Spain’s Francisco Diaz goes undefeated to claim Rack Race Stop # 9 in Aiken, SC

Francisco Diaz-Pizarro and Keith Bennett

Josh Roberts wins Banks ‘Mini, Norris claims ‘Mini’ Ladies and heads ‘Mini’ Jack & Jill team

As the top two, FargoRated players competing in Rack Race Stop #9 this past weekend (May 18-19), one might have ventured a guess that Josh Roberts (781 and winner of the first five 2024 Rack Race events) and Spain’s Francisco Diaz-Pizarro (778) were, at the very least, going to be among the last three or four competitors. But as Forrest Gump reminded us 28 years ago, life (and pool tournaments) “are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” So it was that this “box of chocolates” didn’t turn out quite the way that many might have expected. Though Diaz would go undefeated to claim the title, Roberts lost a second-round, winners’ side match, double hill, to Johnny Archer and his second, loss-side round to Gregorio Sanchez. As it turned out, it was Keith Bennett (720) who challenged Diaz-Pizarro twice, hot seat and finals, and in the middle, defeating Tommy Kennedy (735) in the semifinals. 

Roberts and Diaz-Pizarro did, however, ‘meet and greet,’ twice, in the concurrently-run “Banks” Mini event, in which Roberts went undefeated and Diaz-Pizarro lost the hot seat match and final to him. The $3,000-added main event, the foundational basis for the entire Rack Race series, drew 39 entrants to Rack & Grill III in Aiken, SC. 

Before we get underway with Diaz-Pizarro’s ‘main event’ win, we’ll note now and reference later that the weekend in Aiken, SC also featured four ‘Mini’ events – a $500-added ‘Rack Redemption’ (won by Thomas Campbell) and $1,000-added Ladies event (won by Christy Norris) that drew eight entrants each, a $1,000-added ‘Banks’ tourney (won by Roberts) that drew 14 and a $500-added Jack & Jill (won by the Christy Norris team) that drew 6 teams. 

In races to 8 for everybody, Diaz-Pizarro began his trek to the winners’ circle of the main event by giving up just a single rack in the first two of the six matches that he played. He opened with a shutout over James Council and gave up the single rack to Timmy Prince. Diaz-Pizarro then defeated Jimmy Lee 8-4 and advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Eddie Wahdan. Keith Bennett, in the meantime, got by Stephen Fontenot 8-5 and Larry Broughton 8-6 to draw Tommy Kennedy in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kennedy’s path to this point had gone through Johnny Archer, his opponent in the finals of the US Open 9-Ball Championships, 32 years ago. They met in this event’s winners’ side quarterfinal. Kennedy had previously defeated Gregorio Sanchez 8-1, while Archer was busy surviving a double-hill battle against Josh Roberts. Kennedy won the winners’ side quarterfinals over Archer, 8-3, advancing to meet Bennett.

Kennedy and Wahdan were sent to the loss side, both 8-2, by Bennett and Diaz-Pizarro. Diaz-Pizarro claimed the hot seat 8-4 over Bennett.

On the loss side, Kennedy drew a rematch against Gregorio Sanchez, who’d given up only a single, loss-side rack since he’d lost the earlier match to Kennedy; one against Billy Helms and none at all against Jimmy Lee. Wahdan drew Archer, who’d followed his loss to Kennedy with a shutout over Robert Lea and a double-hill victory over Kelly Farrar.

With a quarterfinal rematch between Kennedy and Archer on the horizon, Kennedy did his part, downing Sanchez 6-3. It was the same score by which Wahdan spoiled the ‘party,’ eliminating Archer. Kennedy defeated Wahdan 6-1 in the quarterfinals, but fell to Bennett 6-3 in the semifinals.

The momentum of the semifinal win didn’t appear to help Bennett much against the presumably idle-during-the-semifinals Diaz-Pizarro. Bennett had won four against Diaz-Pizarro in the hot seat match, but Diaz-Pizarro held him to two in the finals and claimed Rack Race Stop #9. 

Combined ‘Minis’ draw similar number of entrants and money-added as the Main Event

The main event drew 39 entrants. Combined, the four ‘Mini’ tournaments drew 42, with some crossover entries, and 12 of the 42 making up 6 teams that competed in the Jack & Jill. There was $3,000 added to the main event and a total of $3,000 added to the four “Mini” tournaments .

As noted earlier, Josh Roberts won the most-entrants (14) Banks “Mini,” defeating Mike Davis, Jr. along the way and Diaz-Pizarro, twice; hot seat, double hill, and final 3-1. Ricky Baugham finished 3rd, having lost to Diaz-Pizarro twice and defeating Mike Davis, Jr., who rounded out the field of payouts, finishing 4th.

Thomas (Bruce) Campbell won the eight-entrant ‘Rack Redemption’ tourney, downing runner-up Todd Blackwell twice; double hill in the hot seat match and by shutout in the final. Calvin Le, who finished in the last ‘money’ spot (3rd), played four matches altogether; two against Blackwell (a win and a semifinal loss) and one against Campbell on the winners’ side.

Christy Norris’ undefeated victory in the Ladies event (8 entrants) involved three opponents, one of whom, runner-up Katie Bischoff, she defeated twice; 6-3 both times, hot seat match and final. Tracy Hardie grabbed the last payout in 3rd place, falling to Bischoff 5-3 in the semifinals.

Norris led the team that won the Jack & Jill. The ‘Jack’ to her ‘Jill’ was not specified, leaving the ‘Christy Norris Team’ to collect the 1st place prize. The Christy Norris team defeated the Mike Davis, Jr. and Katie Bischoff team twice, shutting them out in both the second round and in the final. In the semifinals, Davis and Bischoff downed Bruce Campbell’s team (also no partner designated), which collected the final payout in that division.

Tour director and Rack & Grill III owner thanked his staff for the invaluable contributions made to the smooth running of the event, along with sponsors Predator Cues, Simonis Cloth,, Pepsi, Newsome Distributing, JTs Automotive Group, CSRA Machine Fab, Salazar (Certified Public Accountant), Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions and National Billiard Academy. 

Stop #10 of the Rack Race, scheduled for Saturday, June 1, will be hosted by Rack & Grill II in Augusta, GA. 

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