By John Knebels
The 2009 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies had veteran pinch hitter Matt Stairs, whose stunning home run in the fourth game of the National League pennant series against the Los Angeles Dodgers completely shifted the momentum of both the game and the series.
The 2009 Catholic League boys’ bowling champion, of Father Judge High School had senior Bob Bunsick.
When the Crusaders were told that their best bowler, Northern spanision Most Valuable Player junior Nick Lampugnani, was ineligible to play in the league final on Valentine’s Day at Philadelphia’s Boulevard Lanes, they had to depend on the first substitute on the bench. The 208-average Lampugnani was absent for most of Friday, and thus by school rule not permitted to participate in any weekend school activities, including sports, so Bunsick had to step up.
After a career-best 655 series, Busnick helped Judge defeat Roman Catholic and win its first league title since 2004 and fourth under 15-year coach and 1970 Judge graduate Jim Donnelly.
“Being able to contribute to something this big means a lot,” said Bunsick. “I’m really happy to get the chance. It’s been tough not always being in the lineup and coming through when the team needed me feels great. The fact that this is my senior year makes it even more special.”
Donnelly was thrilled for Bunsick, lauding him for his positive attitude throughout the season and willingness to accept his role as a sub rather than a starter.
In a sport that appears built around inspaniduals, it is ironic that Father Judge actually won with a team effort.
“It was tough not having Nick, but Bob really came through,” said senior Paul Rich, who scored a 643 series. “We all felt good for how his season ended.”
Bunsick admitted that if anyone would have told him that in the ultimate match of the season he would be literally picked up in the air by his teammates, he never would have believed it.
“I was shooting pretty well during the year, but Father Judge has one of the best bowling programs in the area,” said Bunsick. “It wasn’t a bad thing to be the top sub for varsity.”
Bunsick’s heroics were among a series of the team’s accomplishments this winter. On Jan.13 against Cardinal Dougherty, sophomore Mike Mullin became the third Judge bowler in the last 15 years to throw a perfect 300 game. Three days later, Donnelly was credited with his 500th career coaching victory.
The Crusaders’ final record of 52-4 finished with two amazing series – a 3,199 against Monsignor Bonner in the semifinals and then a 3,198 against Roman in the final. In the championship, senior Matt Wolf led the way with a blistering 659 series, while senior Mike Kump contributed a 613 and Mullin added a 628.
“I’ve been saying over and over that it’s been a magical year, but it really has been just that,” said Donnelly. “I don’t know that you could expect anything more to happen. I’m so happy for these kids.”
Donnelly deflected many of the plaudits toward the direction of his assistant coaches, the father-son team of Pat and Tim Hamill. The former has been at Donnell’s side for more than a decade; the latter for the past two years after a stint as Archbishop Wood’s head coach.
“Pat works with these guys and develops them when they are younger,” said Donnelly. “I more fine tune them than anything else. They deserve all the credit.”
As for Mullin’s aforementioned 300 game, Donnelly said he felt nervous for his pupil approaching the 10th frame. During his long career of competitive bowling, Donnelly has thrown only one 300, although he has rolled several between 270 and 290.
That last frame, he said, is a nerve wracking ordeal. “You just have to try and relax and throw the way you’ve been throwing,” said Donnelly. “I didn’t say anything to him before the 10th frame. After his 12th strike, the guys ran over and picked him up and carried him off the lane.”
A month later, they did something similar to Bob Bunsick.
A magical year indeed.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.