It’s been said a successful enterprise starts with a really good motto.
Baldwin boys’ bowling coach Nick LaForgia backs the idea, pointing to his team – which went 9-3 in Conference 5 to ice the Bruins’ first league crown in six years – as a classic case in point.
“Our team slogan is: ‘Every pin counts,’” LaForgia said. “That’s true in bowling. But also, in life, that’s a mentality we always want to have. This year, though, it sure was true on the floor.”
Though it dropped a trio of close matches to league rival Freeport (9-3), giving the teams identical records atop the final standings, Baldwin bested the Red Devils in a season’s-end settling of accounts, overtaking Freeport in total team points to swing the balance – and the conference title – over to the Bruins.
“These kids bought in to the message and it paid off,” LaForgia said. “After losing that last match to Freeport, there was no chance to catch them head-to-head. It would’ve been easy to get discouraged and give up. But my guys kept working hard till the end, fighting for every pin, and Freeport couldn’t keep up.”
All four of Baldwin’s senior keglers earned All-Conference honors, with team co-captains Ryan Martin and Nick Dinu claiming Conference 5 awards for highest average (173.9) and highest series (588) respectively. Martin’s 235 and Dinu’s 234 were the Bruins’ top two single-game scores on the season.
“Ryan’s such a competitor that even with the highest conference average, he still wasn’t satisfied,” LaForgia said. “Because he’s good enough to score even higher. He’s consistently around 200, and always picks up the spare, which is huge.”
LaForgia – who has been with the Bruins exactly as long as his championship starters, coaching all four as freshmen during his inaugural season – laughed when recalling his introduction to Dinu.
“Nick showed up at tryouts asking about becoming team manager,” LaForgia said of Baldwin’s anchor. “I watched him bowl one frame and said, ‘No way. You’re not allowed to be manager.’ From that point on he’s been a starter, and probably our most reliable bowler.”
The Bruins’ Chris Olmedo – whose 167.6 average was second-highest in Conference 5 – rolled a season-high 560 series, while teammate Justin Riggins (163.9) made the most of his early-season promotion to varsity, ably stepping in as Baldwin’s key fourth starter.
“Chris is about nonstop effort,” LaForgia said. “Through hard work he elevated himself to be one of the conference’s elite bowlers. Justin’s a kid who was always saying he’d make varsity, and this year everyone stopped underestimating him. He jumped his average 30 points, and won the starting spot and never lost it.”
LaForgia concluded: “I’ve been with these kids from the beginning. It’s sad to let them go, but I’m proud and happy seeing them grow and excel. I always expected they’d win a championship. They showed that if you have a bad throw, you stay focused and fix it on your next ball. They bought in and kept knocking down pins.”