Montana bowler moves into Standard Singles lead at 2018 USBC Open Championships

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As Rob Pierson of Miles City, Montana, stepped up for the final frame of his 2018 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships campaign, the last thing on his mind was taking the lead in Standard Singles.

The 48-year-old right-hander simply was focused on making great shots in hopes of rolling a 700 series at the Oncenter Convention Center.

As he filled 28 pins in the 10th frame Sunday for a 706 series, he was elated, but didn't realize the significance of his final tally.

His teammates were more than happy to share the news with him, letting him know his score was enough to surpass Alex Houston of Rochester, Minnesota, to take the lead at the 2018 event by 20 pins. Houston, who leads Standard All-Events with 1,855, previously held the singles lead with 686.

After struggling in doubles to start Sunday's competition, the lanes opened up for Pierson. He started singles with eight consecutive strikes on the way to a 277 effort and added games of 196 and 233, which included three consecutive strikes starting in the ninth frame, to secure his spot at the top of the standings.

"My teammates and I really tried to break the shot down in doubles to find a path to follow to the pocket," said Pierson, who made his second USBC Open Championships appearance. "We ended up doing that, and I found a spot where I could move in a bit and get the carry. I just kept creeping over, and it worked out."

As he approached the 700 mark, Pierson did his best to focus on making the best shots he could, and his teammates helped keep him loose.

"I was really just focused on shooting 700," Pierson said. "I didn't even think about the lead or ask anybody, I just focused on punching out in the 10th. Leading the tournament never really occurred to me, which is probably a good thing."

Pierson was greeted by his four-team group and a flurry of high-fives and congratulations. His teammates shocked him with news of his place in the standings.

"Jason (Ridenour) came up to me and said, 'That's it. You've got the lead by 20 pins,'" Pierson said. "I told him he had to be kidding me. Then Dave (Sparby) walked me over to the banners with last year's champions, and I saw last year's winning score was 704. It was surreal. I never thought about leading or possibly winning. It's an incredible feeling."

Now, Pierson will play the waiting game to see if his score is enough to earn a banner with his own name at the 2019 event in Las Vegas.

"To be a national champion in a sport I love would be an absolute honor," said Pierson, who added sets of 526 in team and 480 in doubles for a 1,712 all-event total. "I'm really grateful for everyone in my group, and it was great to meet a whole bunch of new people. I'm glad I could bowl well, too."

Standard Singles includes bowlers with entering averages of 181-209.

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