Striking its way into history

By John Enrietto 

BUTLER TWP — The finish was storybook, the accomplishment historic. 
That combination earned the
Butler High School varsity girls bowling team’s run to the 2013 state championship kudos as the Butler County Area Sports Story of the Year. 
The choice was made by vote of the Butler Eagle sports staff. 
“It was fantastic, just a great thing,” said
Butler bowling coach Bill Fay, who resigned the position shortly after the title run. “Everyone was just ecstatic, so happy.” 
After three regular games and six “baker” games — where a team’s bowlers roll two frames each —
Butler was seeded third out of the 12-team field. The Golden Tornado defeated fourth-seeded Penn Manor in successive games, then did the same to second-seeded Wilson, setting up a showdown against top-seeded and western rival Hempfield. 
“The support we received in that final was unbelievable,”
Butler junior Megan Paul recalled. “Everyone else was done bowling and were gathered around, cheering for us. 
“Hempfield was considered a factory. They always produced wins.” 
The teams split the first two games, setting up a decisive third game for the state title.
Butler senior Autumn Hepler had to convert a spare in the ninth frame to keep Butler’s title hopes alive and did so. 
“That whole scene was so exciting,” said Hepler, now a freshman bowler at Ursuline (
Ohio) College. “Everything just came together for us. 
“I’ll never forget how I felt that day.” 
Neither will Brea Suchonic, senior and anchor bowler on that team. She now bowls for Penn State-Altoona. 
Suchonic had missed a spare in the final frame during the 2012 stepladder round, denying
Butler further advancement that year. The Tornado wound up fourth in the state in 2012 after placing sixth and second, respectively, the previous two years. 
Suchonic needed a pair of strikes in the 10th frame this time to keep
Butler’s title hopes alive. 
“I didn’t know it at the time ... but I knew the score was close,” she said. 
She struck on her first shot, as did Hempfield anchor Justyne Falbo, the state’s individual singles champion. When Falbo left the 4-pin on her second shot of the 10th, Suchonic knew what she needed to do. 
She buried another strike, then tallied an eight-count to hand the Tornado a two-pin victory. 
The win culminated a day that saw Butler bowl 16 games over a seven-hour period, with no break. 
Hepler and Suchonic were freshman starters on Butler’s first varsity bowling team in 2010. They never lost a regular season match in four years, going 40-0. 
“That’s what I keep thinking about, that 40-0, even more than the state title,” Suchonic said. “Nobody ever beat us. 
“When we reached the state tournament our first year, it put everything in perspective. It made me really want to win a state championship before we were done.” 
Assistant coach Jim Hepler said the immediate success of the program helped lead to the state championship. 
“When we formed the team, we knew the strength of our junior bowling program in Butler and the pool we had to draw from,” he said. “When we saw we could compete with North Allegheny, North Hills ... the confidence just shot up.” 
Butler’s varsity girls still haven’t lost a regular season match, getting off to a 3-0 start this year to push the winning streak to 43. 
“We’re aware of it and we’re still building on it,” Paul said of the streak. “I guess there’s some pressure, but we feel like we’re good enough to rise above that.” 
Autumn Hepler simply treasures the journey. 
“My only goal as a freshman was to make the varsity lineup,” she said. “Every step we took from there ... It was one of the most incredible things I’ve experienced.”