I probably would have been better off had I thrown the ball even worse, maybe on the Brooklyn side," Shiery said.
That left Teeters needing 29 pins in the final frame to pull out a dramatic win. Teeters' first ball headed for the pocket, but after the crash the 10 pin stood, and Shiery was home free. The final was 202-184.
"She threw a great ball," Shiery said. "I guess I was meant to win."
That was the first surprise. The second came when her mother Noralee and sister Sue rushed to congratulate her on her first title since the Athens (Ga.) Open in 1991.
They had flown in from Coldwater, Mich., for what is known in bowling circles as "the show," the televised head-to-head roll-off among the top five qualifiers.
"People said they were here from the first match," Shiery said. "But I didn't know until it was over. If it's close, they're always with me."
Shiery, 28, is the embodiment of the bowler who got hooked on the game in a small-town environment. Coldwater is 20 minutes from the state line of Indiana, where she came into prominence. She was the first amateur to win a Ladies Professional Bowling Tour tournament in an event held in Indiana -- the South Bend Classic in 1989. She successfully defended the title the next year.
Until now, Shiery had not bowled particularly well at the Baltimore stop. "This is the first time I've ever made the cut," she said. "Last year, I wasn't throwing the ball well. The year before, I couldn't find a really good slot for myself."
Teeters was the hottest bowler of the tournament until Wednesday night's final match-play round when she surrendered the top qualifying spot to Shiery and also fell behind Dede Davidson.
But Teeters ripped through her first two matches last night, starting with five strikes en route to a 238-227 victory over Jill Albrecht. In her second match, Davidson left the first frame open, and Teeters steadily widened the margin en route to a 235-171 romp.
Then in the clincher, she left the 9 pin on a three-pin split to open in the first and spent the remainder of the showdown trying to catch up.
The window opened late, then closed on her hopes. Teeters earned $4,500 for finishing second.
1. Sandra Jo Shiery, one game, 202 pins, $9,000; 2. Diana Teeters, three games, 657 pins, $4,500; 3. Dede Davidson, one game, 171 pins, $3,150; 4. Jill Albrecht, two games, 455 pins, $2,500; 5. Lisa Wagner, one game, 193 pins, $2,100.
Yesterday's playoff results
Match one: Albrecht def. Wagner, 228-193. Match two: Teeters def. Albrecht, 238-227. Match three: Teeters def. Davidson, 235-171. Championship match: Shiery def. Teeters, 202-184.