Darby, Walker set personal bests during exceptional bowling seasons

The Gary Piripavel Memorial League at Steel City Bowl is ripe with area talent. And there are no better examples of that talent than Owen Darby and Nicole Walker. Each made their mark this season.

Walker tossed an 810 in November that reset the Bethlehem center’s house record for women. Darby ran roughshod over the other 100 competitors and averaged 249 and some change, clearing his nearest rival by nearly double-digit pin fall.

It all amounted to Walker and Darby being named lehighvalleylive.com Bowlers of the Year for 2022.

For the 32-year-old Darby, it’s his fifth career Bowler of the Year nod. He was named three times as a Junior in 2004, 2007 and 2009. He was the men’s top winner in 2014.

The 36-year-old Walker makes it back-to-back Bowler of the Year honors.

Darby reflected on a personal-best 249 average and, every once in a while, gave a thought to what it takes to average a shade under 250.

“Realistically thinking, you can only shoot two spares in a game,” said the Easton resident. “You might be able to get three but after that, you’re losing pins. I try not to think about that too much while I’m bowling. It really doesn’t seem all that nuts to me. I just enjoyed the year.”

Imagine having to shoot 750 each week to maintain 250. Now, imagine what could have been had he not opened the season with a 520.

“Without that first week, I can say I didn’t have a game under 200,” he said. “… All in all, the season flew by and I was kind of that Steady Eddy.”

Sprinkled in with the 90-some straight 200s were four perfect games. He also racked up five matches over 800, including a final-week 300-803 performance in an effort to bolster his average to 250.

“I knew with two weeks left I needed 787s to get there. But I made it tough on myself when I had 737, and I would have needed an insane number the last week,” he said. “I’m happy with that because after New Year’s I didn’t want to shoot a match under 700. I had a 696 in the middle of it.”

Darby is no one-trick pony. He can mix it up with anyone, anywhere. He fared well in tournaments at Skylanes, Chacko’s in Wilkes-Barre and the Lebanon Dutchman tourney in Lancaster.

“My goal is to be relevant everywhere I go,” he said. “I recently joined the PBA and will bowl regional events. I finished in the middle of the pack in my first one. It was a urethane event and I’m not that big into urethane.”

Next season, Darby wants to expand his scoring prowess to a few other venues.

“Looking forward to see what I can do and see what kind of scores I can put up,” he said.

Good news for him. Bad news for area competitors.

Walker was coming off a season full of highlights, including a couple of 300s and a pair of 800s. So, how do you top that?

How about three more 300s to the resume, including a pair at Blue Valley and one in a tournament in Delaware. The Northampton resident upped the ante for series as she posted a career-best 826 at Berks Lanes in Shillington. She also rang up a house record 810 at Steel City, along with 809 at Coplay Saengerbund and 801 at Blue Valley.

“Overall, it was a really good season,” Walker said. “It was a great beginning to the season and then I sort of eased up. Near the end, I was kind of bowled-out. I think it was a hectic schedule (with) little time to recover.”

Walker averaged 221 in the Friday scratch league at Blue Valley and sported the women’s top average in the Piripavel circuit at Steel City with a 219 norm, which is up two sticks than a season ago. But her main goal, much like Darby, was to be a force wherever she went.

“I had the 826 in a tournament. The 300 was in a tournament where you bowled on a team with two people that were basically strangers, and I managed to throw the 300 in the first game,” she said. “I recently finished fifth in another event at Berks Lanes as well.”

Walker admits it’s tough to pick a No. 1 moment. She did return to the 809 at the Bund, since her son was able to be there and watch mom card a rare women’s 800.

“That’s special because he got a chance to see a place with just a few lanes and I told him there were a lot of them,” she recalled. “It was just another special moment for me.”

Walker has an infectious disposition when it comes to the sport. For her, it’s all about the camaraderie and having fun, which is something she urges to others.

“You have to remember to enjoy it,” Walker said. “Again, don’t forget to have fun.”

Bowlers of the Year

1973 – Darryl Sorber, Brenda Cooper; 1974 – Bob Shoemaker, Jeanette Peters; 1975 – Darryl Sorber, Babara Durnin; 1976 – Darryl Sorber, Helen Kolchak; 1977 – Bill Britain, Sue Werkheiser; 1978 – Stan Magdon, Sue Werkheiser; 1979 – Darryl Sorber, Sue Werkheiser

1980 – Bob Quear, Peggy Freeby; 1981 – Ted Long, Sally Buskirk; 1982 – Art Edgehill, Chris Berardi; 1983 – Joe Murray Jr., Joan Mack; 1984 – Bob Shoemaker, Chris Berardi

No Bowlers of the Year 1985-89

1990 – Dave Patti, Carolyn Massaro; 1991 – Ted Long, Billie Jo Buckley; 1992 – Jules Miknyoczki, Terri Baldwin; 1993 – Bill Henderson, Toni Shupp; 1994 – Jeff Bosak, Kim Dulick; 1995 – Chris Kishbaugh, Sally Buskirk; 1996 – Gary Steiner, Kim Dulick; 1997 – Al Parenti, Sally Buskirk; 1998 – Floyd Carrescia, DJ Shaner; 1999 – Jules Miknyoczki, Tammy Buck

2000 – Kevin Moser, Rose Janiec; 2001 – Frank Meshach, DJ Cryan; 2002 – Ted Long, Billie Jo Buckley; 2003 – Kyle Hartzell, Joan Mack; 2004 – Keith Edwards, Jacqui Reese; 2005 – Brent Tishuk, Sally Millheim; 2006 – Anthony Johnston, Deb Feliciano; 2007 – Anthony Johnston, Jacqui Reese; 2008 – Kyle Hartzell, Jacqui Reese; 2009 – Anthony Johnston, Jacqui Reese

2010 – Kasey White, Krista Sandt; 2011 – Kyle Hartzell, Jacqui Reese; 2012 – Wayne Fleming, Jacqui Reese; 2013 – Kyle Hartzell, DJ Cryan; 2014 – Owen Darby, Shannon Quick; 2015 – Brent Tishuk, DJ Cryan; 2016 – Brent Tishuk, DJ Cryan; 2017 – Brent Tishuk, Krista Sandt; 2018 – Bryan Ramsey, Mary Bechtel; 2019 – Anthony Johnston, Shannon Quick

2020 – Brent Tishuk, Krista Sandt; 2021 – Larry Fricker Jr., Nicole Walker; 2022 – Owen Darby, Nicole Walker

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Dave Goodman can be reached at badgood2@aol.com,

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