CHANNAHON — At least five bowlers will compete for Minooka Friday and possibly Saturday at the Boys Bowling State Final Tournament at the St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon.
The scores from all of them will count the same, but coach Derrick Rapsky makes no secret of how much the Indians will lean on three bowlers — senior Justin Shepard and juniors John Kauffman and Zach Segatto.
"You never say never, but it's tough to imagine a situation where I would take any of those three guys out of the lineup," Rapsky said. "Even if they're bowling 180, 180, they could very well come back with a 240 in the next game, and then they've given you a 600 series. We're going to look for those three guys to carry us. That puts the pressure on them, but they're up to it."
All three will take per-game averages above 200 into the state tournament. Segatto's 225 average leads the team, and Kauffman and Shepard are both around 212. Segatto was the top individual at last weekend's Plainfield North Sectional with a 1,411 six-game series. Kaufmann bowled a 300 game and an 802 three-game series at Lockport in December.
"I feel good about (the pressure). I'm used to it by now," Kauffman said. "I'm just really excited about getting the chance to bowl at state. It's something I've been working for three years. I think we have a chance to do really well."
Segatto and Shepard are the only members of the Indians who have experience bowling at state. Shepard was part of Minooka's last qualifying team — one that finished seventh in 2010. He got into the lineup for the final two games on Saturday, bowling a 188 and a 257. Segatto competed as an individual in 2012, placing 30th with a 2,515 over 12 games.
"I've bowled since I was 2 years old. It's all I've ever done, from Saturday leagues and then on to tournaments. ... I'm ready for this," Segatto said. "I learned (from 2012) that if you do have a bad day the first day, don't get down on yourself, because you can still make up for it."
Rapsky says that the other two spots in the lineup are, to an extent, still up for grabs and could be decided during practice today in O'Fallon. Sophomore Dylan Pickett is the favorite to grab one spot, Rapsky says. His 198 per-game average ranks fourth on the team, and he was the only other bowler other than Kauffman, Segatto and Shepard to finish all six games at the sectional, where he totaled a 1,183.
Others in the mix for action at state are seniors Nick Beeler and Kyle Kurtz and sophomores Chris Dombrowski and Jack Russell. Dombrowski got into the lineup for two games at the sectional, totaling 803, and has a 185 per-game average on the season. Russell is averaging a 195, Kurtz a 193 and Beeler a 188.
"I'd say there's about an 80 percent chance Dylan will be in there," Rapsky said. "With the other four guys, I really don't know. I wish I had a magic crystal ball to see who was going to do what. But we'll make a decision and someone will have a chance. The nice thing is that, with the new substitution rules, we can get someone else in there if it's not working out."
Several teams Rapsky considered possible state championship contenders were eliminated at the North Sectional, from which only the Indians, who were second with 6,268 pins, and Lockport, which won with 6,317, advanced.
"I thought there was a good chance it would be us and Romeoville (advancing), but Lockport overtook us all. Plainfield Central was right there. Lincoln-Way West was right behind them. Plainfield North has a nice up-and-coming team, and Oswego has been good for many years," Rapsky said.
"Andrew is obviously going to be the team to beat to a lot of people. I can see Rockford Guilford, Lockport, O'Fallon, Freeport and Belleville East contending. But it helps our chances that so many good teams have already been knocked out."
The Indians must bring home some hardware for Segatto to consider it a satisfactory weekend.
"For me to be happy, be would have to be getting a team trophy, and someone from our team would medal individually" he said. "It doesn't have to be me. It can be anyone on the team.