Throughout its first two seasons of play, the men’s bowling program at Shawnee State has been steadily growing into a legitimate conference threat.
In 2019-20, Shawnee State emerged as such.
The Bears’ Zach Otto won Mid-South Conference Bowler of the Week honors — picking up the first such award in Shawnee State history — while Otto and Brad Simpkins were able to lead SSU throughout the year as the Bears’ top bowlers.
Simpkins puts together strong final year
The senior bowled a five-day 873 at the season-opening Louisville Classic, then followed it up the next day with a high game of 264 at the Thomas N. Burris Classic.
At the Orange and Black Classic, Simpkins added in an outstanding 1,075-pin total over five games en route to averaging 215 pins per frame and finishing 13th. He was one of only 46 players in the entire field to knock down 1,000 pins.
Simpkins then added a total of 1,077 pins during the Striking Knight Classic, finished 27th at the Thomas More Classic, and posted a five-game 936 on the first day of the Cincinnati Classic.
Simpkins, however, wasn’t done adding to his standout efforts.
In Mid-South Conference action, the gunner bowled at least 201 or better in each of his five games en route to a 1,046 and a 10th-place overall finish.
Simpkins was one of only 20 players to bowl at least 1,000 over five games en route to finishing just outside the top 10-percent of the field, and teamed with Jordan Hughes to finish 21st in doubles competition.
Otto’s consistency caps strong year
Throughout the season, Otto’s consistency on the lanes reigned supreme.
His five-game 916 at the season-opening Louisville Classic was followed by a five-game 909 at the Orange and Black Classic and a five-game 970 at the Raider Classic.
On Nov. 16, Otto put together a performance that later proved to be historic for the program.
At the Striking Knight Classic, Otto posted a six-game average of 205 over individual play and didn’t bowl under a 182 in any game en route to knocking down 1,230 pins during his individual stretch.
The effort later resulted in Otto obtaining the program’s first-ever Mid-South Conference Bowler of the Week accolades.
The Plain City native carried over his strong performance into the new year, bowling a 744 over a four-game stretch at the Cincinnati Classic, prior to teaming up with Blake Moore in Mid-South Conference Doubles competition and scoring an 11th-place finish overall.
Otto added a 31st-place finish by knocking down 972 pins in all in singles competition.
To cap the season off, Otto was nominated as SSU’s representative on the Mid-South Conference’s Champions of Character team for his efforts.
SSU shows up as MSC giant-slayer
In what ended up being the final day of Mid-South Conference competition for the Bears, Shawnee State — in the team format — knocked off two higher seeds in No. 7 Life and No. 5 Bethel.
The Bears defeated the Running Eagles in seven games by collecting victories in the first, third, fifth and seventh games (143-136, 166-152, 194-153, 158-132) to win by a 4-3 margin, then rallied to win another seven-game thriller over the Wildcats by emerging from a 3-1 deficit to take 212-180, 197-177 and 186-171 wins in the fifth through seventh games of action.
Bears set to make climb in 2021
Outside of Simpkins and Matt Ball, the remaining 12 student-athletes on Shawnee State’s roster for the 2019-20 season all have eligibility remaining.
This includes Moore, Mike Hoff, and All-Academic MSC recipients Hughes and Brandon Underwood.
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club.