The Brunswick boys bowling team is a loosey-goosey bunch with the very serious goal of striking it rich.
“We always try and have fun,” junior Mitch Andzelik said. “We’re not the most serious team out there. Sometimes we get yelled at for that, but we’re always upbeat.”
And almost always successful.
With no seniors on the varsity, the Blue Devils won their first Northeast Ohio Conference title, posted a 17-1 record and finished second at the Lorain Sectional.
Next up is the Warren District at noon Sunday at Crest Lanes, where the top five teams and top five individuals from non-qualifying teams will earn berths in the state Boys Bowling Championships.
Having never advanced to the state level as a team, Brunswick’s talented and eclectic bowlers are out to change that by qualifying for the March 2 event at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
Heck, the Blue Devils don’t just want to qualify for the state tournament. Ultimately, they want to win it.
“It’s the biggest thing we could ever win,” junior K.C. Kokitka said. “It’s saying we’re the best in Ohio. It’s very possible, especially this year.”
Of course, the Blue Devils also thought it was possible last season, only to have a bad day and finish a disappointing 12th at the Lorain Sectional.
Andzelik, who bowls anchor and carries a team-best 206.7 average, Kokitka (195.4), fellow junior Brandon Lemmerman (197.9), sophomore Eric Bator (200.6), freshman Justin Vetrovsky (194.6) and sophomore backup Zack Miller (191.5) made it their mission to atone for that this season, and they did exactly that Sunday at Rebman Recreation.
“At the beginning of the season, our coach (Jonathan Laube) made it a point that we should forget about that and go to districts this year,” Andzelik said. “That was one of his pushing points.”
In a team sport that still relies heavily on individual talent, Laube also made it a point to allow his bowlers to express themselves, though he also wanted them to develop the maturity to police one another.
That’s how, with some prodding from their coach, the rather quiet Andzelik and rather outspoken Kokitka emerged as leaders.
“Coach kept telling me and him to take charge,” Andzelik said. “We’re the two most experienced ones on the team.”
Andzelik, whose powerful, high-revolution ball makes the pins explode when it hits the pocket, does most of his leading by example.
“Mitch is our cannon,” Kokitka said. “He’s got the biggest pin action I’ve ever seen in Ohio. When he throws the ball and it hits the pins, you can hear it from the other side of the lanes.”
Kokitka is more cerebral and steady on the lanes and doesn’t hesitate to give his teammates advice, especially when they seek it.
“He’s pretty light,” Andzelik said. “He’s always upbeat and he’s consistent when he bowls.”
Bator, whose older sister Kaitie qualified for the state tournament as an individual in 2011, and Lemmerman are the most emotional on the lanes.
“If he does something wrong, he’ll come back and hit something or get mad,” Kokitka said of Bator. “We’ll have to calm him down.”
Lemmerman is the same way, but his outbursts sometimes last longer.
“He’s his own worst enemy,” Andzelik said. “He’s either on or off. He hurts himself by getting angry, but when he’s on, he’s got a good strike ball and he’s hard to beat.”
Vetrovsky is the team comedian and the freshman who asks 1,000 questions.
“He’s the funny guy,” Kokitka said. “He cracks all the jokes, but he’s also new to all this stuff.”
Miller is the steady standby, the guy the Blue Devils can rely on as a substitute if someone is struggling.
“He’s our go-to guy if we’re down,” Kokitka said. “If we’re not doing well enough, we put him in.”
Put everything together and the Blue Devils, who are all right-handed, have made as much noise this season as Andzelik’s ball when it hits the 1-3 pocket.
After Brunswick’s five-man lineup bowls three games and six Baker games Sunday at Crest Lanes, it is the Blue Devils’ hope they will have finally advanced to the Boys Bowling Championships.
“A lot of people go to the basketball games, but the basketball team has never made it to state,” Kokitka said. “Almost no one comes to watch bowling other than our parents. That’s just how it is.
“We’re pretty confident we can qualify for state if we keep our heads in the game. It would mean a new banner up in the gym.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.