Earl the Pearl tops Friday night battles in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Players Championship

Earl Strickland

Fishers still alive in the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. 

He’d played twice already. On Friday night at 9:30, Earl Strickland stepped to the tables of the Super Billiards Expo’s arena in search of his second win in the Diamond Open 9-Ball Professional Players Championship. On Thursday, after a bye, he’d lost his opening match, double hill, to Alan Rolon Rosada and at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, downed Tyler Henninger 9-6. Both matches were very lightly attended. Modest crowds, dotting the three-level risers to either side of the 16 tables, laid end to end, side by side.

Friday night, though, was different. This was weekend-is-here Earl the Pearl time. And he got himself an audience. While there were certainly people in the crowd of some 200 or so spectators who were itching to see a show; not a pool show necessarily, but an Earl show, as only he can bring it. Instead, they got the professional ‘Earl’s here to win’ show, full of rock-solid shooting that saw him take control of a 2-2 match and win six in a row before some of the audience had even settled in. People (though not many) started leaving, like baseball fans leaving a stadium when the score is 12-0 in the seventh inning, wanting to get ahead of the traffic jam. Those who remained were switching their attention between what was left of Earl’s match and what was going on at the tables on either side of him (Shannelle Lorraine and Ada Lio were playing south of him, while Jesus Atencio and Mason Koch were battling it out north of him). 

Gomez managed to chalk up three racks and the remaining crowd went wild. Very quietly and not for long.

Earl finished off Gomez, quickly, only giving up one more rack and moved to the lobby outside the arena where folks gathered around the hand-written brackets to see who was coming up against who in today’s (Saturday) matches. Earl was scheduled to play Bart Czapla at noon, in a match that will determine whether he advances to the 16-player, single elimination phase of the event. The first round of that phase will play out at 6 p.m.

Earl was among those looking to see what was coming up next, and he took the opportunity to play to the audience that had been relatively quiet during his win over Gomez. They were lined up two or three deep around him, cameras at the ready, as he gave them a genteel comedian to play with. Standing for one shot with a broad grin on his face, he said that the woman to his left was prettier than he was, riffing on this to talk about his sagging limbs and a “face that looked like a truck hit me and then backed up.” Manifestly not true, but it got a laugh. He embellished on that central joke for a while before moving on to chat with spectators who’d obviously been paying strict attention to his match as it played out; questions and comments about shot situations and potential solutions, back and forth.

Jayson Shaw, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking to advance to the final 16 today, as well (2:30 p.m. against Billy Thorpe), joined the throng gathered around him and it took about two seconds for them to launch into a discussion about the tables and how they ‘played’ in a given match.

“I hit this shot,” said Shaw at one point, “that went into the hole and bounced out. The cue ball jumped up onto the rail, travelled all the way down table, jumping over the side pocket and then went back on the table, giving me a straight shot at the 4-ball.”

Lives of the legends playing out in one of their homes away from home.

There’ll be 32 competitors in the Players Championship facing advancement to pool’s version of the Sweet 16 today. Among those 32, on the winners’ side of the bracket, will be Thorsten Hohmann, Warren Kiamco, Ralf Souquet, Fedor Gorst, Darren Appleton and Shane Wolford.  In addition to Strickland, other loss-side competitors looking to make the cut and who’ll have to play two rounds to do it (or not), will be Danny Olson, Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Joe Dupuis, Landon Hollingsworth, BJ Ussery, Jr. and Bucky Souvanthong. As of noon today, the potential for Strickland to face Rosado a second time remained alive, as Rosado stepped to the tables, looking for advancement beyond Eric Roberts.

The two Fishers continue to play for advancement to the final 16 of the WPBA Pro Players event 

Competition at the WPBA 9-Ball Pro Players Championship will dominate the afternoon schedule at the pro player arena. All 16 women who step to the tables at 2:30 p.m. today, haven’t played a match since Thursday; half of them on Thursday afternoon and the other half on Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, the Fishers, Allison and Kelly, squared off in a game of 8-ball that was not part of the official proceedings and did not involve cue sticks, felt cloth or actual pockets. Instead, they settled into another kind of table to play an 8-Ball Pool Board Game that’s on display and being pre-sold (prior to publication) to attendees at the SBE from a vendor booth surrounded by cue manufacturers. Kelly is acting as the game’s Brand Ambassador and has been at the booth where it’s being demonstrated a number of times, playing against, among others, Darren Appleton, who reportedly broke and ran the first game of it he played. 

While the game doesn’t employ any of pool’s tactile qualities with cues or aiming skills (there are basically no missed shots if you’ve lined up the cue and target properly), it does manage to offer a degree of strategy and tactics, very similar to the kinds of decision-making involved in the actual game of 8-ball. There are opportunities for bank shots (played out on strict horizontal/vertical target paths) safety play and you can scratch, for example, all of which plays out in ways unique to the board game.   

Though new to the game, Allison won the single game against Kelly. They could play a real game of 9-ball against each other before the end of the women’s tournament, but only, for starters, if both of them advance to the event’s final 16. Kelly, who’s only played a single match so far, defeating Jessica Barnes on Thursday night, was to play Liz Taylor at 2:30 today and if successful, would play the winner of an Ashley Burrows/Emily Duddy match in the opening round of the single-elimination phase at 8:30 p.m. Allison, who played two women from the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour (JPNEWT) on Thursday (Judie Wilson and Kathy Friend) will be facing Angela Janic at 2:30 and if successful, will also play at 8:30, against the winner of a Monica Webb/Kim Newsome match (check the SBE Web site for streaming options).

Other competitors, still on the winners’ side of the bracket, looking for a slot among the final 16 women, include Emilyn Callado, Brittany Bryant, Caroline Pao and LoreeJon Brown. On the loss-side of the bracket, at noon today, also looking for advancement to the final 16, will be,  among others, Janet Atwell, Jennifer Baretta, and both Kia Burwell and Judie Wilson, representing the JPNEWT. Matches at 6 p.m. on the loss-side of the bracket will determine the eight loss-side competitors among the Sweet 16.

Super Seniors get underway, as Amateur Ladies, Seniors continue, with Juniors in the wings 

The original Super Seniors tournament, with long lines hoping for a waiting-list entry, gathered early this morning, while the 996-entrant Open Amateur event looked to enter its Final 16 phase at 1 p.m. today. The four-brackets of the Amateur Ladies event is still ongoing, as is the (plain, so to speak) Seniors tournament. Two junior competitions (17U & 12U) are set to begin today, as well. 

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