Though their official 2020-2021 schedule will not begin until the weekend of September 26-27, the cancelled-since-March New England 9-Ball Series returned to the tables this past weekend (Aug. 29-30) to hold its annual Summer Sizzler tournament. Normally, a single affair held over a weekend, this Summer Sizzler, in deference to issues related to the pandemic, played out over two days and featured two separate tournaments on Saturday and Sunday.
 
On Saturday, in six matches, Kerry McAuliffe played 40 games and lost only six of them, finishing his undefeated run to the winners’ circle of Summer Sizzler Day 1 with shutouts in his winners’ side semifinal against Mark Morgan and his two matches – hot seat and finals – against Andy Downs. On Sunday, in five matches, Frank Gaetani played 35 games and lost 10 of them to go undefeated and claim the Summer Sizzler Day 2 title. Both events were hosted by Strokers Bar & Billiards in Pelham, NH and drew 32 (Saturday) and 29 (Sunday) entrants. There was some duplication in the entrants for both days, although none in the payout department.
 
On Day 1, McAuliffe, playing in the upper bracket, got by Shaun Conley, Ronnie Chestna and survived a double hill match versus Vadim Brown (6-3, Brown racing to 4) to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Mark Morgan (one of the players who competed on both days). Andy Downs, from the lower bracket, defeated Nathan Johnson, Emily Cady and Tony Legos to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Casey Olivieri.
 
McAuliffe began his run of three straight shutouts with a defeat over Morgan, putting him in the hot seat against Downs, who’d defeated Olivieri 4-2. McAuliffe then shut Morgan out to claim the hot seat.
 
Moving to the loss side and right into the first money round, Morgan survived a double hill match against Steve Sutton and advanced to the quarterfinals. Olivieri joined him after a 4-2 victory over Bob Campbell.
 
Morgan leapfrogged right into the semifinals, when Olivieri forfeited the quarterfinal match. In the semifinals that followed, the much higher Fargo-rated competitor (Morgan) hit a bump in his road and was only able to muster a single rack against Downs, who, with Morgan racing to 5,  won the match 4-1. The momentum of the semifinal win didn’t appear to help Downs at all. McAuliffe shut him out a second time in the finals and undefeated, claimed the Summer Sizzler’s Day 1 title.
 
Summer Sizzler Day 2
 
On Day 2, it was Frank Gaetani, from the event’s upper bracket, taking center stage and it looked, initially, as though he were going to follow in McAuliffe’s ‘shutout’ footprints as he shut out Justin Cunningham in the opening round. He had to survive a second-round, double hill battle against Dana Mackenzie before regaining his footing and shutting out Mark Morgan, who was apparently still ‘out of gear’ from his day-before 3rd place finish. Gaetani faced Tom Comerford in one of the winners’ side semifinals and would face him again in the finals. Owen Gomez, in the meantime, giving up only three racks total to Paul Kazalski (2), Norm Charett (1), and Donny Call, faced Jenn Fogg in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Gaetani sent Comerford west 5-1 and in the hot seat match, faced Gomez, who’d chalked up his second shutout against Fogg. Gaetani claimed the hot seat 5-2 over Gomez.
 
On the loss side, Comerford and Fogg had to battle to advance to the first money round, which was the quarterfinals. Comerford made it with a 5-3 win over Jodie Thompson. Fogg did not, falling to Tony Mendonca 6-2.
 
In a straight-up race to 5, Comerford eliminated Mendonca in those quarterfinals, and then, defeated Gomez 5-2 for a second shot at Gaetani. In a straight-up race to 5, Gaetani claimed the Day 2 title 5-3.
 
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Strokers for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, BCAPL, USAPL New England, Fargo Rate, Bert Kinister, AzBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell with Lease Fundings, Master Billiards, OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America and Piku Tips. As noted above, The New England 9-Ball Series’ season opener is scheduled for the weekend of September 26-27. The $1,000-added event will be hosted by Rack City in Bangor, ME.