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 Sunday.
The All-American senior’s 300 against Louisiana Tech was the talk of the day among the field. 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 said. “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 10thI 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 10th 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.
Had not Hamilton made history, the spotlight might have fallen on any of the other Commodores including Jessica Earnest, Kim Carper, Natalie Goodman or Samantha Hesley — all of whom had winning performances during the day.
This quintet played all five games on 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.