Sandberg, Stephens on fire

The Mining Journal's reporter Steve Brownlee receives a Good News Awards from Bishop James Garland during a lunch and awards ceremony Wednesday at the Landmark Inn in Marquette. (Journal photo by Dave Edwards)

Heather Sandberg and Justin Stephens continue to stay in the swing of things this bowling season.

It’s easy to follow Stephens’ exploits as he makes a run at bowling 40 perfect games before he turns 40.

Even though he just bowled his 38th 300 a month ago — his third perfecto this season — he turns the big four-oh in barely more than a week.

So I guess he’s running out of time, but really, is he?

Back to that in a little bit; I’d rather open with Sandberg, who has quietly been carrying just about the highest women’s average in the area this season — 203.

But she really exceeded herself when she shot a huge 735 three-game series on March 7 in the Wednesday Bowling League at River Rock Lanes in Ishpeming.

Daughter of River Rock proprietors Clay and Donna Sandberg, she’s been shooting big scores for a long time, even though she’s only 28.

But this was her biggest score ever when she shot games of 244, 238 and 253 to average 245 for the night.

It was her fifth 700 or better, and highest too — but only by two pins.

She was using a 14-pound Storm IQ Tour reactive resin ball. It’s a brand of ball she’s owned for awhile, just not this particular ball. Let me try to clear that up:

“I replaced my old IQ Tour when I got a new one as a birthday present last fall,” said Sandberg, who is engaged to be married this summer to Corey Brochu.

She bowls twice a week, a double shift on Wednesdays, when she can get away from her job as a health and safety adviser at the Eagle Mine near Big Bay.

“I’ve been bowling really good this year, and it’s been a fun year,” she said about bowling with her mom, dad, friend Glenn Ayotte and sometimes her fiance.

“I had some good weeks. It started with some 630s and 640s, then I had a 697 and now this,” she added about the near-miss with 700 just before Christmas.

Sandberg even found some good experience in a fun 3-6-9 format tournament, where free strikes are given out in those frames to boost everybody’s score.

“I struck in every other frame one game,” she said about shooting a “steroid-boosted” 300 under the 3-6-9 format. “But that experience of going for the 300 and everything with my nerves, I think it was good when I had this 700 going.”

Stephens hasn’t needed a whole lot of free strikes to keep him going this season, even as his average has dipped to “only” 233 from a lofty 240 earlier in the season.

He added his latest 300 on Feb. 27 in the Tuesday Major League at River Rock, the only league he’s a regular in this season.

That night he put together games of 242, 300 and 237 for 779, a close call for another honor score, an 800 series.

Using his 15-pound Roto Grip Daredevil Trick resin ball, the same one he’s used for his previous “3”s this season, he left a split in the sixth frame of the opening game.

Probably the best thing that could’ve happened.

“That’s when I told myself that I’ve got to make a little move left (with his targeting), and I threw the last six (strikes),” Stephens said.

With the 12 in a row the next game and one more to start game No. 3, that was 19 consecutive strikes.

“The last game, (the lanes) kept changing again and I had to move left,” he said. “I left a number of single pins until I got lined up again, then I had the last five to finish the night.”

Back to the 40 by 40 goal.

“Sure, it’s a nice goal to set,” he said, but agreeing with me when I said it’s kind of an artificial objective.

So unless he shoots two 300s this week, he’ll have to wait till he’s actually 40 to reach 40.

Seems like a pretty good goal in and of itself, wouldn’t you agree?

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.