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Caesar double dips Fracasso-Verner to capture NE 9-Ball Series’ 2020 Winter Classic

(l to r): Lukas Fracasso-Verner, TD Marc Dionne, Josh Caesar & Ryan Lineham

Until this past weekend (Jan. 25-26), Josh Caesar had cashed in exactly five events on the New England 9-Ball Series. His name started cropping on our database (generally indicative of cash winnings) in January of 2018, when he finished 9th in that year’s Winter Classic. He cashed in only one other event that year (that we know about), the 2018 Tour Championship in September. Last year, he cashed in three of the tour’s events, winning one of them in February and tripling his recorded cash earnings from the year before.
In the finals of this year’s Winter Classic, held this past weekend, Caesar faced an opponent who’d cashed in three times as many events as he (Caesar) did last year and earned nearly six times as much money. Lukas Fracasso-Verner had won two stops on last year’s tour, was runner-up in the Player’s Championship and overall, had cashed in seven tour events. He’d also won the Predator Pro Am Tour’s Empire State Championship and was third at the Ocean State 9-Ball Championship, held under the auspices of the Joss NE 9-Ball Tour. All in all a prodigious resume for a player with somewhat limited experience to be facing in the finals of an event.
Caesar faced Fracasso-Verner three times in this event; battling for the hot seat and twice in the finals. He took the last two of those three to claim the 2020 Winter Classic title. The $2,000-added Winter Classic drew 127 entrants (15 more than it did last year) to Snooker’s in Providence, RI.
Working initially from the lower (FargoRate) bracket, Caesar opened his trek to the hot seat match with three, straight-up races to 5 in which he defeated Matt Caissie 5-2, shut out Mike Zingarella and sent Dennis Boucher to the loss side 5-3. He then downed three straight opponents, double hill, to get into that hot seat match – Kyle King, Phil Walton, and in the winners’ side semifinal, Bob Campbell. Fracasso-Verner, in the meantime, got by Billy Lanna 6-3, Jay Duffin 8-2, Beau Powers 6-2 and then, like Caesar, won two straight double hill matches against Kerry McAuliffe and Roarke Dickson to get into his winners’ side semifinal against Derrick Cunningham. Unlike Caesar, though, Fracasso-Verner shut Cunningham out in his winners’ side semifinal, and then, claimed the hot seat 8-2 over Caesar, who was racing to 4.
On the loss side, which was still featuring separated upper and lower bracket matches, Cunningham drew RYan Lineham, who’d eliminated Roarke Dickson 5-2 and Chad Avallone 6-1 to reach him. Campbell picked up Scott Reynolds, who’d recently defeated Ed Cortney, double hill and Philip Walton 4-2. Lineham and Reynolds advanced to the quarterfinals, after handing Cunningham and Campbell their second straight loss; Lineham 5-1 over Cunningham and Reynolds, shutting out Campbell.
Lineham, who battled and defeated Fracasso-Verner in the finals of a Second Chance 10-Ball event at last year’s Classic, was in the midst of a six-match, loss-side winning streak that he no doubt assumed would give him a shot at Fracasso-Verner in the hot seat and potentially, the 2020 Winter Classic title. He won his sixth loss-side match in the quarterfinals, surviving a double hill battle against Reynolds, but the much-lower-handicapped Caesar ended the streak 4-2 in the semifinals (Reynolds racing to 8).
Caesar started and would play the true double elimination final with four ‘beads on the wire’ in a race to 8. He chalked up his first four racks while holding Fracasso-Verner to two and claimed the opening set. Fracasso-Verner put up a hell of a fight in the second set, forcing an 11th and deciding game. Caesar won it to claim his second NE 9-Ball Series title and his first Winter Classic.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Snooker’s, as well as title sponsor 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 (#13), scheduled for Feb. 15-16, will be the $1,000-added Mark Young Memorial, hosted by Straight Shooters in Fall River, MA.

D’Alfonso goes undefeated (*) to win his second 2019 NE 9-Ball Series title

(l to r): Paul Andrews, Tom D’Alfonso & John Patrick

The average Fargo Rate among the 53 entrants who signed on to compete for the 18th stop on the New England 9-Ball series was 501. By the time the $500-added event, held on Saturday, April 20, and hosted by Legends Sports Bar & Grill in Auburn, ME, had worked its way down to its final 12 competitors, that average had edged up to 527. At the lower end of the scale was Jennifer Lamson, who checked in with a 205 Fargo Rate. At the upper end of the scale was the event’s official winner, Tom D’Alfonso, who, after over 20 years of competition, entered the tournament with a Fargo Rate of 731. As defined by the rating system, his two closest competitors were Josh Rupard (663) and Kyle Pepin (652), both of whom he faced and defeated in winners’ side matches.
D’Alfonso faced separate opponents in the hot seat and finals of this event; John Patrick and Paul Andrews, respectively. He and Andrews opted out of a final match, leaving D’Alfonso, the undefeated occupant of the hot seat, as the event’s official winner.
Three of the six matches D’Alfonso won to claim the title required him to win twice as many games as his opponent (4-8). His first came against Bill Poland, whom he defeated 8-1. His second victory came against Rupard, who was racing to 5, against D’Alfonso’s 6. D’Alfonso defeated him 6-2 and moved on to his second 8-1 victory, over Eddie Bissonnette. D’Alfonso then sent Pepin to the loss side 7-1 (Pepin racing to 5) and faced Dennis Boucher in one of the winners’ side semifinals.
John Patrick, in the meantime, after an opening round bye, faced four straight opponents in even matches. He downed Elizabeth Wright 6-4 and then, in races to 5, defeated Bernie Bell 5-2 and Matt Preble 5-3. This set him up in a third straight-up race to 5 in the other winners’ side semifinal, against Gabriel Kirshnitz.
D’Alfonso got into the hot seat match with an 8-2 victory over Boucher. Patrick joined him after a double hill, 5-4, win over Kirshnitz. In what would prove to be his last match of the event, D’Alfonso completed his undefeated run with an 8-2 victory over Patrick. He finished with a game-winning average of 83%, having given up only nine racks over 54 games.
On the loss side, Boucher picked up James Stonkus, who, in a double hill battle, had eliminated Pepin 4-6 and Bissonnette 4-3 (Bissonnette racing to 5). Kirshnitz had the misfortune of running into the eventual runner-up, Paul Andrews, who was in the midst of a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him to the unplayed final. He’d most recently eliminated Jozy Vienneau 5-2 and Matt Preble 4-2.
Two double hill battles advanced Boucher over Stonkus (5-4) and Andrews over Kirshnitz (4-3) to the quarterfinals. Over the next eight games, Andrews gave up only two racks; one each to Boucher in the quarterfinals and Patrick in the semifinals. Andrews and D’Alfonso agreed to the top-two-prizes split, leaving D’Alfonso as the event’s official winner.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Legends, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, 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, Bourgeois Farms and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series (#19), scheduled for this Saturday, April 27, will be hosted by Straight Shooters in Fall River, MA.