ALLEN, Texas – Although Saturday’s Professional Women’s Bowling Association Greater Dallas Regional saw plenty of strikes during qualifying at JB’s Allen Bowl, the title came down to a spare conversion as Ashley Rucker of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, filled her final frame to collect her first regional win.
Rucker, a 30-year-old left-hander, covered her third 7 pin of the title match and toppled nine pins on her fill ball to take home a 212-203 win against youth standout Bella Castillo of Odessa, Texas. Rucker earned the $1,700 top prize for the victory and a spot in the season-ending PWBA Regional Showdown in December.
Select pairs during qualifying and the stepladder finals were broadcast live at BowlTV.com.
The title match stayed close through the first six frames, with Rucker holding a 10-pin advantage as Bella stepped up for her seventh frame.
Bella, a 13-year-old two-hander who had earned the top seed for the stepladder after eight games of qualifying on Saturday’s 43-foot lane pattern, left her second consecutive 4 pin but was unable to convert the spare. She followed with a 2-10 split in the eighth frame and another open, giving Rucker the chance to open up her lead.
Rucker stayed clean in the eighth and ninth, but since she was unable to strike in either frame, Bella still had a chance to make things interesting with a strong finish.
Bella showed her resiliency by striking on her final four deliveries to force Rucker to mark in the 10th frame.
The former collegiate standout at Arkansas State hit the pocket on her first shot to leave her third consecutive 7 pin on the right lane, but she made quick work of the spare to put her on track for the win.
Rucker admitted if she was going to have to make any spare in that situation , she didn’t mind seeing such a familiar foe. In addition to her three conversions in the title match, she also made three 7 pins in her semifinal win against 2021 PWBA Arlington Regional champion Jacqueline Evans of Acton, Massachusetts (211-151).
“I like shooting my 7 pins, because I leave a lot of them,” said Rucker, a former member of Junior Team USA. “I would have liked to strike, but if not, I wanted to leave something I could make. I was relieved it was a 7 pin and not a split or anything. I know I leave a lot of them, but I was glad to see that one.”
Her semifinal match against Evans helped her settle into the final pair, but Rucker already felt comfortable stepping into JB’s Allen Bowl after a successful debut at the 24-lane center during another competition.
That comfort, along with strong execution throughout the day, all played a part in Rucker’s breakthrough win.
“I bowled here one other time for a SASBA event, and I was averaging 260 going into the last game,” Rucker said. “I knew I really matched up well, at least with the house shot, so I was excited that this event was being held here. Overall, I was very happy with my execution for today, and I am super excited. It means a lot to finally get a win, because I’ve come close a few times. I’m very glad to get this first win.”
Rucker averaged 229 during Saturday’s eight-game qualifying round to determine the top four for the stepladder finals, earning the second seed.
She was leading the sold-out field of 60 athletes heading into the final game of qualifying, but Bella raced up the leaderboard to go from fifth to first after firing 279 in Game 8.
Bella earned the top seed with a 1,849 total (231.13 average), while Rucker finished with 1,832. Oklahoma City’s Jasmine Ware qualified third with 1,812, and Evans was the final advancer in fourth with 1,809.
In addition to her strong showing at the Greater Dallas Regional, Bella earned time in the national spotlight after winning the Celebrity Super Clash at the Jimmie Allen PBA Challenge on FOX and competing at the PWBA Dallas Classic Series in 2022.
In the opening round of Saturday’s stepladder, Evans delivered strikes on six of her first eight attempts to build an advantage over Ware on the way to a 237-206 victory.
Ware stayed clean to remain in the match until the final frame, but she was only able to roll one double during the game.
The next PWBA Regional event will be March 25 at the PWBA Greater Detroit Regional. The tournament will be held at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Michigan, just before the start of the United States Bowling Congress Masters.
The regional schedule features nine events across the United States in 2023 leading up to the Regional Showdown.
The field at the Regional Showdown will feature 16 players. Each regional champion in 2023 will automatically be seeded into match play at the event, while the rest of the field will be determined through an eight-game qualifying round that will be open to all PWBA Regional-eligible bowlers.
The 16 players will compete in round-robin match play before the field is cut to the final four bowlers for the stepladder finals. More details on the location and date of the Regional Showdown will be available at a later time.
The 2023 PWBA Tour season will start in May at the PWBA Stockton Open in Stockton, California. The event will be contested from May 4-6 and kick off the 12-event national tour schedule.