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Beltrami-Nester goes undefeated to claim MD State Open Amateur Women’s Championship title

Loye Bolyard, Nicole Beltrami-Nester, Tina Malm and Rick Scarlato, Jr.

Varias goes undefeated to win concurrently-run Open Drop-In Tournament

As it turned out, the ‘undercard’ in Maryland this past weekend (Feb. 12-13) drew more entrants than the main event. On the Hill productions held the Maryland State Open Amateur Women’s Championships 9-Ball event, for competitors with a Fargo Rate of 625 and under, at Brews and Cues on the Boulevard in Glen Burnie, MD and as something of a bonus event, decided to run an Open ‘Drop-in’ Tournament at the same time. The Open Drop-in tournament drew 33 entrants, which required a single preliminary match, while the Ladies Championship, which drew 30, awarded a bye to two of its first-round competitors.

Both winners – Nicole Beltrami-Nester in the Ladies event and Jimmy Varias in the ‘Drop-in’ – became occupants of their respective hot seats and had to contend with strong and long loss-side bids by competitors who challenged them in the finals. Tina Malm lost her second winners’ side match and won seven on the loss side to meet Beltrami-Nester in the Ladies final. Branden Williams lost his opening match and won eight on the loss side to meet up with Varias in the ‘Drop-in’ event.

Eugenia Gyftopoulos

Nicole Nester entered the MD State Ladies 9-Ball Championship after a strong previous year. Her recorded earnings in 2021 were her second-best since she started showing up on the payout lists of the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour in 2011. She cashed in a single event that year, finishing 5th at a stop in November. Her best year was 2013, when she cashed in six JPNEWT events and was 5th in that year’s MD State Women’s Championship. Safe to say, she’s off to a real good start in 2022.

She won three out of every four games she played through her first three matches, downing Dawn Stickler (1), Judie Wilson (3) and June Prescop (2) to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Kelly Daniel. Eugenia Gyftopoulos, in the meantime, got by Rachel Walters (4), Debra Pavan Peterman (2) and Jane Im (2) to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal versus KanKan Yu.

Beltrami-Nester downed Daniel 6-1, while Gyftopoulos sent Yu to the loss side 6-2. Beltrami-Nester claimed the hot seat 6-1 (upping her game-winning percentage by three points) and waited for Malm to finish her long haul on the loss side.

On that loss side, Yu picked up a rematch against Colleen Knauff-Shoop, whom she’d sent to the loss side, double hill, in the winners’ side second round. Knauff-Shoop was working on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated June Prescop 6-4 and Christina Madrigale 5-2. It was Daniel who drew Malm, four matches into her loss-side winning streak with wins #3 and #4 against Jane Im, by forfeit, and Theresa Tascarella 7-4.

Colleen Knauff-Shoop

Knauff-Shoop won her rematch against Yu 6-3 and in the quarterfinals, faced Malm, who’d defeated Daniel 7-3. Malm stopped Knauff-Shoop’s loss-side run at five, with a 7-3 win in those quarterfinals and then gave up just a single rack to Gyftopoulos in the semifinals. Beltrami-Nester completed her undefeated run with a shutout over Malm in the finals and claimed the event title.

Varias opens 2022 campaign with an undefeated run

Like Beltrami-Nester, Jimmy Varias was coming off a strong year; his best-ever since he started recording cash payouts in 2013. Two 2021 runner-up finishes, in the Dynaspheres Cup 10-Ball event in August (losing to Jayson Shaw in the finals) and the MD State Bar Table 8-Ball Championships in September (losing to Dylan Spohr in the finals), led the pack of cash finishes last year. Also like Beltrami-Nester, it’s safe to say that he’s off to a real good start in 2022.

His path to the winners’ circle started with a shutout over Clint Clayton, an 8-2 win over Justin Pelech and an 8-6 win over Joseph Wright, Jr., which brought him to a winners’ side semifinal against Bryan Jones. Steve Fleming, a strong, veteran Mid-Atlantic competitor, got by Andres Kinones 7-2, Paul Krimes 7-5 and shutout Greg Schuler to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Rick Winpigler. 

Fleming advanced to the hot seat match 7-2 over Winpigler and was joined by Varias, who’d defeated Jones 8-2. Varias claimed the hot seat 8-3 over Fleming and like Beltrami-Nester, waited for an opponent (Branden Williams, in his case) to complete a lengthy trip on the loss side of the bracket.

