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Vollhardt claims official Stop #3 NE 9-Ball Series title, as Gravel gets by Fracasso-Verner twice

Lukas Fracasso-Verner, Jim Gravel and Jim Vollhardt

When you’re the top-FargoRated competitor at a given tournament, by 73 points, you might be forgiven for stepping up to the tables fairly confident of your ability to get to the finish line ahead of any opponent on the entrant list. But like the “Any Given Sunday” rule in professional football, dictating that on any given Sunday, one professional football team can beat any other professional football team, regardless of how low one of those teams might be rated, pool is subject to the same vagaries of fortune and the accumulated rolls of a differently-shaped ball. Or two.

So it was, that on Saturday, March 12, Lukas Fracasso-Verner (706) was downed twice by Jim Gravel (562) and never got a shot at Jim Vollhardt, who, after the semifinals had eliminated Fracasso-Verner, negotiated a split of the top two cash prizes with Gravel (passing on the opportunity to face him a second time) and became the official winner of Stop #3 on the 2022 New England 9-Ball Series. The $500-added event drew 24 entrants to Branford Cue & Brew in Branford, CT.

Gravel and Fracasso-Verner both emerged from the same upper bracket, working their way through the field from different ends to arrive at the hot seat match of the upper bracket, which is one of the winners’ side semifinal matches of the combined bracket(s). Gravel had opened with a double hill win over Daniel Cecchetto and came within a game of double hill in sending Dennis Brewer to the loss side. This set up his first meeting with Fracasso-Verner in the upper bracket’s entries into the winners’ side semifinals. From the lower bracket, Jim Vollhardt and William Aley (dead even in FargoRate at 515, squared off in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Fracasso-Verner and Gravel fought to double hill in their first meeting, with Gravel prevailing 4-7 (Fracasso-Verner racing to 8) and turning to a hot seat match against Vollhardt, who’d sent Aley to the loss side 5-1. In a straight-up race to 6, Vollhardt claimed the hot seat over Gravel 6-3.

On the loss side, Fracasso-Verner and Aley got right back into the swing of things, meeting up with competitors who’d been sent to the loss side of their respective brackets by the eventual hot seat occupants. Fracasso-Verner drew Dennis Brewer, who’d been defeated by Gravel in a winners’ side quarterfinal and gone on to defeat Ramon Vazquez 5-2 and Pedro Oquendo, double hill. Aley picked up Anthony Petruzzelli, who’d lost to Vollhardt in a winners’ side quarterfinal and then, eliminated Mike Zingarella 4-2 and Stephen Rowe, double hill.

Fracasso-Verner had to contend with a double hill fight against Brewer before moving on to the quarterfinals. Aley downed Petruzzelli 4-1. Fracasso-Verner gave up just one rack to Aley in those quarterfinals and drew his rematch against Gravel.

With Gravel racing to 4, he was the one who was stingy in the racks-given-up department. He allowed Fracasso-Verner (racing to 7) only one in advancing to the finals-that-didn’t happen  against Vollhardt.

Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Branford Cue & Brew, 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 next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series, will be the Annual Robert & Catherine Dionne Memorial, a partners tournament, scheduled for this Saturday, March 19, 

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Rowe goes undefeated to take down clear ‘favorite’ on New England 9-Ball Series

Stephen Rowe, Lukas Fracasso-Verner and Ryan Cullen

If it had been a horse race, Stephen Rowe would have been a ‘dark horse’ longshot. Fargo Rate calculations gave him only a 15.9% chance of defeating Lukas Fracasso-Verner in either of their two matches at this past weekend’s (Sat., Oct. 9) Stop #17 on the New England 9-Ball Series. With an ‘established’ rating of 467, and what they awkwardly refer to as ‘robustness’ of 438 (meaning that his performance has been tracked in the course of 438 games), Rowe didn’t just walk in off the street, so to speak, any more than an individual horse in a stakes race would come out onto a track having never seen one before. It would have been a good bet, though. Rowe went undefeated through a field 40 at the $500-added event, hosted by US 1 Billiards & Bar (owned by Jayson Shaw) in West Haven, CT.

Working from the lower bracket, Rowe got underway with victories over Stacey Bowser 5-3, Stacy Hamel 5-3 and Robert Lucas 5-2 to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against Thomas Dale, Jr. In the upper bracket, Fracasso-Verner was awarded an opening round bye and then had to contend with a double hill battle vs. Andy Down. Fracasso-Verner advanced to shut out John Vitale and defeat Jim Gravel 8-2 to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal matchup against Ryan Cullen.

Rowe got into the hot seat match with a 5-2 win over Dale, Jr. and was joined by Fracasso-Verner, who’d sent Cullen to the loss side 6-4. If the odds of Rowe winning two matches against Fracasso-Verner were high, they’d have been astronomical if you bet on a shutout, but that’s exactly what happened in the battle for the hot seat, claimed by Rowe.

On the loss side, Cullen picked up Michael Matthieu, who’d defeated Tour Director Marc Dionne 5-1 and in the first money round, Mario Argentino, double hill, to reach him. Dale, Jr. drew Michael Selig, who’d recently eliminated Robert Lucas 4-1 and Nathan Johnson 4-2.

Dale, Jr. and Selig locked up in a double hill fight, which eventually sent Dale, Jr. to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Cullen, who’d defeated Matthieu 5-1. Cullen then downed Dale, Jr.8-2 in those quarterfinals.

Fracasso-Verner gave up only a single rack in his semifinal matchup against Cullen. Fracasso-Verner had to win twice in the true double elimination finals versus Rowe, but he never made it out of the first set. Rowe took that opening set 4-2 (Fracasso-Verner racing to 10) to claim only his second recorded payout appearance on the tour, as well as the event title.

Tour director Marc Dionne offered special thanks to US 1 Billiards & Bar room owner, Jayson Shaw, who, on short notice, agreed to host the event, originally scheduled to be hosted by Yale Billiards. Shaw spent time with the players during the event and put on a few trick shot demonstrations for the assembled crowd. Dionne also thanked tour 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.

The next stop on the New England 9-Ball Series (#18), scheduled for Saturday, November 6, will be the $500-added Tony Mendonca Memorial Tournament. The event will be hosted by Stroker’s in Pelham, NH.