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Kevin Zatorski wins the day in Times Classic Class A

HAMMOND — From the start, it felt like Kevin Zatorski’s day.

The Whiting native was the seventh qualifier in Class A of the Times Classic, meaning he received no byes and had to bowl seven games. But he advanced with the high score of 526 in the first round, and then again with the high score of 491 in the second round.

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Zatorski opened the third round with a game of 300 and it started to look like everyone else was bowling for second place. At one point, after failing to pick up a spare part, he walked up to some friends and joked, “Hey, I gotta give them a chance.”

“Every shot that came out of my hand today felt great,” he said. “Most of the shots I threw, I knew I had a chance.”

The only glitch occurred in the second game of that third round. He bowled a 201 – great for the average bowler but not good enough for the classic final – and beat Mike Verbich 501-498 to advance to the one-match championship match with Elliot Smith.

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“(Zatorski) really didn’t miss much considering where he started,” Smith said.

Smith nearly matched Zatorski with a 288 in the third round. He also looked good early in the title match, standing out in the first two frames. Zatorski, meanwhile, dropped the seven pin in the second and the ten in the third.

He didn’t miss again until the 10th frame. Smith had to collect spares in the third, sixth and seventh frames and then couldn’t get a split in the ninth.

“The left lane exploded. The left lane started to hook more and I didn’t really know it until my ball was struggling (on the right lane),” said Smith, whose previous best Classic finish was third. “Sometimes that happens.”

Zatorski has long been among the best bowlers in the area. He made a leap this year and said winning the Classic helped him prove to himself that he is the bowler he always thought he was.

“This means a lot. It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders,” he said, fighting back tears. “Today I came in and was like I can’t control anyone else, so just do me. Just do me. Keep grinding and believe in myself. As long as I believe in myself, nothing will go wrong.”

Zatorski said the win is even more special because of the caliber of opponent he had to beat. Seven of the eight qualifiers in Class A bowled three-match qualifiers above 800, led by Smith’s 824.

“The talent that is in the A division, and actually in all divisions, has to be at your best. You’ve got all these guys in the A division doing some PBA stuff. I have participated in a number of PBA regionals,” Zatorski said. “This is a tough tournament. There is no guarantee that you will win anything. Elliot Smith is a great bowler, a phenomenal bowler.”

Verbich finished third. Aria Kamalu was fourth, Keenan Johson fifth, 2022 champion Ray Lee sixth, Luis Alcantar seventh and Antoine Berry eighth.

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