ARLINGTON, Texas - Brittni Hamilton bowled the first perfect game in Vanderbilt history and led the Commodores' charge into Sunday's championship bracket at the Prairie View Invitational. Vanderbilt is joined by Arkansas State, Nebraska and Maryland-Eastern Shore in competing for the team title tomorrow.
The All-American senior's 300 against Louisiana Tech was the talk of the day among this talented field at the USBC's International Training and Research Center. While Hamilton has won on national and international stages and been accorded almost every honor possible as a collegiate bowler, perfect games are, well, rare. It is hard to be perfect.
"This ranks way up there on my list of memories," Hamilton admitted. "It certainly is my most memorable 300 (she has three others) but to have my whole team and the fans cheering for me was special. In my other 300's I was pretty much bowling by myself."
Hamilton indicated that she was able to keep away from over-thinking during her great run.
"Our team was doing a good job of not paying attention to anything but the task at hand so I didn't even think about it until the ninth frame," Hamilton explained. "When I stepped up in the ninth it hit me I had the front eight and I was a little nervous. The ninth frame was my hardest shot. In the tenth I knew I had a good line and just had to get it to the spot. The first ball was fine, the second ball I thought I might have left the 7-pin and on the last shot I just wanted to get it to the spot."
"It was exciting to watch unfold," Coach John Williamson said. "She was throwing good shots through the game and caught a little break when that 7-pin fell in the tenth but all of her shots were in the hole. She really ignited us in that game."
Hamilton's teammates call her "Hot Pockets" or "H.P." for short, a playful twist that combines her ability to heat up a bowling lane with a now infamous snacking binge one evening during her freshman year. Never was H.P. hotter. Her 300 erases one of the oldest records in Vanderbilt's book; Kaitlyn Reynolds had a 299 against Nebraska during the Music City Classic in 2006, her freshman year.
This quintet played all five games Saturday, winning four until bowing to Maryland-Eastern Shore in the day's finale. That game was played just after Hamilton's 300 and team's powerful 1,135 score against Louisiana Tech and veteran observers understand how difficult it is to sustain such momentum in back-to-back games. During Vandy's run of four victories, the `Dores downed No. 1 rated Valparaiso by a 1,057-945 margin.
Williamson was pleased with his team's play, noting it was the first time this season his original starting five went wire-to-wire.
"We were in sync and had continuity for the most part," he noted. "We had a bit of a let-down in that UMES game that we were hoping to avoid - we have to learn to handle emotional wins and losses. We tried to regroup after Britt's 300 but we were just a little too excited."
Hamilton made a point to give her teammates a high-five for their strong play during the day.
"I thought everybody bowled well today," she said, "but in particular I thought Natalie Goodman stuck out. She had one game in the 160's but came back strong and I thought it was pretty significant for a freshman to do that."
Williamson called the tourney's championship bracket a gifted foursome "that at any given moment can be bowling as good as anyone in the country."
Vanderbilt will open play Sunday in a non-championship dual with host Prairie View to complete the round-robin aspect of the event before moving into a best of seven Baker showdown with No. 2 seed Nebraska. The winner then faces the winner of Arkansas State-UMES for the championship while the losing teams square off for third place.
This marks the fourth time in five tournaments this season that the Commodores have made the championship bracket with two titles to their credit. Play gets underway at 8:30 a.m. (CT) Sunday.
Team Leader Board Arkansas State 9,465 Nebraska 9.390 Vanderbilt 9,283 UMES 9,242
VU 1,071 Norfolk State 915 Hamilton 236 Goodman 191 Carper 226 Earnest 226 Hesley 192
VU 1,025 Jackson State 879 Hamilton 170 Goodman 231 Carper 212 Earnest 225 Hesley 187
VU 1.057 Valparaiso 945 Hamilton 202 Goodman 167 Carper 203 Earnest 217 Hesley 268
VU 1,135 Louisiana Tech 857 Hamilton 300 Goodman 205 Carper 202 Earnest 206 Hesley 222
UMES 1,077 VU 979 Hamilton 182 Goodman 225 Carper 186 Earnest 176 Hesley 210