Clutch finish helps pair into lead at OC

MillerBarta2012LARGEBATON ROUGE, La. - Adam Barta of Girard, Ohio, has had the pleasure of striking out in the 10th frame to win a tournament on more than one occasion, and that opportunity presented itself again at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships on Thursday night.

Although this win is not in the books, the potential is there as Barta and Hugh Miller of Mercer Island, Wash., took hold of the Regular Doubles lead with a 1,429 total at the Baton Rouge River Center. The 2012 USBC Open Championships kicked off Feb. 11 and will conclude July 10.

Barta started the night with games of 235 and 204 before calmly stepping up in the final frame of doubles and firing three clutch strikes for a 279 finish and 718 series. Miller added games of 269, 209 and 233 for a 711 set, and the two passed Ryan Whitney of Lewisville, Texas, and Chris Hans of Rocky Mount, N.C., who previously held the lead with 1,420.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Barta, a 32-year-old right-hander, who made his 11th Open Championships appearance. "It's something that everyone who bowls this tournament dreams of. To be in the position to take the lead, and knowing you need those strikes to do it, adds a little pressure, but it's a dream everybody wants. Luckily, Hugh and I were able to take advantage of it. He doubled in the 10th, and I struck out, and it's an awesome feeling."

Barta has won several national events, including The National Bowling Association Reed-Hawthorne Classic, Cincinnati's Hoinke Super Classic and three Brunswick World Team Challenge titles. He was able to call upon those experiences to help him perform on bowling's biggest stage.

"I've bowled in a lot of major amateur tournaments," said Barta, who is a collections manager at The Cable Company. "There have been multiple times where I needed two or three strikes to either win a match or make the other person strike out, so having the experience helped out today. Being in that situation gives you more of a comfort level, so you're not as nervous. Bowling all of the amateur tournaments that I have bowled in has helped out a lot. I took advantage of it and was able to do it."

Miller, whose resume includes seven Professional Bowlers Association national titles, 32 PBA regional wins, one PBA Senior Tour victory and two PBA Senior regional titles, could come full circle if their score can withstand the test of time. The 55-year-old left-hander made his first Open Championships appearance as a high school senior at the 1975 event in Dayton, Ohio, and a win here would make him feel young again.

"I bowled my first nationals in 1975," said Miller, who recently became the 40th bowler to accumulate $1 million dollars in PBA earnings. "At that time, being a senior in high school, winning here was one of my goals in bowling. I've won 40 titles professionally and was one of the top earners on the Tour, but I don't bowl that much anymore. So to me, it would be kind of like going back to my younger days."

Barta added 636 in team and 629 in singles for a 1,983 all-events total, while Miller's 28th tournament appearance ended with 598 in singles and 576 in team for 1,885. Ryan Whitney leads Regular All-Events with 2,170.

Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.