'Battle-Tested' Frankenmuth Sweeps Match Play to Clinch 1st Finals Title

By Jeff Bleiler
Special for MHSAA.com

March 1, 2024

JACKSON – Ron Krueger is old school, so the Frankenmuth High School boys bowling team decided to throw it back to the 1980s.

It worked to perfection as the Eagles pounded the pins at Jax 60 in Jackson on Friday with urethane balls — made popular decades ago and experiencing a resurgence during the past few years — to win the Division 3 championship, the program's first Finals title.

Frankenmuth polished off a perfect day in the match play portion of the Final with a dominating performance over Milan, sweeping the best-of-five Baker match 221-126, 196-154 and 199-156.

“We got a little niche (with urethane), and it worked out really well,” Krueger said. I knew that if we could get in the top eight, with the new format being head-to-head best of five, we were tested throughout the year with Bakers.

“We’ve bowled a lot of tough tournaments and faced a lot of tough teams. And I knew we could compete against the top ones here today.”

The Eagles qualified fifth after eight Baker games and two regular games with 3,393 pins and dispatched Portland in the Quarterfinals with games of 154, 214 and 216. They topped top seed Gladwin in the Semifinals shooting 201, 134 and 201.

In the Final, they opened the first game with five of seven strikes while Milan struggled through seven opens over the first nine frames. About the only thing that could stop the Eagles was the gutter — which came into play at an inauspicious time during the second game. The team had a spare and four strikes in a row before throwing gutters on three of the next four shots.

That could have derailed a lesser team, but Frankenmuth responded with a double to win the second game comfortably.

“That’ll put a little stress on you, but again, that’s what this team is made of,” Krueger said. “The guy that came up behind steps up and throws a strike and we mark behind that and away we go.”

Frankenmuth made up for some of the disappointment from last year’s postseason when the Eagles missed qualifying for the Finals by 11 pins. Krueger said the team responded by returning to the lanes the next week and training the entire summer, showing resolve and commitment.

“I didn’t think from the beginning of the season we’d go on to actually qualify for the state championship,” said senior Mayson Knop, who last weekend won the singles competition at his Regional. “But we just kept qualifying first in tournaments over and over, and it was like, ‘Wow, we actually have a shot at this thing.’ And then absolutely popping off during match play, it’s an unbelievable feeling. There’s no words to even describe it.”

Knop will join junior teammates Miles Paetz and Liam Liddle at the Singles Final on Saturday, a week after they swept the top three Regional positions, and Krueger has a good feeling about how they will fare.

“All have a really good shot,” Krueger said. “They all threw a lot of balls today so they should feel real comfortable going into tomorrow. I think they’re prepared. All you want to do is make that cut.

“Once you get into the cut, the pressure is on and our guys are battle-tested.”

Milan qualified sixth with 3,358 and beat Blissfield in three straight, then advanced to the Final with a 3-1 victory over Midland Bullock Creek.

Click for full results.