By Fred Eisenhammer
WINNETKA – Urged on by a throng of supporters, Justin Pluchino put on a show last week at Winnetka Bowl.
The powerfully built Pluchino blasted an 857 series after opening with back-to-back perfect games (300-300-257).
A madhouse crowd circled around Pluchino as he crushed one strike after another during River Maniacs league play Monday night.
“Half the house was down there,” said George Pluchino, Justin’s father.
Justin, a Winnetka resident who turned 22 in November, made a determined run at becoming the first bowler from the Los Angeles area to roll a 900. A sanctioned 900 series, or three perfect games, has been bowled only 34 times.
Pluchino’s effort ranks among the top series turned in by Los Angeles-area bowlers. Anthony Sharpsteen tops the list with a stunning 888 (289, 299, 300) in 2011 at nowdefunct Mission Hills Bowl.
Other torrid series include Sylvester Foster blistering an 878 in 2016 at Pickwick Bowl in Burbank and Charles Kenny blasting an 876 at Jewel City Bowl in Glendale in 2017.
Pluchino’s bid for a 900 was foiled in the third frame of Game 3 when he left the seven pin. After picking up the spare, the right-hander rolled three more strikes before leaving the 10 pin in the 7th frame and notching a spare.
He then rattled off strikes in the eighth and ninth and two more strikes in the 10th before ending the night with nine pins on his final shot (leaving a 10 pin again).
“He was in the pocket the whole night,” said Billy Mulvihill, who bowls on the same team as Pluchino on Tuesdays and rushed to the bowling center after being texted about Pluchino’s in-progress exploits.
Pluchino’s masterful performance ignited a virtual strike-athon from his teammates.
They all turned in scintillating efforts, led by Ray Stoy, who blistered a 694 (205-257-232). He averages 181. Brandon Hart smashed a 655 with scores of 226, 215 and 214. He averages 192.
And anchor man Mike Olson, with his powerful 210 average, hammered a 258 in his first game before finishing with a 635 series (258-207-170).
Pluchino is the top home-grown San Fernando Valley athlete in many years to have a legitimate shot at making a mark on the Professional Bowlers Assn. tour. He was a dominating presence in his Winnetka Bowl youth league and he hasn’t skipped a beat since joining three adult leagues. Pluchino has a 900 no-tap to his credit and he showed last week that a sanctioned 900 may be in the cards as well.