Matt Russo said he felt super confident returning to Hijinx Entertainment in Jonesboro, Ark. He won his first career PBA Tour title in same building one year ago.

While the PBA Jonesboro Super Southwest Open only awards a region title, the 25-year-old again finds himself atop the standings. He averaged 243 to lead the eight game qualifying block at +344.

Spencer Robarge, another two-handed lefty who is currently staring at Wichita State University, sits in second place at +291. Shawn Maldonado, Zacharay Wilkins and Mike Bailey round out the top-five.

Russo said he knew from last year’s experience that some pairs were going to be tough. Once again using a Brunswick Purple Hammer, he said his gameplan was to use the hook in the front of the lane.

“Ultimately, it clicked when I saw my ball slap out the 7-pin a couple times,” Russo said. “It was just (about) going up and repeating shots.”

A slew of PBA stars sit near the back half of the top-10. AJ Johnson, François Lavoie, EJ Tackett, Tom Daugherty and Nick Pate occupy the 8-12th positions and trail fifth place by less than 50 pins.

Ildemaro Ruiz Jr., who won the first super regional last month in Lubbock, Tex., snuck into the cut at +103. Youth player Eric Jones, who finished fourth last year in Jonesboro, will be the last advancer to Sunday’s competition at +73. (A previous version of this story incorrectly said Cody Meiers would be last advancer.)

Advancers will bowl five more games on Sunday morning before a cut to the top-24. Players will bowl four more games then cut to the top-12. Four more games will determine the five stepladder finalists.

The finals are scheduled for 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. local time) on Sunday afternoon. Tune in for the finals on the PBA’s YouTube channel.

More information on the tournament is available here.

Top-10 Standings Through Eight Games

  1. Matt Russo +344
  2. Spencer Robarge (n) +291
  3. Shawn Maldonado + 257
  4. Zacharay Wilkins + 244
  5. Mike Bailey (s) +226
  6. Mykel Holliman +207
  7. David Krol +206
  8. AJ Johnson +199
  9. François Lavoie +188
  10. EJ Tackett +180

Full standings are available here.

Tournament Schedule

Sunday, August 7

9 a.m. ET | 8 a.m. local time — Cashers round, 5 games (cut to top-24)

Eliminator Finals

12:30 p.m. ET | 11:30 a.m. local time — 4 games (cut to top-12)

20 minutes after previous round — 4 games (cut to top-5)

5 p.m. ET | 4 p.m. local time — Stepladder finals live on the PBA's YouTube channel

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