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Souza stops loss-side bid by Kazalski to go undefeated on New England 9-Ball Series stop #14

(l to r): Paul Kazalski, Dominick Souza & Joe Callaluca

Dominick Souza came into the February 29 stop on the New England 9-Ball Series looking for his second win on the tour since he went undefeated at a stop in Tyngsboro, MA (Maxamilian’s Billiards) in April, 2018. His opponent in the hot seat match at this most recent event, Joe Callaluca, finished fourth at that 2018 stop, and settled for 3rd place this past weekend, when he was defeated by Paul Kazalski in the semifinals. Souza went on to defeat Kazalski in the finals to claim title to the $500-added event that drew 30 entrants to Strokers Bar and Billiards in Pelham, NH.

Working in the upper bracket with a FargoRate of 640, Souza got by Jose Concepcion 5-3, David Ty 6-3 and survived a double hill fight against Mark Morgan to draw TK Marshall in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Callaluca, in the meantime, sporting a FargoRate of 500 and working in the lower bracket, defeated Owen Gomez 3-1, and chalked up two straight shutouts, over Mike Felix and Doug Walker to draw Eli Davenport (502) in the other winners’ side semifinal. Davenport was fresh off a winners’ side quarterfinal victory over Kazalski (421).

Souza and Marshall battled to double hill before Souza advanced to the hot seat match. Callaluca recorded his third straight shutout, downing Davenport 3-0. With Callaluca racing to 4, Souza claimed the hot seat 6-2 and waited on what turned out to be the return of Kazalski.

Kazalski opened his loss-side campaign with two straight 3-1 victories, over John Mills and Tiffany Vuong and picked up a rematch versus Davenport. Marshall drew David Ty, who, following his defeat at the hands of Souza on the winners’ side, had won three straight on the loss side, downing Brian Tierney and Xhuljano Kamxhiu, both 4-2 and surviving a double hill battle against Roger Vivier to reach Marshall.

Ty and Kazalksi eliminated Marshall and Davenport; Ty shutting Marshall out and Kazalski successfully navigating his rematch against Davenport 3-1. Kazalski then took the quarterfinal match over Ty 4-3 (Ty racing to 6).

With Fargo Rates separated by 79 points (Callaluca, 500 and Kazalski, 421), the semifinal was a straight up race to 4 for both of them. They battled to double hill before Kazalski prevailed to earn a shot against Souza in the hot seat and a chance to chalk up his first regional tour victory.

Souza put a stop to that chance by giving up only a single rack in the only set necessary in a true double elimination final. Souza sealed the victory 8-1 and claimed the title.

Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Strokers, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, BCAPL, USAPL New England, Fargo Rate, Bert Kinister, AZBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell with Lease Fundings, Master Billiards, OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America and Piku Tips. The next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series (#15), scheduled for Saturday, March 7, will be the $500-added Joe Brown Memorial, to be hosted by Buster’s Billiards in Somersworth, NH.

