With new form, Wheeler Battaglia-Davis comes through in clutch moment for LHS bowling

Lawrence High junior Wheeler Battaglia-Davis is congratulated by his teammates during a meet Friday at Royal Crest Lanes on Jan. 10, 2020.

Lawrence High junior Wheeler Battaglia-Davis didn’t even know the score when he did the improbable.

In the semifinals of match play, the Lions needed a miracle late in game one against Topeka Seaman to even have a shot at advancing to the championship game of the Free State Invitational on Friday at Royal Crest Lanes. And they received their wish thanks to the clutch performance by Battaglia-Davis.

Battaglia-Davis recorded three consecutive strikes on as many throws in the 10th frame. Lawrence needed all three strikes in its 202-200 win over Seaman during game one. It wasn’t until after the third strike that Battaglia-Davis fully understood what just happened.

“I didn’t even realize up until that 10th frame that it was so close,” Battaglia-Davis said. “After that last strike, I just turned around and I was amazed. I didn’t know that we won by 2 points.”

Several voices told Battaglia-Davis congratulations immediately afterward, though a comment from freshman Remy Fowler stood out and perfectly illustrated the magnitude of that moment.

“(He) was like, ‘My legs are shaking and I wasn’t even bowling,” Battaglia-Davis said. “It was amazing. We got up, we all yelled and we all freaked out.”

Seaman ultimately won the next two games before falling to Washburn Rural in the championship match. Free State, the host of the 19-team tournament, lost to WRHS in the other semifinal matchup.

But Battaglia-Davis’ heroics as an anchor demonstrated the growth that he has made in just his second year in the sport. For one, Battaglia-Davis was unleashing all those strikes with a new form. He’s now bowling with two hands, as opposed to one like he did for most of last year.

“I changed it because one of my friends was doing it and he was doing very well,” Battaglia-Davis said. “I was doing well one-handed, I was hitting a bunch of spares but I couldn’t get strikes nearly as well. That’s really changed my game.”

Battaglia-Davis actually started working on the new form during his time as an alternate at a varsity meet last year. He was in the other lane working on his new bowling style, though it didn’t immediately pay dividends during his sophomore season.

Throughout the offseason, Battaglia-Davis perfected his craft even more by spending a lot of time in the bowling alley. So for Battaglia-Davis, it was satisfying to see it all come to fruition in just his first meet of the 2020 season.

“I’ve improved a lot,” Battaglia-Davis said. “I switched some things up and I bowled a ton in the offseason. I came back a completely different player at this point.”

The Lions, who were the sixth seed, needed to play well during the Baker games portion of the meet to even get into match play. They then bested second-seeded Mill Valley in the opening round with wins in the first and final set.

Fowler led LHS on the individual leaderboard earlier in the day, posting a series score of 638 to place seventh. Battaglia-Davis finished in 19th with a series score of 607.

The Firebirds, meanwhile, also had their moments before losing to Washburn Rural in two games during the semifinals. Free State boys actually netted first in the junior varsity competition as the No. 1 overall seed.

At the varsity level, FSHS was the fifth seed and knocked off No. 4 Shawnee Heights in the first round of match play. The Firebirds won both games (224-161, 194-158) before falling to the Junior Blues in the next round.

Porter Neidow came through as Free State’s anchor in match play and was effective all day. He placed 15th on the individual leaderboard with a series score of 620. Mike Tennyson took 23rd with a series score of 593, while sophomore AJ Baker finished 25th overall with a series score of 585.

“I’m happy with how the team did today,” Neidow said. “We did really well only coming in with two practices. It feels good.”

It was a strong ending to a two-day event at Royal Crest Lanes. The girls competed in the 19-team meet on Thursday.

Lawrence High placed second in the varsity competition, led by a first-place finish from senior Emilie Rodman. She finished with a series score of 626, lifting the Lawrence girls all the way to the championship game of match play before falling to Shawnee Mission Northwest.

The Lions, who were the fifth seed entering match play, defeated No. 4 Olathe North (146-132, 159-158) and No. 1 Seaman (200-148, 135-120, 173-154) to make it to the final round. LHS defeated SM Northwest, 158-152, in the first game before dropping the next two games (168-160, 165-160) in the loss.

Free State, which did not make it to match play, placed 12th as a team out of 19 squads. Freshman Kaitlyn Harrington led FSHS with a series score of 502 in her first meet, which was good enough for 23rd among individuals bowlers.

LHS will now host a triangular at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Royal Crest Lanes. Free State will travel to Mission Bowl in Olathe at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Free State Invitational

Girls team scores: 1. Topeka Seaman 2316, 2. Washburn Rural 2297; 3. Olathe North 2127; 4. SM Northwest 2087; 5. Shawnee Heights 1968; 6. Lawrence High 1952; 7. Topeka West 1869; 8. Mill Valley 1846; 9. Topeka High 1785; 10. Olathe East 1781; 11. SM East 1721; 12. Free State 1717; 13. Leavenworth 1641; 14. St. James 1577; 15. SM West 1560; 16. Hayden 1503; 17. Highland Park 1494; 18. Atchison 1472; 19. Washington 1398.

Top individual bowlers: 1. Emilie Rodman, LHS, 626; 2. Hannah Castro, WR, 609; 3. Makenzie Millard, SEA, 600; 4. Cheyanne Bolin, SMNW, 589; 5. Skylar Valdez, ON, 586; 6. Ashley Wilson, TW, 578.

FSHS results: Kaitlyn Harrington 159-194-149 (502); Ashley Edwinson 104-178-155 (437); Khloe Polian 129-124-124 (377); Erin Rule 149-124-88 (361); Rena Stoupakis 113-98-114 (325); Angel Westfall 85-116-119 (320).

LHS results: Emilie Rodman 229-199-198 (626); Bean Foster 151-144-160 (455); JoJo Blackwood 153-151-137 (441); Lana Chieu 106-164-115 (385); Mollie Coffey 122-115-144 (381); Karla Tyler 113-130-136 (379).

Boys team scores: 1. Seaman 2623; 2. Mill Valley 2564; 3. Shawnee Heights 2513; 4. Olathe East 2512; 5. Free State 2411; 6. Leavenworth 2261; 7. Washburn Rural 2259; 8. Olathe North 2244; 9. Lawrence High 2206; 10. Topeka West 2180; 11. SM West 2149; 12. SM Northwest 2126; 13. Topeka High 2113; 14. Hayden 2009; 15. SM East 1988; 16. St. James 1950; 17. Washington 1787; 18. Atchison 1596; 19. Highland Park 1457.

Top individual bowlers: 1. Mekhi Brening, WR, 676; 2. Charlie Cannon, OE, 674; 3. Jack Easum, SEA, 664; 4. Shane May, SHH, 662; 5. Trent Turkin, SEA, 648; 6. Jackson Penny, MVHS, 644.

FSHS results: Porter Neidow 227-158-235 (620); Mike Tennyson 183-210-200 (593); AJ Baker 194-216-175 (585); John Hamer 175-215-190 (580); Isaac White 179-175-173 (527); Joey Taylor 139-148-187 (474).

LHS results: Remy Fowler 236-221-181 (638); Wheeler Battaglia-Davis 174-243-190 (607); Josh King 163-147-173 (483); Rhett May 147-172-128 (447); Sebastian Daniel 109-135-151 (395); Joey Thurman 130-155-108 (393).

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