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Shaw wins final battle versus Appleton in Open NineBall Pro Players Championship

Jayson Shaw

Nearly 2,000 entrants, with some event crossovers, compete in Amateur events

As of March 31, three weeks before the Super Billiards Expo opened its doors, the Diamond Open NineBall Professional Players Championship was designated as an Official Nineball World Ranking event, and while it did not literally draw its entrance field from everywhere, there was a very evident sense of international competition. The final 16 featured representation from the US (five) and 11 competitors from seven foreign countries – Austria, Germany (2), Russia, the UK (2), Canada (2), the Philippines and Hong Kong (2). The international ‘feel’ of the event was most evident in what was easily among (if not “the”) most anticipated matchup of the four-day event, between the UK’s Jayson Shaw and Russia’s Fedor Gorst. The matchup, which occurred in the single-elimination quarterfinals, lived up to its billing, as the two battled to double hill before Shaw advanced. More on this later, along with the final matchup between Shaw and Darren Appleton, which waited until the 17th of its potential 21 games before Shaw pulled away to win the next two and claim the title. 

There were quite a few “wish I coulda been there” matches throughout the event’s four days, up to and including matches among the final 16, which were, for obvious reasons, witnessed by the SBE’s largest crowds in the Pro arena. Pre-single-elimination, there was the double hill battle between Shaw and Billy Thorpe, which moved Shaw into the final 16, the Fedor Gorst and Ralf Souquet (new school/old school) match that sent Gorst to the final 16, and Appleton’s two straight double hill matches; one win (Jeff Beckley) and one loss (Mhet Vergara), which sent “Dynamite” to the loss side, where a single win, over Bucky Souvanthong, sent him (Appleton) to the final 16. And, as always, any match featuring Earl Strickland as a competitor is always entertaining, whether because of exuberant antics or just plain rock-solid shooting.

The Shaw/Gorst match followed a Shaw “Sweet 16” victory over John Morra 11-6 and a Gorst win over Thorsten Hohmann 11-8. Gorst opened with two straight racks and kept that as a minimum lead until rack #17. By the 12th rack, Gorst was leading by four. Two straight racks that featured Shaw dropping a combination shot that dropped the 9-ball cut that lead in half. Gorst went three-up at 9-6, but Shaw came right back with a break and run that reduced it to two again.

Off a Gorst break, Shaw narrowed the lead to one until that 17th rack, when Shaw came within one. Shaw broke the 18th, but turned the table over briefly, before, with a second chance, he dropped a 3-9 combination that yielded the match’s first tie. Gorst dropped two balls on his break, but Shaw came through to get on the hill with his first lead of the match. Gorst, with a scratch-on-the-break assist from Shaw, made it interesting by winning the 20th, double hill rack.

Gorst broke dry in the deciding rack, but Shaw turned the table back over to Gorst, who promptly scratched shooting at the 2-ball. Shaw ran to the 8-ball and Gorst conceded the game and match. 

Moving into the semifinals, Shaw drew Mario He, who’d earlier defeated Jonathan Pinegar 11-7 and Oscar Dominguez 11-9. Appleton’s path to the finals from the final 16 started out against Earl Strickland. He got by him 11-6 and then downed Joseph Spence 11-3. In the semifinals, Appleton drew Billy Thorpe, who’d recently eliminated Robbie Capito 11-9 and Souquet 11-8. 

Shaw downed He 11-7, as Appleton was busy dispatching Thorpe 11-4. The all-UK battle was on.

In the early going of the finals, it appeared as though neither of them was going to win a rack off their own break. Appleton won the lag, broke dry and Shaw ran the table to take a 1-0 lead. Shaw broke, dropping two balls and scratching. Appleton set up a 1-9 combination to tie it up. They went back and forth like this, winning the other’s break to a single game lead for Shaw at 4-3.

Shaw broke the 8th rack, dropped one, and after giving the table back to Appleton briefly, won the rack, his first off his own break, to take the game’s first two-game lead. He made it a three-game lead (his first of two), before Appleton chalked up two in a row to make it 6-5. Shaw used a terrific jump shot at the 2-ball to maintain his run of rack #12. On Appleton’s break of rack #13, he dropped one ball, but almost immediately gave the table to Shaw, who missed hitting the 1-ball, completely. Shaw saw an obvious 1-9 combination awaiting Appleton’s arrival at the table, so, gentleman that he was, he picked up the cue ball and placed it in the position it needed to be for Appleton to make the combination. He did so without handling the cue ball Shaw had set for him.

