Vannala goes undefeated for first 2010 Tri-State victory

He got it in just under the wire, so to speak. Two weeks shy of 2011, Raj Vannala chalked up his first 2010 Tri-State Tour victory; an undefeated run through a field of 44 entrants, on hand for the $500-added, A-D handicapped event, hosted by Castle Billiards in East Rutherford, NJ, on Saturday, December 18. It was 26 days shy of a full year since his last victory on the tour in January of '09.

Vannala had to get by Chad Rarick twice to win the event; once battling for the hot seat, and again, in the finals. Among the winners' side final four, Vannala, with three double hill victories behind him, sent Brian Hunter to the one-loss side 7-5. Rarick, in the meantime, sent Bernie Vogelsang over to join Hunter 6-4. In his fourth double hill contest of the day, Vannala hung on to get into the hot seat.

On the one-loss side, Mark Pantovic, who'd been sent west by Vannala from among the winners' side final eight, was working his way back toward a potential re-match that got as far as the semifinals versus Rarick. Pantovic allowed his first two, west bracket opponents – ChristIan Smith and Tim Cahill – a total of three racks, in back to back victories, which set him up to face Hunter. Vogelsang drew Al Cacciola, who'd gotten by Cory Sohlman 6-2 and Kyle Bubet 6-1. Two double hill matches were then fought for advancement to the quarterfinals; Pantovic prevailing over Hunter, and Cacciola over Vogelsang. In what would prove to be his final win on the day, Pantovic defeated Cacciola 9-6, and turned to face Rarick.

One way or another, the semifinals would result in a finals re-match. It was Rarick who got the chance, with an 8-5 victory over Pantovic. Vannala, though, spoiled Rarick's shot at redemption, and took the opening set of the true double elimination final 7-5 to record his first 2010 Tri-State victory.

Tour representatives extended thanks to Sterling-Gaming, Ozone Billiards, Viking Cues, Ron Tarr Cues, Phil Capelle, BlueBook Publishing, and Dr. Dave Billiards Instructional Products, for their sponsorship of the event.