Add qualifying for the PIAA state bowling tournament to the growing list of impressive accomplishments by Pennridge High School ninth-grader Maribeth Baker.
In the last year alone, Baker has competed in the USA Bowling Championships in Detroit as a member of the Phantom Strikers, and as an individual in the Teen Masters in Virginia and the Junior Gold National Championships in Las Vegas, to name just a few.
And last weekend, Baker earned a spot in the state tournament by finishing fourth in the Eastern Pa. Regionals at 222 Dutch Lanes in Ephrata. Performing with confidence, she turned in a five-game score of 1,067, including a single-game high of 244, to finish among the top 12 out of 140 competitors.
In the singles bracket finals to determine standings, Baker topped Aliza Shirk of Northern Lebanon High School in the quarterfinals by a 232-176 score, but fell to top seed Emma Fetterman of Shikellamy High School, 201-163, in the semifinals to take third place at regionals. The key to becoming the first freshman girl in Pennridge history to reach the state bowling championships was staying calm despite all the hoopla.
“It was really exciting,” said Baker. “I just needed to keep my head up and stay focused.”
Bowling has become a passion for Baker ever since being introduced to the sport by her father eight years ago. She’s on the road competing in local, regional or national tournaments most weekends. And that’s in addition to spending two days a week with a personal coach.
“I enjoy everything about it,” said Baker, explaining her dedication to the sport. “The people I meet are super friendly.”
With all her travels to compete, there’s a pretty good chance she’s already bowled at the alley where the state championships will be held in Pittsburgh on March 13.
“I haven’t checked yet,” she said. “But if I’ve already competed there, it will be a big help.”
That’s because competitive bowling at the high school level is about more than just showing up and firing away. Baker carefully studies the oil patterns of her lane to understand how they will affect each roll.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than people think,” she said.
Baker also helped Pennridge to a strong performance in the girls team competition. The Rams finished in eighth place at regionals with a score of 3,377, just 96 pins away from qualifying for states. Kelcie Mannon led the way for Pennridge in the team competition with a three-game total of 622 (high game of 251). Baker was next at 558 (high of 216). Liz Detweiler finished with a score of 551, while Megan Smith (383) and Kaitlin Smith (344) rounded out the team scoring for Pennridge.