Ahmed goes undefeated to capture first regional title on NE 9-Ball Series

(l to r): Phil Walton, Brian Tierney & Shiekh Ahmed

Three of the four matches that Shiekh Ahmed played to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal during the 4th stop on the New England 9-Ball Series on the weekend of October 19-20, went double hill. Working from the event’s lower (Fargo Rate) bracket, in straight-up races to 5, he gave up four racks to all but one opponent. He was sent to the loss side in the winners’ side semifinal match, won three on that side of the bracket and then, double-dipped hot seat occupant Brian Tierney to claim his first recorded event title. The $500-added event drew 42 entrants to Yale Billiards in Wallingford, CT.
Looking for your first regional title, getting locked up in two straight double hill fights right out of the gate can’t be encouraging. Ahmed survived his opener against Mark Menillo and his second match against John Porto, before he caught a bit of break and was able to down Sarah Archer 5-2. He was right back in the soup for the winners’ side quarterfinal, where once again, he had to play a single, deciding game. He won that game versus Mike Zingarella and advanced to a winners’ side semifinal against Phil Walton.
Meanwhile, in the upper bracket neighborhood, Brian Tierney, following a bye, was working his way toward the hot seat with victories over Dennis Brewer 6-4, Ryan Cullen 4-4 (Cullen racing to 7) and Tom D’Alfonso 4-5 (D’Alfonso racing to 8) to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Brett Cavazos.
Tierney sent Cavazos to the loss side, double hill (6-5) and in the hot seat match faced Walton, who’d sent Ahmed over 4-3 (Ahmed racing to 5). Tierney claimed the hot seat 7-1 over Walton and waited on the return of Ahmed.
Ahmed moved over and picked up Kevin Brule, who was in the midst of a roller-coaster, five-match, loss-side winning streak, in which he’d shut out two opponents (Liana Pitre and Mike Zingarella), gave up a single rack to two more (Aundria Reynolds and Mark Menillo) and survived a double hill match against a fifth (Justin Bertrand). Brett Cavazos picked up Lukas Fracasso-Verner, who was working on a six-match, loss-side streak that had most recently eliminated Frank Porto 6-1 and shut out Tom D’Alfonso.
Ahmed advanced to the quarterfinals by recording his fourth double hill win, over Brule. He was joined by Fracasso-Verner, who won his seventh loss-side match 6-2 over Cavazos (racing to 4).
With Fracasso-Verner racing to 7, Ahmed advanced 4-7 to his semifinal rematch against Walton. With Walton racing to 4, Ahmed earned his shot at Tierney in the hot seat with a 5-2 semifinal victory.
With Tierney racing to 6 in the first set, Ahmed won it 5-4. The second set, technically a loss-side match, featured a different dynamic, as the two squared off in a straight-up race to 5. Ahmed took that match 5-2 to claim his first event title.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Yale Billiards, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, BCAPL, USAPL New England, Fargo Rate, Bert Kinister, AZBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell with Lease Fundings, Master Billiards and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series (#5), scheduled for Saturday, October 26, will be a $500-added event, hosted by Legends Billiards in Lewiston, ME.

Shaw comes back from hot seat loss to win 11th Annual Empire State Championships

Pnoto by Erwin Dionisio (l to r): Jorge Rodriguez, Jayson Shaw, Frankie Hernandez, Raphael Dabreo

