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Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:00 PM

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The night already felt surreal to Joey Fierro. He never expected there was more to come.

On Oct. 15 in the Monday Nite Men league at Spring Hill Lanes, Fierro certainly expanded his jewelry collection. He'll have a couple of rings to commemorate his achievements.

The 28-year-old Spring Hill resident, a 2002 Springstead High graduate now working as a clinical pharmacist at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, started the night by rolling the first 300 of his bowling life.

Two games later, he could celebrate another rare feat, completing an 800 series – right on the nose.

"I just hit a groove," Fierro said. "It was pretty special to have both things happen at the same time."

It was yet another indication that he made the right choice when he decided to get back into bowling last year.

He originally entered the sport in 1990, following other members of his family who started bowling back when they lived in New York.

From there he worked his way up the youth leagues at Mariner Lanes, all the way through his senior year of high school.

That's when the pursuit of a higher education and his eventual career got in the way. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2008.

A pair of postgraduate residencies, and the long hours associated with them, prevented him from committing to a league. Still, he bowled casually on Sundays with his grandfather.

Once he moved on to his current job, his nights finally opened up. So he joined the Coca-Cola Classic league at Mariner for the 2011-12 winter season.

"I started bowling pretty good," Fierro said. "I figured if I was going to bowl good, I might as well bowl in a league.

"I like it. It's nice to have motivation to bowl instead of just open bowling. You meet new friends, rehash older friendships, and hopefully win some money."

He averaged a respectable 193 last season, but has seen a significant jump in that number since shifting to Spring Hill Lanes over the summer.

Fierro averaged 206 in the Monday Men's Trio, and has thus far proven that was no fluke. With the winter season 12 weeks in, his average sits at 208.

That includes his memorable performance three weeks ago.

During his final season in the youth leagues, he had bowled a 297, his closest flirtation with perfection.

"I had the first 11 (strikes), got nervous and missed the headpin," Fierro said.

He used that experience to help take advantage of this opportunity.

"I was trying not to think too much, just take the ball and go," Fierro said. "The longer I think, I'd probably choke.

"I was a little more calm, cool and collected, and I kept myself distracted. I didn't want to focus on what was going on."

Though he admitted the ball felt a lot heavier in that final frame, he did pull off the perfecto.

Interestingly, he opted to make a slight move to the right with his feet on the approach, fearing he would miss the headpin as he had previously in that situation.

The adjustment paid dividends, and as he accepted numerous congratulations, he also had to pull himself back together to complete the night.

A 212 in the second game figured to set up him for a strong series. He just hadn't imagined how strong.

After making a spare in the first frame of the third game, Fierro reeled off a lengthy string of strikes that had him facing another pressure-packed 10th. He needed two strikes and an eight to land on 800.

"I didn't think about it until the ninth frame," Fierro said. "Once I realized, in the 10th frame, I thought 'Throw it in the pocket and see what happens.' If I got it, it's a bonus. I wasn't expecting an 800."

Though he did finish with the 288 required to make an 800, his final ball was a heart-stopper.

The throw came in high, the pins falling slowly around the 3-6 combination that was left standing.

"When I let go of that ball, I said 'That's not where I was hoping it would go,'" Fierro said.

If he had gotten a strike there, he actually would have garnered three awards – 300, 800 and 11 strikes in a row. He'll settle for the rings for his two honor scores.

They'll serve as a reminder that he made a right call to return to the lanes.

"I still bowl a lot with my grandpa on Sunday mornings," Fierro said. "He and my dad were a big reason I picked it back up. It's nice to pick it back up and bowl in the places they bowled when they moved 20-some odd years ago to Spring Hill."

Though no one else has accomplished an 800 in the county this winter season, a handful do have 300s.

At Spring Hill, 300s have been rolled by Dan Moreland (Sept. 28, T.G.I.F.), Rich Garner (Oct. 5, T.G.I.F.), Dan Jones (Oct. 17, Spring Hill Wednesday Mixers) and Dave Tuma (Oct. 18, Small Business Scratch).

Tom Russell has twice shot a 300 at Mariner in the Seacreatures league, on Sept. 5 and Oct. 3. (352) 544-5288

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