'Shaken, but not stirred'

Hillewaert third person to bowl perfect 300 in history of Thunder Rolls Bowling Center

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Ben Hillewaert is the third person to bowl a 300 game at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center. He did it on Oct. 10, and it was the first time he accomplished the feat.

— On any given night, one can stroll into Thunder Rolls Bowling center and find more than 100 people chatting and laughing, telling tall tales of bowling glory.

Sometimes it's so loud, you can't hear yourself think.

Not Oct. 10.

That Wednesday, it was silent.

Perhaps the only sound that you could have heard was the rattling of Ben Hillewaert's shaking knees.

Or at least that is how he described his body's reaction when all eyes from specatators in the building were focused on Hillewaert as he slowly waltzed up to the foul line, trusty rubber sphere in hand.

Hillewaert was at the end of the 10th frame.

It was his last game of the night.

The last frame.

The last ball.

The ever-so-sought-after perfection of bowling - a 300 game - was within his reach.

"After my second last ball (in the 10th frame), I turned around," Hillewaert said. "It was eerily quiet and everyone was staring at me. I had a huge gallery packed behind my lane."

If the pressure of the feat wasn't enough, the pressure of having everyone watching had Hillewaert's nerves racing.

"I was shaking," he said. "My nerves had gotten the better of me."

Hillewaert steadied himself. He pulled it together.

He let the ball fly.

"I immediately saw it was breaking too far left," he said. "I was just hoping it would hit square and the pins would just still all fall down."

Hillewaert had pulled the shot.

"It went Brooklyn on me." He said. "It hit in the 1-3 pocket, which isn't my normal stroke."

Hillewaert's ball usually spins right to left, catching the pins in the 1-2 pocket.

It didn't matter. Lady Luck was on his side.

All 10 pins fell, and she delivered Hillewaert's first-ever 300 game in more than 23 years of bowling.

Pandemonium ensued inside the lanes.

"I was so relieved and so darn happy," Hillewaert said. "Everybody in the place was screaming and giving me high-fives."

Hillewaert said nothing he has ever done will ever compare to his perfect game.

"The personal feeling I got was the best," he said. "It's excitement. The thrill of being perfect."

Hillewaert has bowled his entire life. His mom and dad introduced the sport to him at the age of five and it stuck.

Hillewaert carries an average of 206, with a 279 being his previous personal best.

"I've flirted with a 300 many times," he said. "I've been so close before."

He's been so close before that the thought of achieving his feat - only the third ever in the history of Thunder Rolls Bowling Center - never crossed his mind until the very last ball was to be thrown.

"You could see then that I was totally shaken," Hillewaert said. "Shaken, but not stirred."

John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

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