Shaw dropped two balls on the break of rack #14 and used another terrific jump shot to jumpstart his third win off his own break and then, off Darren’s break, established his second three-rack lead at 9-6. Appleton fought right back, winning the next two and including his own terrific jump shot at the 1-ball that started his 8th game win.

Ahead by a single rack at 9-8, Shaw broke and ran the 18th (his fourth win off his own break) to reach the hill first. Darren broke the 19th rack, sinking one ball, but couldn’t see the 1-ball. He pushed (the one and only time that happened all match) and Shaw finished the game to claim the event title. 

Amateur events draw 35 shy of 2,000 entrants

Not including the two junior events for ages 17/Under and 12/under, the total entrants for which were not recorded, the nine amateur events of the 2022 SBE drew a total of 1,965 entrants (with some crossover between events). This brought the total number of participating pool players to 2,101. The two Pro events (73 Open and 63 Women) thus represented just 6% of the total number of players who competed this year. Trying to detail 9 events, especially the 996-entrant Open Amateur would be unwieldy, so we offer some information about and congratulations to the 94% percent who were the largest participating contingent of pool players at the 2022 SBE.

6-Ball Amateur Players Championship (200) – 1st Danny Mastermaker, 2nd Fred Goodman III, 3rd Jared Demalia/Daniel Dagotdot

Early Bird Super Seniors (58) – 1st Ike Runnels, 2nd Martin Ciccia, 3rd Al Muccilli/Flaco Rodriguez

Open Amateur (996) – 1st Chris Bruner, 2nd Pat McNally, 3rd Jomax Garcia/Derick Daya

Senior Amateur (364) – 1st Raymond McNamara, 2nd Chris Sutzer, 3rd Javier Perez/Efrain Morales

Super Seniors (149) – 1st Gene Rossi, 2nd Ed Matushonek, 3rd Frank Sorriento/Ace Aughty

Women’s Amateur (166) – 1st Tina Malm, 2nd Ashley Benoit, 3rd Nicole Nester/Bethany Tate

Junior (12 & Under) – 1st Jim Powell, 2nd D’Angelo (“Jaws”) Spain, 3rd Noah Majersky, 4th Evan Demelo

Junior (18 & Under) – 1st Brent Worth, 2nd Payne McBride, 3rd Landon Hollingsworth, 4th Yan Pena

ProAm BarBox (32) – 1st Joe Dupuis, 2nd Alan Rolan Rosado, 3rd Bart Czapla/Joey Tate

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Gorst goes undefeated in delayed 14th Bob Stocks Memorial

Fedor Gorst and Shane Wolford (TTMD)

There were a lot of events going on this past Easter weekend, particularly on the East Coast and the multiplicity of them led to a few crossover competitors, reducing the numbers here, increasing them there. This past weekend’s 14th Bob Stocks Memorial (April 16), usually held on an annual basis, came two years after the last one in 2019. Formerly held under the auspices of the Action Pool Tour, ThinkTechMD picked up the reins for this year’s edition. Initially capping the field at 64, that number fell to 52 for a variety of different reasons, and when it began, there were only 30.

Fedor Gorst went undefeated through the field, advancing first on the winners’ side of a double elimination bracket and then, winning four matches in a single elimination bracket to claim the title. Gorst and junior competitor Shane Wolford advanced through the winners’ side of the double elimination bracket and were one of the eight chosen from that side of the bracket to compete in the single elimination phase of the event. Had the double elimination bracket continued, they would have faced off in a winners’ side quarterfinal. As it turned out, after the redraw to single elimination, they showed up at opposite ends of the single elimination bracket and met, for the first and last time, in the event final. The $1,500-added event drew its 30 entrants to First Break Sports Bar in Sterling, VA.