Fracasso-Verner goes undefeated to capture Amateur title
When Frankie Hernandez first appeared in our database, finishing 25th in the US Open 9-Ball Championships, won by Tommy Kennedy in 1992, Jayson Shaw was four years old. A year later, in the same event, Hernandez would share a 17th place finish with such luminaries as Allen Hopkins, Jim Rempe, Richie Richeson and Cliff Joyner. In Frankie’s best earnings year, to date (2001), Shaw had just become a teenager, as Frankie was busy finishing 49th at the US Open, but cashing in 21 events, including eight stops on the Joss Tour, two Turning Stone events (II & III), and geographic victories all over the map; Florida, Las Vegas and New England, et al.
At the $1,000-added, 11th Annual Empire State Championships (Open/Pro division), which drew 28 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY on the weekend of February 23-24, Hernandez advanced to the hot seat match, where he met and defeated Jayson Shaw in an exciting, back and forth, double hill match. Shaw returned from the semifinals to down Hernandez in the finals.
When Shaw first appeared in our database in 2006, Lukas Fracasso-Verner was four years old. They didn’t meet to play in this 11th Annual Empire State Championships, although it would have been fun to watch. Fracasso-Verner went undefeated through the $2,000-added Amateur event’s field of 140 to capture the Amateur title.
Both defending champions of this event were on-hand at this year’s championships, but both would end up in the tie for 13th in their respective divisions; Zion Zvi, the two-time defending champion of the Open/Pro division, and Jason Carandang, last year’s amateur winner.
Fracasso-Verner is fresh off his best earnings year to date (2018) and recent winner of a stop on the NE 9-Ball Series. He was last year’s winner in the Amateur division of the 8th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial, at which he lost his opening match and won 11 on the loss side before downing Chuck Allie to claim the title. That said, he’s proved to be a bit of puzzle. Though his various accomplishments on regional tours and national events has been impressive (last year’s Ginky Memorial and this event as just a couple of relevant examples), he has come into this broad field of top-notch competition without benefit of a Junior National Championship under his belt, although he’s competed several times. He is also not on anyone’s short list to become a member of the USA’s junior team at this year’s upcoming Atlantic Cup Challenge. According to Roy Pastor, who’s taught Fracasso-Verner in the Connecticut Youth Billiards program and is a part of the BEF’s junior and world championship programs, Fracasso-Verner’s absence from this year’s Atlantic Cup Challenge team says less about his individual skills and talent, than it does about the overall strength of the youth programs leading up to the BEF Junior Nationals every year.
“The field (of junior competitors) is getting stronger every year,” said Pastor, “and there are a lot of Lukas Fracasso-Verners out there.”
Joey Tate, the teenager, from Raleigh, NC, for example, is younger than Fracasso-Verner and has already attained a 681 Fargo Rate. By comparison, Fracasso-Verner is currently at 645. And there are others, some of whom, over the years, have defeated Fracasso-Verner in Junior National competition.
“Lukas is a terrific player, though,” said Pastor, “and has the potential to be one of the greatest.”  
This time around, Fracasso-Verner opted out of the loss side route for this event, going undefeated through the Amateur field. He defeated Chris Ganley in the hot seat match and Matt Klein in the finals.
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Fracasso-Verner and Klein met first in a winners’ side semifinal, while Ganley and Paul Carpenter squared off in the other one. Fracasso-Verner got into the hot seat match with an 8-4 victory over Klein and was joined by Ganley, who’d sent Carpenter west 7-5. Fracasso-Verner downed Ganley, who started the match with 5 on the wire, 10-7 to claim the hot seat.
On the loss side, Klein picked up Xavier Romero and Carpenter drew Jim Gutierrez. Klein and Carpenter got right back to work, downing Romero and Gutierrez, both 7-3, to meet in the quarterfinals. Klein then eliminated Carpenter 7-5 and got a second shot at Fracasso-Verner with a 7-4 victory over Ganley in the semifinals. Fracasso-Verner claimed the Empire State title with an 8-5 victory over Klein.
Shaw comes back from hot seat loss to claim 10-Ball Open/Pro title
There had to be an inescapable air of inevitability about the 10-Ball Open/Pro event. With Jayson Shaw in the relatively short field, as the winners’ side whittled down further and further, who wouldn’t be bracket watching to see if they were next on the world-class player’s hit list. Frankie Hernandez, though, was one of the 28, who, having competed against his share of top-notch champions, would be unlikely to be intimidated. Cautious, maybe, respectful of Shaw’s obvious talent, but up to the challenge, which reached him in the hot seat match.
Shaw had faced and defeated another unlikely-to-be-intimidated competitor, Jorge Rodriguez 7-3 in a winners’ side semifinal (Rodriguez won this event in 2015). Hernandez, in the meantime, squared off against and eventually sent Rob Pole to the loss side 7-2. In a thrilling, double hill hot seat match, Hernandez sent Shaw off to the semifinals.
On the loss side, in the first money round, Rodriguez picked up Tenzin Jorden, who’d been the first of two to defeat defending champion, Zion Zvi, and a week earlier, had chalked up his first Predator Pro Am Amateur title. He’d defeated Jimmy Rivera 7-3 and survived a double hill match against Joey Korsiak to reach Rodriguez. Pole drew Raphael Dabreo, who’d most recently eliminated Jonathan Smith 7-4 and Mike Salerno (Smith, in the previous round, had knocked out Zion Zvi).
Rodriguez and DaBreo advanced to the quarterfinals, both 7-2, over Jorden and Pole. DaBreo took the quarterfinal 7-5 over Rodriguez. It was getting late, already into early Monday morning, when Shaw, seemingly impatient, gave up only a single rack to DaBreo in those semifinals to earn a second shot against Hernandez in the hot seat.
Things broke pretty evenly in the early going of the finals, which didn’t get underway until nearly 2 a.m. Shaw and Hernandez fought back and forth early, with no clear winner in sight. Near the middle of those finals, though, Shaw broke through to claim the title 9-4.
A Second Chance event drew a full field of 16 entrants. Julie Ha ($160) won four straight in the single elimination bracket to down Monika Callaghan ($100) 8-6 in the finals. Chulo Castro and Mark Antonetti finished in the tie for 3rd place ($30 each). A Third Chance event drew another full field of 16 and was won by Brian Tierney ($160), who downed Dave Callaghan ($100) 7-5 in the finals. Mike Callaghan and Shashi Hajaree each took home $39 for their third place tie.
Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Raxx Billiards for their continuing support and hospitality at these annual Empire State Championships, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, NAPL, The DeVito Team,, Billiards Digest, AZBilliards, Pool & Billiards Magazine and his entire staff, including his lovely wife, Gail. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 2-3 will be an Amateur event, hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.