Stevens bowlers hope for their moment in the spotlight

  • Stevens' Clayton Wadsworth.

  • Stevens' Ian Fitzpatrick.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 2/15/2019 9:55:25 PM
Modified: 2/15/2019 10:05:28 PM

CLAREMONT — One of the most successful sports at Stevens High perhaps doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

In the past seven years, the Cardinals bowling team has been to the NHIAA championship round twice and on another two occasions placed third. And on Saturday, Stevens will head to the state tourney in Raymond as the second seed.

All this success has come while coach Shawn Wadsworth has guided the Cardinals.

“Coaching is the hardest thing I have ever done,” Wadsworth confessed on Thursday.

Wadsworth looks at his job as more than just physical instruction, but mental preparation.

And Wadsworth has the credentials to back up his philosophy. He has stared down the lane and bowled 14 perfect games and once had an 880 series.

“Bowling, like all sports, is mental,” he said. “You have to be confident in yourself when staring down the lane. You have to block out all the distractions.”

Stevens drew a bye in the first round of Saturday’s state tournament and will meet the winner of seventh-seeded Raymond and 10th-seeded Dover in the quarterfinals. The quarters are a best-of-five series, while the semifinals and finals are best-of-seven.

“Which means we have to win 11 games,” said Ian Fitzpatrick, a senior who, with a 227 average, has by far the top score in the state, with Merrimack’s Mike Grover second at 216.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Fitzpatrick’s family manages Maple Lanes, which the Cardinals call their home.

“I bowl at least one game seven days a week,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick is not the only roller on this team with a healthy average. Teammate Clayton Wadsworth has a solid 193, Riley Dickinson comes in at 181 and freshman Alexis Collins rolls at a 164 clip, followed by Matt Szelangowski at 151.

These five bowlers have been selected by coach Wadsworth to compete in Saturday’s championships. If the team makes it to the finals, and with the way the Baker scoring system goes, anchor Fitzpatrick would bowl 44 frames and all the others 22 frames.

Keene is the top seed, followed by, in order, Stevens, Merrimack, Spaulding, Goffstown, Hollis-Brookline, Raymond and Dover. Raymond and Dover, the eighth and ninth-seeded teams, will have a roll-off to determine who meets top-seeded Keene in the quarterfinals.

The way the pairings are set, Stevens would meet the winner of the match between Merrimack and Hollis Brookline in the semifinals should the Cards prevail in their quarterfinal match.

One thing that might be in the Cardinals’ favor is the facility at Raymond.

“I don’t know what it is, but we just feel comfortable there,” Clayton Wadsworth said.

Added coach Wadsworth: “We certainly do bowl well there. I don’t know why, but those lanes seem suited for us.”

Coach Wadsworth also likes that there is a girl on the team in Corliss. She is rapidly improving, the coach noted. “I think having her around keeps the guys in check,” Wadsworth said. “She’s awesome.”

As for Corliss, it’s no big deal.

“They just treat me like any other member of the team,” she said. “We all get along just fine.”

Stevens and Windsor had a scrimmage match on Thursday at Maple Lanes as the Yellowjackets get ready to head to their state tournament next weekend. The Jacks are having another strong season and feature the state’s top individual bowler in junior Rayce Gilbert, who has a 211 average.

Unlike Windsor, which has a championship-caliber team and no seniors, Stevens’ eight-bowler roster has five seniors. The Cardinals have reached the NHIAA finals once in the sport’s eight-year history, finishing second in 2012 to Hollis Brookline.

“The window is closing,” coach Wadsworth said.

For New Hampshire bowlers, the individual championships will be held a week from Saturday in Merrimack. Former Stevens bowler Chase Hussey won that event in 2015.

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