Gorst played two matches on the winners’ side of the double elimination bracket, downing Rafael Reyes (1) and Matt Krah (0) by an aggregate score of 14-1. Wolford advanced through Lenny Valley (4) and Thang Nguyen (3) to arrive at the same winners’ side spot. Joining the eventual finalists in the single elimination phase were, from the winners’ side, Chris Hansen and Nathan Childress, Derick Daya and Manny Chau, as well as Kristina Tkach and Scott Haas.

The last eight left standing on the losers’ side and advancing to single elimination were Thomas Haas, Eric Heiland, Dylan Spohr, Rafael Reyes, Matt Krah, Brandon Shuff, Bart Czapla and John Moody, Sr.

Heiland and Spohr advanced to the event’s final eight after defeating Daya and Childress, respectively. Gorst got by Reyes and was joined in the final eight by Chau, who’d defeated Thomas Haas. Moody, Sr. and Shuff advanced as well, eliminating Scott Haas and Kristina Tkach. Wolford downed Matt Krah, and was joined among the final eight by Chris Hansen, who’d defeated Czapla.

The winners in the four, quarterfinal matches advanced by an aggregate score of 48-16. Shuff and Wolford downed Moody, Sr. and Hansen by the same 11-5 score. Gorst eliminated Chau 11-4 and Spohr gave up only two racks versus Heiland.

The semifinal matches pitted Gorst against Spohr and Shuff against Wolford. Gorst eliminated Spohr 11-5. Shuff gave Wolford a run for his money, coming within a game of forcing a twenty-first deciding game, but in the end, Wolford pulled out in front, advancing to the final against Gorst 11-9.

The final match was an extended race-to-13. Though similar in age (early 20s), the combatants were quite different in how far each had come to this point in their pool careers; Wolford, more or less just starting out and Gorst, already a recognized world-class professional player. Though Wolford would chalk up twice as many racks against Gorst as any of his previous challengers (Reyes and Spohr had managed five against him in races to 11), Gorst got out ahead of Wolford and closed the 14th Bob Stocks Memorial with a 13-10 victory to claim the title. 

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Sluzalis goes back-to-back in MD State Bar Table Championships

(l to r): Tom Zippler & Brandon Sluzalis

While the 2019 Maryland State 8-Ball Bar Table Championships didn’t get quite the ‘name draw’ of its predecessor, the 2019 Maryland State 9-Ball Bar Table Championships, the two did share a winner. Back in March at Brews & Cues in Glen Burnie, MD, Brandon Sluzalis went undefeated through a field of 104 to claim the first MD State 9-Ball Bar Table title. On the weekend of July 27-28, at the same location, Sluzalis got into the hot seat of the 8-Ball Bar Table Championships, and in the end, won it, though not before he was challenged and defeated once, by Tom Zippler, who’d won five on the loss side to reach him for a true double elimination final. The event drew 100 entrants to Brews & Cues.
 
Sluzalis, who’d faced and defeated the likes of James Aranas, Shaun Wilkie and Brett Stottlemeyer in the March 9-Ball event, did not run into them playing 8-ball in Glen Burnie. Stottlemeyer and Wilkie did compete, just not against Sluzalis. It took him five matches to get into the hot seat, downing Rusty Hamilton 6-1, and Tony Conn 6-4, before picking up a forfeit win over Marko Stanley. He advanced to defeat Dwayne Laub 6-3 and picked up Gary Kline as an opponent in a winners’ side semifinal.
 
Zippler, in the meantime, had defeated Lance Fessler 6-1, Mark Ford 6-4 and Derick Daya 6-1 before being sent to the loss side by Rick Molineiro 6-3. Molineiro advanced and drew Steve Fleming in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
By identical 6-1 scores, Sluzalis and Molineiro sent Kline and Fleming to the loss side, and squared off against each other in the hot seat match. Sluzalis sent Molineiro to the semifinals 6-2 and waited for Zippler to finish his loss-side run.
 
On the loss side, Kline drew Zippler, who’d defeated Brian Dietzenbach and Rick Winpigler, both 6-4, to reach him. Fleming picked up co-event director Rick Scarlato, Jr., who’d defeated his fellow event director Loye Bolyard 6-4 and Matt Haines, double hill.
 
