Earl Strickland Claims His Second Maryland State Bar Table Championship
Meredith Lynch
Mar. 24, 2018
Rick Scarlato Jr., Earl Strickland, RJ Carmona, Tony Long and Shaun Wilkie (Photo by Erwin Dionisio)
Rick Scarlato Jr., Earl Strickland, RJ Carmona, Tony Long and Shaun Wilkie (Photo by Erwin Dionisio)
Maryland State events are quickly becoming the premiere event and the Maryland State 9 Ball Bar Table Championship March 17th – 18th was no exception. With another full field event of 128 players, $1000 added by McDermott cues, first place paying over $5900, and a stacked field with every big name you can possibly imagine, it’s no wonder there’s a buzz about the On the Hill Productions tournament. The home room of these tournaments, Bank Shot Bar and Grill in Laurel, MD, was brimming with green-clad players gunning for the top spot this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, everyone hoping for a bit of luck. Earl Strickland was more than lucky, winning the “pot o’ gold” and claiming his second MD State victory. 
 
Strickland was the star of the show as usual, entertaining fans between matches with endless stories and replayed layouts. He was like a Shakespearean actor with a skull in his hands, retelling dramatic matches with famous opponents, waving and illustrating the drama to captivated listeners. On the table, Earl simply dominated, going undefeated with only one opponent getting to the hill before the finals (Adam Kielar). 
 
Of crowd favorites, Earl was of course the largest, then Jason Kirkwood, a bar table champion whose reputation preceded him. The luck of the Irish was not with Kirkwood though, as he was brought down unexpectedly by Leeroy Taylor (7-6), and only won one more on the B-side before his run was ended by Eddie Abraham (7-6), leaving Kirkwood in the top 32 but out of the money. Leeroy went on to finish 9-12, surely leaving some green with envy as he wasn’t an anticipated challenger.
 
The spectators kept hope with their next favorite in line to win, Shaun Wilkie, a professional player who consistently places in the top of any field he enters. True to this expectation, Wilkie immediately downed Danny Basavich, otherwise known as Kid Delicious (7-4). Wilkie could not get past Strickland (7-4) later in the bracket, however, and went to the B-side Sunday to knock down Reymart Lim (7-5), before falling to Tony Long (7-2), taking 4th in this strong event.
 
By Sunday, only monsters remained. The green shirts had dissipated, leaving more of a quiet intensity to the play rather than festivity. Reymart finished 5th/6th after the mentioned loss to Wilkie, but not before taking down Zippler (7-5), Brett Stottlemeyer (7-3), and Pat McNally (7-5) among others. Kenny Ruttmann (Russian Kenny) went on a tear on the B-side which was ended by Paul Cogle Sunday, and Tom Zippler ended Cogle’s run a few rounds later. An exhausting tournament for those making it to this point, but all were in the money and were hungry for their shot. 
 
Speaking of exhaustion, Tony Long may have had the longest (pun intended) journey to get to his 3rd place finish but on the way he ended more runs than a pulled hamstring. Long lost 2nd round to Joe Chester (7-4) and then won an incredible 9 matches in a row. Among those Long knocked out were Greg Sabins (7-1), Chris Wilburn (7-5), Adam Kielar (7-5), Joe Wright (7-4), and Steve Fleming (7-5), before RJ Carmona put a stop to Long in a hill-hill semifinal. 
 
On the way there, Carmona RJ cleared the top of the A-side brackets, with no opponent getting to the hill until his hotseat match with Strickland. He downed Steve Fleming (7-4), Leeroy Taylor (7-5), Joey Mastermaker (7-1), Paul Oh (7-3), Stosh Sheldon (7-2), and in the first round, Kenny Ruttmann (7-5). His first matchup with Strickland did not go smoothly though. Carmona lost a quick 7-2 in the hotseat match before recovering on the B-side. 
 
The Philippine native travelled from Virginia Beach with the Greg’s Not So Pro Shop crew to put up an impressive hill-hill set in the finals against the Hall of Fame legend, even though the true double-elimination format meant that RJ would’ve also had to win a second set to claim the title. The odds were against Carmona, facing a five-time US Open and two-time world champion, but it didn’t seem to phase him.  
 
The final match got off to a funky start, with RJ scratching on the break, leaving a guaranteed 2-9 combination shot, but ball in hand on a 1-8 combo up table. In an effort to control the 1ball, Earl failed to pocket the 8-ball, and conceded the game. RJ then tacked on another game after a fluke scratch by Earl. Another scratch on the break swung things towards Strickland, who took that game and the next, making 3 balls on his break. Score 2-2, RJ broke dry, leading to a safety game and ultimately a miscue. Earl took that game and the next, taking the lead 4-2. The scratches were a large factor in this matchup at this point.
 
RJ answered next rack with a much-needed break and run, clearing the air of mistakes. He then also took advantage of a dry break by Earl, running that out. 4-4, RJ broke, made the 1-ball and got hooked getting to the 2. After a messy back and forth, RJ stroked a beautiful 7-ball to get to the 9, score 5-4 RJ. Earl then broke and ran to even things up, 5-5, then closed the next one after RJ accidentally hooked himself mid-rack.
 
Earl, now on the hill, tried to play safe off the 2-ball, but scratched. RJ seized the opportunity and ran out. Now hill-hill, RJ broke, made the one, and bumped the 2 into a difficult position against the side of the pocket behind a ball. Knowing he couldn’t afford a mistake, RJ decided to play safe by just rolling the cueball against the 2, executing beautifully. Earl somehow not only made a good hit but made the 2. From there, he ran down to the 8, where RJ threw in the towel (literally), conceding the match. 
 
Earl Strickland now owns two Maryland State titles, with Klenti Kaci and Dennis Orcullo each owning one also. Strickland, a North Carolina native who currently resides in the Philadelphia area, is revered as one of the greatest pool players to have ever played. Congratulations go out to him and RJ Carmona for their thoroughly entertaining play. 
 
On the Hill Productions would like to thank Bank Shot Bar and Grill, McDermott Cues, Simonis Cloth, Navigator Tips, Phillippi Custom Cues, Aramith Pool Balls, CBR TAP Leagues, and all the players and spectators that made this event successful. A special acknowledgement to Lights Out Billiards Apparel in addition to sponsoring, but also for donating 10% of their proceeds from this event to a fundraiser run by Greg’s Not So Pro Shop, benefitting a young child in the Philippines that needs a heart operation. 
 
To watch the streamed matches from this event and more, find Ground Zero Scott (Adict2speed) on Youtube. Also follow On the Hill on Facebook, keeping your eye out for the next event at Champions Billiards Sports Bar in Frederick, the first big table event for the crew. These events fill up fast, so jump at any chance if you can!