PBA News: O’Neill or Rash? Who Will Win the Final Berth in Sunday’s PBA Playoffs Championship Match?
by Bill Vint | Thursday, May 30, 12:27 PM
PORTLAND, Maine – Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, will both be elected to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame at some point in the future, but a victory in the inaugural PBA Playoffs would provide another accomplishment each player would love to have on his resumé.
One of the two will get his shot at that prestigious victory when they meet in the final semifinal round showdown at Bayside Bowl Saturday at noon EDT, live on FOX. Whomever wins will advance to the PBA Playoffs championship match Sunday at 12:30 p.m. EDT, also live on FOX, against the winner of the first semifinal match between Kris Prather-Anthony Simonsen.
O’Neill, 37, began his march to the PBA Playoffs in January when he won the PBA Hall of Fame Classic in Arlington, Texas, for his 10th career PBA Tour title. That win security his eligibility for the PBA Hall of Fame ballot when he enters his 20th year of PBA membership. O’Neill earned the No. 7 seed for the Playoffs.
Rash, 36, won his only 2019 Go Bowling! PBA Tour title in the Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship with partner Matt Ogle of Louisville, Kentucky. Rash, now a 13-time PBA Tour title winner, also is PBA Hall of Fame title-eligible. Rash earned the No. 6 seed for the Playoffs.
There are a number of similarities between the two:
• Both joined the PBA in 2005 which means they will both be “participation-eligible” for election to the PBA Hall of Fame in the same year: 2025.
• Both are currently in their 14th years of PBA Tour competition.
• Both are members of the “PBA Millionaires Club” (exceeding $1 million in career earnings).
• Both are former collegiate stars (O’Neill at Saginaw Valley State in Michigan, Rash at Wichita State in Kansas).
• Both are married with two young children.
• Both have competed internationally as members of Team USA.
• Both have served the sport as athlete representatives on the United States Bowling Congress board of directors.
One interesting distinction about the pair? They have never bowled against each other on television, so in addition to all of the other issues, bragging rights are at stake Saturday.
“I don’t have any experience bowling against Sean in a tour telecast but I’ve faced him in match play many times,” O’Neill said. “I think Sean’s strong suit is his versatility and when he’s locked in he’s able to maintain that momentum which makes him hard to beat.”
Said Rash (at left), “You’ve got four very deserving and versatile players in the finals so it could easily come down to whomever catches the good break at a key point in the match and takes advantage of it.”
O’Neill isn’t over-thinking Saturday’s matchup, nor is he letting the magnitude of the weekend get in his head.
“I know this event can be a career-defining moment for me, but that’s something I can think about after this weekend,” O’Neill said. “Once I get there, my preparation will be the same as it is for every tournament. I’ll be concentrating on making sure my mental and physical game are synched up which I do for every event. It will be a matter of trying to develop a routine where I can make the best possible shots.”
The Bayside Bowl crowd, O’Neill said, provides the kind of atmosphere he has always dreamed about as a professional bowler.
“This environment is what we should be bowling in every tournament,” he said. “In fact, it’s more comfortable for me to bowl in front of a crowd like we have at Bayside than when we bowl when it’s quiet because any little sound can be a distraction. You can use the energy to your advantage, but you also have to avoid getting too pumped up.”
Rash has had some physical and mental issues to deal with during the 2019 season, but he feels like he’s physically refreshed and emotionally ready to go for the weekend.
“It’s been a more grueling season for me to this point; it’s had its ups and downs, but overall I think I’ve bowled pretty well, so I think from a physical and mental standpoint I’ll be where I need to be when the lights go on.
“If you look at the Playoffs to this point, there haven’t been many really high scores,” he added. “It’s been more of a grind with a lot of close matches that have gone into roll-offs. If that holds true for the finals, like I’ve said before, it’s as simple as making the best shot you can and if you don’t strike, you need to fill the frames. If history is any indication, you’re also going to need to catch some breaks and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.”
One thing Rash is certain about is bowling in front of the Bayside Bowl faithful is going to be fun.
“I know we’re all looking forward to the ‘sporting event’ atmosphere at Bayside Bowl,” he said. “(All four of us) are going to give the Portland fans and the fans watching on FOX a show they’re going to remember.”