A pair of 6-2 victories sent Fleming and Zippler to the quarterfinals, eliminating Scarlato and Kline. A third 6-2 win sent Zippler to the semifinals and a rematch against Molineiro, who’d added a few matches to Zippler’s weekend.
 
Zippler exacted his revenge on Molineiro 6-4 and turned to face Sluzalis in a true double elimination final.  A single race to 10 would have yielded the same result as the two races to 6 did. Zippler, on the wings of that intangible ‘momentum’ took the opening set 6-4. Sluzalis came back in the second set to win it and the 8-ball Championship 6-3. The hypothetical ‘race to 10’ would have gone double hill with Sluzalis winning it 10-9.
 
Event directors Rick Scarlato, Jr., and Loye Bolyard thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues for their hospitality, as well as sponsors McDermott Cues, Billiard Sports Network, Lights Out Billiards Apparel, Phillippi Custom Cues and TAP Pool League (Chesapeake Region). 

Brandon Sluzalis sweeps the field at the first Maryland State Bar Table 9-Ball Championship

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.

Chua downs Atencio twice to win MD State 10-Ball Bar Table Championships

(in foreground, l to r): Rick Scarlato, Jr., Johann Chua, Jesus Atencio & Loye Bolyard

A little shy of a year ago (Nov. 26, 2017), Johann Chua from the Philippines was in Amagasaki, Japan (about four hours southwest of Tokyo) collecting the 1st place prize in the All Japan Open Championships. The victory capped what proved to be Chua’s best recorded earnings year to date; a year in which during the single elimination phase of the Super Billiards Expo’s Player Championships (April, 2017) he’d defeated, in order, Mika Immonen, Jayson Shaw and Dennis Hatch, before being eliminated in the finals by Shane Van Boening.
 
When Chua arrived on scene at the 2018 Maryland State 10-Ball Bar Table Championships on the weekend of Nov. 3-4, he had yet to chalk up a 2018 victory, at least one that appeared in our records. He wasted little time, marching through the field of 95 entrants, chalking up wins in nearly three out of every four games he played (71%), defeating Jesus Atencio twice and claiming the event title. The annual event, held under the auspices of On The Hill Productions, drew its 95 entrants to Bank Shot Bar & Grill in Laurel, MD.
 
Chua arrived at the winners’ side semifinals, to face Derick Daya, on the heels of four victories and an aggregate game score of 28-8 (77%). Atencio in the meantime, sporting an even better four-match winning percentage (80%; 28-7) squared off against Kevin West. Chua notched his winning percentage up a bit with a 7-2 win over Daya, while Atencio lowered his percentage as he survived a double hill battle against West (the only opponent to chalk up more than two racks against him). Chua claimed the hot seat 7-4 and waited for Atencio to get back from the semifinals.
 
On the loss side, West and Daya ran into a pair of tough customers – Mike Davis, Jr. and Shaun Wilkie, respectively. Davis had recently defeated Curtis Branker and Rick Scarlato, Jr., both 7-3 to draw West. Wilkie had eliminated Joshua McCauley 7-2 and Dylan Spohr 7-3 to face Daya.
 
Wilkie, who’d been sent to the loss side in a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal by West, did his part to assure an event quarterfinal rematch with a 7-3 win over Daya. West followed suit by downing Davis 7-5. Wilkie and West came within a game of a second double hill fight in those quarterfinals, but Wilkie closed it out, edging ahead to win it 7-5.
 
He was not as fortunate in the semifinals against Atencio that followed. This did go to double hill and this time, it was Atencio advancing for a second shot against Chua with a victory over Wilkie. Chua duplicated his hot seat efforts with a second 7-4 win over Atencio to claim the event title.
 
Tour directors Rick Scarlato, Jr. and Loye Bolyard thanked the ownership and staff at Bank Shot Bar & Grill for their hospitality, as well as sponsors McDermott Cues, Lights Out Billiards Apparel, TAP Pool League (Chesapeake Bay), Billiard Sports Network, Phillippi Custom Cues, Navigator Premium Tips and Chalk, Simonis Cloth, Aramith Balls, and Roy’s Basement.
 
According to Loye Bolyard, On the Hill Productions is in the midst of preparing its 2019 schedule, which will include Championship events in 8-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball. Bolyard expects the schedule to be completed in the next week or two.