The Highland High School boys bowling team sat in 10th place going into the final afternoon session at the season-opening Zachary LeCuyer Invitational held Saturday at Camelot Bowl in Collinsville. But the Bulldogs raised their level of play and climbed the ladder sixth rungs to finish in a solid fourth place out of the 29 competing squads.
Highland finished with a final pin count of 5,880 to nab fourth place in the Gold Division.
The only three teams placing ahead of the Bulldogs were tournament champion O’Fallon Gold, who ran away with the team title with an outstanding overall pin count of 6,596, Jerseyville A (6,182) and Belleville East A (6,030).
Rounding out the top 10 were: Salem A (5,877), Collinsville Purple (5,870), O’Fallon Blue (5,714), Freeburg (5,674), Belleville West (5,587) and Edwardsville A (5,461).
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Other than second-place Jerseyville A, Highland placed ahead of its other Mississippi Valley Division rivals: Triad A in 12th place, Waterloo in 17th place and Mascoutah in 20th place.
Senior Jorden Buske showed the way for Highland after meriting an seventh-place overall individual finish with a impressive six-game series of 1,334, which breaks down to a noteworthy single-game average of 222.33. Buske rolled consistently strong games in the the following order: 202, 191, 235, 253, 263 and 190.
Joining Buske as a senior leader this season is Devon Frank, who fired outstanding individual games of 243 and 223 at the Collinsville tourney.
“They had great seasons last year,” HHS coach Laura Wander-Vrell said of Buske and Frank. “You always want your seniors to lead everybody else and show them the way how to do it, and they’ll do a fine job. They have been helping already with some of the younger players. They are very good about sharing their knowledge and helping the younger players on their way. They’re about done and they want to see the program continue to be successful, especially since Jordan’s brother (Adam) is on the team as a freshman.”
Sophomore Brandon Munie also holds down a starting spot in the varsity team lineup and he showed right away that he is more than able to contribute in his first time out at the tourney in Collinsville after finishing as Highland’s No. 2 bowler with a 29th-place individual finish at an overall pin count of 1,195. That works out to be just an eyelash below a 200 average at 199.17. Munie’s high games were 220, 213, 202 and 198.
“He has improved by leaps and bounds and he is a very good bowler, very controlled,” Wander-Vrell said of Munie.
Junior Collin Korte is a returning junior to the program after serving as the floater last year. Korte, who should be a mainstay in the varsity lineup this season, was the Bulldogs’ third best bowler at last weekend’s tournament after posting a six-game series of 1,174, which is a 195.67 average. Korte’s top games were 215, 214, 212 and 209.
“He was at regionals and sectionals with us so he got a little more playing time at the end of last season and is ready to take that next step and compete at the varsity level,” Wander-Vrell said of Korte.
In addition for Highland at tourney in Collinsville, freshman Adam Buske added a 215 game and junior Tanner Huelsmann had a 190 game.
Wander-Vrell said the the two seniors, Jorden Buske and Frank, will ultimately decide where each player will bowl in the lineup during the dual-match season, which began Tuesday against Metro-East Lutheran at SIUE Bowl and Wednesday at the Alton Quadrangle at Bowl Haven.
Filling the floater position as the sixth bowler who floats between the varsity and junior varsity lineups will most likely be Adam Buske and sophomore Andrew Mettler, who is out for the first time after playing football as a freshman.
“We have a lot of depth, I would say seven deep,” Wander-Vrell said. “It should be a really good year. We’re very stacked and deep, which is very good for next year.”
Also returning to the program is sophomore Chandler Smith, who will play on the JV squad this season.
In addition to Adam Buske, there are three other newcomers to the program in sophomore Tanner Zbinden, who is senior girl bowler Gina Zbinden’s younger brother, and freshmen Trevor Leitschuh, a cousin to the three Leitschuh sisters (Lindsey, Kelsey and Cassey), and Wyatt Wiese.
In terms of competing for the Mississippi Valley Division championship this season, Jerseyville should be the team to beat.
“Jerseyville is going to the big one,” Wander-Vrell said. “They had that group come in as freshmen in and they all went crazy, and they’re all seniors this year. So, they have played varsity basically since they were freshmen. Hands down, they are a phenomenal team and they are the clear cut favorites.”
Wander-Vrell figures that Mascoutah will also be in the mix for the division title, although she was quick to point out that Highland should definitely be right in the middle of the battle.
Wander-Vrell very well believes she may have the best individual bowler in the Mississippi Valley Division in Jorden Buske.
Another top-notch individual bowler in the division is Triad junior Gavin Pisetta, who last year as a sophomore earned the eighth-place medal at the IHSA Boys State Bowling Tournament with two-day total pin count of 2,659. That equates to a hefty single-game average of 221.6.
Last Saturday a the Zachary LeCuyer Memorial Invitational in Collinsville, Pisetta opened the season with an impressive second-place overall individual finish with a six-game series of 1,360, which is good for a dazzling single-game average of 226.67. The Knights also received a 26th-place finish from Ryan Harman (1,207).
Jerseyville’s second-place team showing at the Zachary LeCuyer invite was led by Jacob Freand, who wound up in fifth place at 1,343. The Panthers also got an 11th-place finish from Brandon Handler (1,330).
Mascoutah was paced by Noah Breakfield’s 21st-place finish (1,235).