Defending team champion returns to lead at 2019 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - In the 115 previous editions of the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, no team has successfully defended a Regular Team title.

S and B Pro Shop 1 of Warren, Michigan, returned to the USBC Open Championships on Saturday after claiming the Regular Team title at the 2018 event in Syracuse, New York, and reclaimed its spot at the top of the leaderboard, posting a 3,254 total.

Led by three-time titlist Billy Orlikowski's 739 series, S and B Pro Shop 1 rolled games of 1,082, 1,157 and 1,015 to lead a high-scoring team event at the South Point Bowling Plaza. Fire Systems Professionals 1 of Grove City, Ohio, held the lead coming into Saturday's action with 2,990 but fell to sixth place in the standings.

Orlikowski was followed by defending Regular All-Events champion Kurt Pilon (667), Ryan Mouw (646), three-time champion Kerry Kreft (639) and Andrew Burke (563).

Last year, at Syracuse's Oncenter Convention Center, S and B Pro Shop 1, which featured Marcus McClain in Kreft's spot in the lineup, posted the score to beat on the fifth day of the 107-day event, and the 3,322 total proved to be enough.

"It was kind of a crazy feeling," said Orlikowski, who is making his 26th Open Championships appearance this year. "Ryan and I work together at Brunswick, and he was checking like every other day. I told him to wait until the final 30 days or so, otherwise it will eat you up. I've been fortunate enough to be in that position in the past, and if you're watching, it's exciting but tough at the same time.

"We just kept our fingers crossed and hoped. We thought we left a lot out there, but everybody feels that way and goes through that. At the end, we were very fortunate because not a lot of teams have scores that hold up the entire length of the tournament."

SandBProShop1_637The 2018 team members were presented with their championship watches prior to the start of Saturday's team competition, and Kreft was awarded the Joe Norris trophy, which is presented to the team sponsor.

Despite the additional fanfare, the team quickly was able to transition its focus to its title defense.

"I thought our execution was really good," said Orlikowski, who rolled an 822 series in doubles at the 1999 Open Championships, which also was held in Syracuse. "We had a really good plan. They're a little different than last year, but we decided to kind of do the same thing. It came down to a couple of ringing 10s here and there, but we had some good and bad breaks like last year, too. I think we put up a pretty good score."

The teammates now find themselves in a familiar position and are excited for what they hope is another long wait to the end of the event. Regardless of the finish, though, they're excited to represent the Detroit area on the lanes at the Open Championships.

"We were brought up with the Dan Ottman Enterprises team," said Orlikowski, who works as the director of product management for Brunswick. "You can go back further to Fred Bujack and Joe Norris. All of those guys were from Detroit. We all feel that the Open Championships is the pinnacle of team competition, so to be able to raise the Joe Norris trophy represents Detroit and Michigan bowling at its best. If we somehow became the first team to win it in back-to-back events, it would be unbelievable. But, there are so many outstanding teams, just like our crossing team, that will put up great numbers. We'll have our fingers crossed and see what happens."

The group's crossing team, S and B Pro Shop 2, took over fourth place in the Regular Team standings with 3,046. The team includes Justin O'Hara (686), Conner Weber (618), Brad Smyth (600), Shawn Bibee (583) and David Reaume (559).

The members of S & B Pro Shop 1 will return to the lanes Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern to make their run at Team All-Events, and Pilon will continue his quest to return to the lead in Regular All-Events.

032319KegelProductions1_637The team that came the closest to challenging S and B Pro Shop 1 on Saturday's early squad was Kegel Productions No. 1 of Weed, California, which took over second place with games of 1,029, 999 and 1,132 for a 3,160 total.

Ryan Besaw led the effort for Kegel Productions No. 1 with a 676 series and was joined by Bill Machin (666), Mike Bouvia (625), Steve Mora (597) and Michelle Smith (596).

Regular Team consists of five-player teams with combined entering averages of 876 and above.

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