by PBA Editor January 11, 2007 19:00
After Thursday’s Round of 64, the thought of defending his Earl Anthony Medford Classic title looked bleak, but after Friday’s match-play, Brian Himmler sits in prime position to make it two straight at Lava Lanes.

The four-time PBA title holder was the last man to qualify for the Round of 32, but quickly made some noise by knocking off top-seeded Tim Criss (Bel Air, Md.), four-games-to-two.

Himmler then topped last week’s H&R Block Classic champion Patrick Allen (Wesley Chapel, Fla.), 4-2, which ended Allen’s 18-game winning streak, before eliminating Del Ballard Jr. (North Richland Hills, Texas), 4-1.

“I’m excited, but that was a year ago,” said Himmler (Cincinnati) about the possibility of defending his title. “I had a great first round today after struggling last night. I had a big break and made match play by one pin. You have to have breaks out here if you want to survive and I got a couple of big breaks.”

Himmler has had previous success in defending a title, winning back-to-back titles in Vernon Hills, Ill., in 2003-04 and 2004-05.

To get to the title match, Himmler must first go through Wes Malott (Argyle, Texas), who earned a career-high fifth TV appearance this season. The 12th seed did so by cruising by No. 4 Jason Couch (Clermont, Fla.), 4-1, averaging 253.2 over five games in the match.

The other half of the bracket will feature 2006 Beltway Classic winner Sean Rash (Wichita, Kan.) taking on No. 26 Patrick Healey Jr. (Flower Mound, Texas).

Rash advanced to Sunday’s show by defeating two consecutive bowlers from the Denny’s PBA Tour Qualifying Round in Dino Castillo (Carrollton, Texas), 4-2, and Ronnie Russell (Indianapolis), 4-1.

Healey, the only bowler of the four finalists not to win in five games, defeated Jeff Carter (Springfield, Ill.), 4-2. It wasn’t the longest match of the day for the three-time Denny’s PBA Tour titlist, however, as he went seven games with Steve Jaros (Yorkville, Ill.) and Ryan Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.) in the Rounds of 16 and 32, respectively.

The top four bowlers advance to Sunday’s live ESPN televised finals at 10 a.m. PST at Lava Lanes. The winner will take home $25,000 and a one-season Denny’s PBA Tour exemption.
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