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Five strive for title

Lonnie Waliczek advances to a PBA final for the second straight week

The chance for redemption doesn't usually happen this quickly on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.

But Lonnie Waliczek is thankful for the exception.

The seventh-year pro from Wichita, Kan., advanced to today's television finals in the Medford Open at Lava Lanes, sweeping Tommy Jones, 4-0, in their best-of-seven match in Saturday's Round of 8.

It was only one week ago that Waliczek let what would have been his third career victory slip away when he threw a split at the worst possible time.

— Waliczek needed only a mark in the 10th frame to beat Walter Ray Williams Jr. for the Earl Anthony Classic crown, but he shot a 1-2-4-6-10 washout, then left the 6 and 10 pins and lost, 211-205.

The sooner you can get back up in the ring, the better, said Waliczek. I had a tough finish the way it worked out, so I'm really excited to get this opportunity so soon.

In the finals, which will be live on ESPN at 10 a.m., Waliczek meets Ryan Shafer, who lost to Tommy Delutz Jr., 4-3 in the opening wild-card match. Shafer earned the wild card because he was the highest qualifier among the four Round-of-8 losers.

Also in the five-man finals is Brad Angelo, who defeated Chris Barnes, 4-1, and Hall of Famer Pete Weber, who knocked off Doug Kent, 4-3.

After the Waliczek-Shafer match, Angelo faces Delutz in the first semifinal, followed by Weber against the wild-card match winner, then the championship match.

This will be Waliczek's fourth finals this season and the 12th of his career.

His two wins came last season.

I've got a little something to work on and prove to myself tomorrow, said Waliczek.

He had little trouble with Jones, who earlier in the day rolled the tournament's third perfect game. Waliczek won, 215-171, 269-218, 228-164 and 259-238.

Though his lead was relatively comfortable, he wasn't going to take it for granted.

Jones takes a deep inside line and has been known to make some impressive runs.

We see that all the time out here, where guys get up 3-0, then the lanes start transitioning and transition to where it favors the other player, said Waliczek. When that happens, you can lose the match in a heartbeat. I was happy to get it over with when I did.

Now comes another potential title shot.

I'm getting more and more familiar with that environment, said Waliczek, who bowled collegiately at Wichita State, where his father started the program in the 1970s. But going back-to-back, that's a milestone for me.

Angelo, who earlier in the day defeated Brian Voss, had no easy customer in Barnes, who four times had been one frame away from throwing perfect games in his previous two matches.

But Angelo, who has yet to win on the tour, planted a 279 on him in the first game and duplicated it in the fifth game to close him out.

With Voss and Barnes, said Angelo, last year's rookie of the year, you know you're going to be in a match when you bowl those guys. You know that if they don't have it at first, sooner or later they're going to get it and start knocking pins down.

A case in point was Barnes, who changed balls for the fifth frame of Game 5 and promptly went off the sheet for a 258.

Until then, said Angelo, He was making great shots, it's just that I was getting the 10 pin out and he wasn't.

Either Angelo, who must win the tournament, or Weber will emerge as the season points leader after today.

Weber found himself in a 2-0 hole against Kent and had to win the last two games to move on, taking them 245-229 and 235-214.

He's made it to the final eight all but twice since the third week of the season. The last time he was on TV, he lost to eventual winner Shafer in the Empire State Open in mid-November.

It's been a great year, said Weber. I've been knocking at the TV show for a long time. I've only made one. I'm past due to win one.

Weber is 10-5 in his last nine TV appearances.

Delutz had to make a huge rally to overcome Shafer, winning the final three games, 203-198, 237-225 and 249-225.

He shot that (198) and let me back in the match, said Delutz. I got lined up after that and just made good shots when I had to. A lot of pins got out of the way of my bowling ball, which was pretty cool.

He hopes it continues today. He's lost his last five TV matches, including one other appearance this season.

I'm in a little bit of a winning slump, he said. I don't care if I shoot 150, as long as I win the match. It's gotten to the point where it's kind of annoying.

Shafer knew going into the Round of 8 that he had a finals berth sewed up as at least the wild card, but you still want to win that match because it gives you one less to bowl on TV.

Shafer, a finalist here in 2002, when he lost to Ricky Ward by one pin for the title, didn't have his best game working.

As the tournament has gone on, said Shafer, my ball reaction has gotten worse and worse each round. Just making it to the show is an accomplishment.

He's confident he'll be better able to score on today's lanes, which are toward the middle of the center and where he had early success.

Brad Angelo reacts after hitting one of his nine strikes in his final game to defeat Chris Barnes on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman