Tyler Miller wasn’t expecting to be in the position he found himself in.
Warwick's senior came into Wednesday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys Individual Bowling Championships with an average well off of a year ago after he struggled much of the season.
But something clicked during the morning qualifying session, and he rode a newfound confidence to the top qualifying total and a bye into the modified stepladder final, where he defeated Elizabethtown’s Daniel Eberle 269-187.
“No,” said Warwick coach Neal Vital of whether he expected Miller to have the kind of performance he had on Wednesday. “He fought his game all year. I kind of assumed somewhere along the way that it was going to click, and this was a perfect time for it.”
Miller edged out defending L-L League champion Darren Zombro III of Cedar Crest 2,068-2,063 in qualifying, during which Miller had a 300 game and a 289.
“In the middle, I was kind of mellow, and I just kept bowling and bowling,” said Miller, who came into the tournament with a 207.96 average, which was 12th in the league. “When I got to the second round, I really was confident, I switched balls … and I ended up bowling really insane.”
“He’s very emotional,” Vital said. “I said to my assistant about halfway through the third game (of the second round of qualifying) … it’s kind of eerie; Tyler is relaxing. It just seemed like something turned on or turned off.”
Miller then watched as the rest of the stepladder qualifiers battled it out, with Eberle taking an impressive 269-200 win over Zombro in the semifinal.
“I wasn’t too worried. I was kind of like, ‘he’s a good bowler, I’m a good bowler, it’s going to be a good match’,” said Miller. “And win or lose, I’m not going to be too hard on myself.”
“I made him not throw as many practice shots,” said Vital of the wait before bowling in the final. “Sometimes when they have that open lane to practice on they just keep throwing. So I held him back a few times. Throw enough to stay loose and don’t overdo it, and he kept his form, which was the most important thing.”
That form wasn’t there early in the year, which Miller attributed to the delay to the start of the season because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “(That) really got me off track, because I came from bowling like a 220 average down to a 207,” he said. “So it was a big impact on me.”
But he put in some extra practice, trying to get back to where he was a year ago.
“I ended up bowling better than I did last year,” said Miller, who failed to reach the stepladder finals a year ago. “Instead of placing — I don’t even remember where I placed last year — to winning it; it’s a big difference.”
Eberle, who lost to Zombro in last year’s final, reeled off eight straight strikes for the 69-pin semifinal victory. He was in good position against Miller after two strikes and a spare, but a 4-6-7-9-10 split in the fourth frame provided an opening. Miller, who went spare-strike-strike in the first three frames, took full advantage, pounding out three more strikes.
While Eberle, who qualified seventh, faded with a 187 in the final, he was sizzling during his earlier stepladder finals matches, including games of 244, 197 and 256, plus the 269 against Zombro.
“I bowled him last year, obviously, so it was kind of nice to bowl him again,” said Eberle of his match with Zombro. “He’s a great bowler.”
“They talk a lot about a sport like bowling, there’s no defense,” said Elizabethtown coach Frank Telenko. “There’s nothing you can do about Tyler, he just bowled great all day. … Tyler was the best bowler in the tournament today and he deserved to win. And Daniel can sleep good tonight about that.”
There were other big scores in the stepladder finals. Cocalico’s Tristan Current, who finished fourth, had games of 234, 225 and 211. Conestoga Valley’s Robbie Jack rolled a 276 and Hempfield’s Derick Keller had a 265 in the first round.
Also reaching the stepladder finals were Manheim Township’s Drew Jaquith (fourth in qualifying, 1,941 pins), Ephrata’s Andrew Barnica (fifth, 1,938), Elizabethtown’s Zach Wentzel (sixth, 1,824) and Northern Lebanon’s Fred Staley (10th, 1,760).
The tournament was originally scheduled for Feb. 19, but was postponed due to inclement weather. The L-L League girls tournament was also postponed and moved back a week to Thursday at Palmyra Bowl.