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Fracasso-Verner goes undefeated to claim NE 9-Ball Series ‘20/’21 Tour Championship (Finale)

Paul Kazalski, Robert Lewis, and Lukas Fracasso-Verner

The winner and runner-up of the New England 9-Ball Series’ Tour Championships, held this past weekend (Jan. 15-16), were returning to the tables after distinctly different amounts and kinds of time away. Lukas Fracasso-Verner, who went undefeated to claim the event title, has been working his way back up the ‘earnings’ ladder for the past couple of years, following what had been, to date, his best earnings year (2019), when he won two stops on the tour and was also that year’s Empire State 9-Ball champion. The following year, thanks to the pandemic, he cashed in only three (recorded) events, finishing as runner-up on the NE 9-Ball Series three times. In 2021, he cashed in nine events, including a victory at a 2nd Chance event on the Joss Tour, and an undefeated run to claim the MD State 10-Ball title; his first major win in almost two years. Fracasso-Verner has started 2022 with this most recent undefeated run on the $5,000-added Tour Championships, which drew 55 entrants to Crow’s Nest in Plaistow, NH.

Coming from the loss-side, where he won five straight for the right to face Fracasso-Verner in the finals, was 68-year-old Robert Lewis, aka Chelsea Grinder and also aka Machine Gun Bobby, who reportedly “hasn’t been competing much lately.” He came back to the tables for this Tour Championship event, at which his runner-up finish has led to his first (recorded) cash finish in an event, anywhere.

Fracasso-Verner (704) and Lewis (629) both emerged from the event’s upper bracket, where they met for the first of two matches in a winners’ side quarterfinal. Lewis had benefited from a first-round forfeit, a 6-3 win over Daniel Simoneau and a shutout of Joe Meuse before running into Fracasso-Verner, who sent him to the loss side 7-1. Fracasso-Verner advanced to a winners’ side semifinal matchup versus Chad Bazinet. From the lower brackets, it was Paul Kazalski and Tiffany Vuong who advanced to their face-off in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Fracasso-Verner defeated Bazinet 6-3, and in the hot seat match, faced Kazalski, who’d sent Tiffany Vuong west 5-3. To his credit, Kazalski made the best of a (Fargo Rated) hot seat match that favored Fracasso-Verner by almost 70 percentage points (84.6 to 15.4). Kazalski battled Fracasso-Verner to double hill (9-3) before Fracasso-Verner closed it out to claim the hot seat. 

Meanwhile, “Chelsea Grinder” (Lewis) had opened his loss-side campaign with a double hill win over Steve Sutton and backed it up with a 6-3 win over John Vitale, to draw Bazinet, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Vuong drew Curtis Wright, who’d lost his opening match to David Ty and was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Adam Blair 5-2 and in a rematch, Ty 5-3.

Wright advanced one more step, downing Vuong 6-1, while Lewis was working on advancing to the quarterfinals with a 6-3 win over Bazinet. Lewis then ended Wright’s run 7-3 in those quarterfinals. 

Kazalski came into the semifinals versus Lewis with a similar handicap to the one he’d been able to employ against Fracasso-Verner in the hot seat match. In the semifinals, as Lewis was racing to 8, Kazalski was racing to 4. Kazalski came one rack short of forcing a second straight, double hill, deciding game for himself, but in the end, Lewis edged out in front to win it 8-2.

The second Fracasso-Verner/Lewis meeting proved to be an exact replica of their first meeting in a winners’ side quarterfinal. For the second time, Fracasso-Verner downed Lewis 7-1 to claim the event title.

Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Crow’s Nest for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Predator, Poison, Arcos II, BCAPL, USAPL New England, Fargo Rate, AZBilliards, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, MJS Construction, Master Billiards, OTLVISE, Outsville, Salotto and Just The Tip Cue Repair and Custom Accessories.

The New England 9-Ball Series will kick off their 2022 schedule at Straight Shooters in Fall River, Ma. this coming weekend (Sunday, Jan. 23) for the tour’s 2022, $600-added season opener.