Five matches into his loss-side trip, including another shutout over Schuler and a 7-2 win over John Moody, Sr. brought Williams to Jones. Winpigler picked up Glenn Loveland, who’d lost a winners’ side quarterfinal to Jones and then, defeated Paul Krimes 6-6 (Krimes racing to 7) and Joseph Wright, Jr. by shutout.

Winpigler downed Loveland 7-4, and in the quarterfinals, faced a rematch versus Williams, who’d eliminated Jones 7-1. In those quarterfinals, Williams redeemed his earlier double hill loss to Winpigler and defeated him 7-4.

Williams completed his loss-side-of-the-bracket trip with a 7-5 victory over Fleming. Varias handed Williams his second loss in the finals 8-3 to claim the ‘Drop-in’ portion of the weekend events.

Tour directors Loye Bolyard and Rick Scarlato, Jr. thanked the ownership and staff at Brews & Cues for their hospitality, as well as sponsors AlleyKat Cue Sports, AZBilliards, Aramith Balls, Simonis Cloth, TAP Chesapeake Bay Region, Safe Harbor Retirement Planners, Whyte Carbon Fiber Cue Shafts and MB Cues.

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Pelech goes undefeated to win NJ Garden State Pool Tour’s 2022 season opener

Clint Walker, Don Henriquez and Justin Pelech

There’s nothing like a handful of cash to inspire a pool player to move on to bigger and better things. Look, therefore, for the name of Justin Pelech, likely to appear at a regional tour stop near you, sometime in the near future. According to our records, prior to Saturday, January 8, Justin Pelech had cashed in only two events, finishing in the tie for 9th place at the MD State 10-Ball Championships about a month ago, and in 2020, finishing in the tie for 5th place at the NJ Garden State Pool Tour’s 4th Annual Fall Brawl. He nearly tripled the amount of cash he earned at both of those events by winning the Garden State Pool Tour’s 2022 season opener, going undefeated at the $350-added event that drew 38 entrants to Shooter’s Family Billiards in Wayne, NJ. The room was recently awarded the Tour Players’ Choice Host Room Award, voted on by tour players in the 2020/2021 season.

As Pelech was sitting in the hot seat, awaiting the results of the semifinals, he may have been counting cash chickens ahead of their hatching and thinking ahead to those bigger and better things. But he was also likely to have been watching the loss-side progress of a scenario that can spoil plans for big cash in the future; a competitor coming at him from that loss side of the bracket, chalking up twice as many match wins as he’d amassed getting to the hot seat. On that Saturday, in Wayne, NJ, it was Donald “Big Don” Henriquez, who’d lost his opening match and then won 10 straight for the right to challenge Pelech in the finals.

Rewind to the winners’ side semifinals. In the upper bracket (B & C+ players), Pelech, after downing Frank Rodriguez, Nick Torocca, and Rob Wetherhold, faced Sumit Bansal. From the lower bracket (C and lower), Clint Walker, who’d sent Fritz Innocent, Kris Manuel and Marc Lamberti to the loss side, squared off against Dakota Zbuchalski in the other one.

Pelech advanced to the hot seat match 7-2 over Bansal and was joined by Walker, who’d defeated Zbuchalski, 6-1. Pelech claimed the hot seat, double hill, and waited for Henriquez to complete his loss-side run.

Henriquez did. The last of his victories came in the semifinals, when he defeated Walker 6-1.

Henriquez began the finals with three beads on the wire in a race to 8. Pelech broke dry in the opening rack and Henriquez ran the rack. Henriquez broke and ran the second rack, too, which, with his three beads already in place, gave him a 5-0 lead. At which point, any dreams Pelech may have been harboring about gold at the end of this particular rainbow may have seemed to be in jeopardy.

But Pelech came back to win six straight. Confidence lit the rainbow back up, until Henriquez chalked up the 12th rack, tying the score at 6-6. Pelech reached the hill with rack 13, though, and when Henriquez missed, just barely, a shot at the 6-ball in the next rack, Pelech pounced and dropped the rack’s final four to claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked Shooters Family Billiards owner, Kris Consolvo-Kemp for his hospitality and presented him with his room’s award as the Players’ Choice Host Room for 2020/2021. The next stop on the NJ Garden State Pool Tour, scheduled for Saturday, January 29, will be hosted by Players Billiards in Eatontown, NJ.