Brandon Sluzalis sweeps the field at the first Maryland State Bar Table 9-Ball Championship
Curtis Branker
Mar. 14, 2019
It was another successful weekend of pool for “On The Hill” Productions. Tour owners Rick Scarlato Jr. and Loye Bolyard decided to have the first event of 2019 at Brews & Cues on The Blvd in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Due to minor size constraints the field was decreased from 128 players to 104, but that did not prevent the world-class players from showing up to steal the show.
 
The event consisted of such top-flight players as James Aranas (PHI), Kristina Tkach (RUS), Del Sim (SCO) and local champions Shaun Wilkie and Brett Stottlemyer to name a few. Little did they know that Brandon Sluzalis, a top-regional player from Bethlehem, PA would be waiting for them. There was also a generous helping of young talent, which is always encouraging for the future of the game. Hailing from Lancaster, PA and Hazleton PA respectively, seventeen-year-old Thomas Haas has been lighting up the tables in almost every event. Eighteen-year-old Dylan Spohr has proven to be a constant threat. Coen Bell from Cambridge, MD is only fourteen, but his game has been improving steadily for the past two years. Not to be outdone, Skylar Hess has been making her opponents nervous at the ripe old age of ten!
 
As with any major event, there was no shortage of surprises. Russian sensation Kristina Tkach finished out of the top 24 places. Delaware champion Kevin West only won his first match before falling first to Shaun Wilkie and then Derick Daya. The usually reliable Tim Tanana went 0-2, which was very unusual for him, and tour director Rick Scarlato Jr. had a surprising finish out of the money. Other top players who did not cash were Rick Molineiro, Scott Haas, John Moody Sr. and Matt Krah. Young Travis Manning, for whom pool is his second passion (bowling is his first) surprised everyone by finishing in the top 24! Travis held his composure and shot well all weekend. Despite having to face the world-class talent of James Aranas (PHI) in the first round (on the Stream Table no less!), Travis bore down and mowed through the field to get in the money.
 
The story of the day, however, belonged to Brandon Sluzalis. A well-known tour grinder, Brandon smoothly played his way into the Hot Seat, defeating Shaun Wilkie, Brett Stottlemyer and James Aranas on the way. The first-round bye had no effect on his demeanor or his momentum, and he calmly dismantled everyone who crossed his path. It was as though he knew the championship was his from the start, and everyone else was simply in his way.
 
Congratulations to all who finished in the top 24 places this weekend. The Maryland State Events have been consistently providing extremely tough competition for modest entry fees with excellent payouts.
 
Many thanks to Anthony Manning and the staff at Brews & Cues for outstanding accommodations, which included the installation of an extra table for the live stream. Thanks as well to the owners of Billiard Sports Network, Jake Lawson and Josh Setterfield for the free high-quality streaming all weekend, with commentary.
 
This event would not have been possible without the work and contributions of the following sponsors:
McDermott Cues
Billiard Sports Network
Lights Out Billiard Apparel
Phillippi Custom Cues
TAP Pool League – Chesapeake Region
 
Tour owners Rick Scarlato Jr. and Loye Bolyard, along with Theresa Scarlato and Beverlee Longstreet-Dillow, worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth, efficient event, with little to no hiccups. The Maryland State Events have cemented their place on the East Coast as one of the premier events to enjoy.