---- — Well, it's back to the grind once again dear keglers. And it's a good thing too, because there's a lot I need to catch up on.
But where do I begin?
Considering their combined performance in Saturday's league match against Central Columbia, the early success currently enjoyed by the Shikellamy High bowling program is a good place to start.
I know I talk about the Braves quite a bit in this column, but it's hard to argue about success. And whenever it seems the teams have been knocked down a peg, they just keep winning games.
Case in point: after the two teams went 3-1 versus the Blue Jays on what was senior day for the Braves, Shikellamy's boys are now 10-2 and the girls are 9-3, and both squads find themselves in the thick of the Heartland Athletic Conference title chase.
With senior veteran Zack Williams and several match-tested underclassmen in juniors Brett Bowersox and Earl Malick, plus sophomores Noah Thomas, Jacob Kratzer and Randy Ripple, the Braves have been putting up big numbers all year long.
Kratzer and Malick have also rolled perfect games during the youth league at Strike Zone Lanes, with Kratzer accomplishing the feat twice (more on that next week). Thomas added a 299 game as well in the league.
"The boys have been bowling very well this year. A lot of big games have been tossed during the youth leagues and (high school matches)," said coach Bill Snyder. "Never count out Shikellamy bowling, we have been in contention for titles every year."
Although what Shikellamy's boys team has done so far this year may not be all that surprising, the fact that the girls team has done as well as it has to this point probably is to some.
When you lose two of the best bowlers in the state and four starters overall to graduation, some struggles are expected. Even though the Braves have been far from perfect, the girls are hanging tough.
In addition to the one loss against Central, Shikellamy also lost single games to league contenders Selinsgrove and Lewisburg.
But now the real fun begins for Shik's girls. They need to bowl at Milton, Midd-West and Danville, in that order, yet this season.
"The girls are holding their own this year after three home matches. We now go on the road to test their skills at different environments. I must say that I am pleased with their accomplishments to date," said Snyder.
"We really don't have that standout bowler -- we're just fairly solid through the lineup. When all the girls are breaking their averages, we are tough to beat."
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Mckensie Haines and Shelby Derr have been big parts of the Shikellamy girls bowling team for the last years, but now they're on to bigger and better things.
Over the summer Haines was selected to the Dexter/USBC High School All-America Team. The valedictorian for her high school class, Haines is now at Bloomsburg University where she recently posted a 4.0 GPA in her first semester.
Derr has made her way to Saint Francis (Pa.) University where she's become a key member of the Red Flash bowling team, which is ranked 11th in the latest National Tenpin Coaches Association poll.
Derr was selected as the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week back in October following her performance in the Kutztown University Fall Baker Invite. Derr was named to the all-tournament team after she topped the individual field with an average pinfall of 235.6, which included a tournament-high 278 game in the team's first match.
Also in October, Derr averaged 203.67 to help the Saint Francis junior varsity team win the PA Classic. The Red Flash varsity squad was fourth by more than 600 pins.
And then in November, Derr posted a four-game average of 194 as Saint Francis went 5-4 in the NEC Meet No. 1. Among the wins for the Red Flash were over fellow NTCA top-20 teams Fairleigh Dickinson (No. 5), Sacred Heart (No. 12) and Kutztown (No. 10).
Until next time, stay out of the gutters.
n Brian Holtzapple is a correspondent who covers bowling for The Daily Item. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.