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IRT Fans Sure Get Double-the-Pleasure at 2017 Lewis Drug Pro/Am

lewislogo 200Daniel De La Rosa beat his fellow countryman Alvaro Beltran 11-9, 11-4, 11-7 to win the 2017 Lewis Drug Pro/Am and his second career IRT Tour title. De La Rosa then teamed up with Beltran to win the doubles title over Rocky Carson and Jose Diaz 15-12, 15-14. 

Lewis Drug Pro/Am Singles Draw

Lewis Drug Pro/Am Doubles Draw

Singles Championships Final

Daniel De La Rosa d Alvaro Beltran 11-9, 11-4, 11-7

Singles Championship Final Recap

By Dale Gosser

De La Rosa takes singles title over Beltran

In an all Mexican final, Daniel De La Rosa defeated Alvaro Beltran 11-9, 11-4, 11-7.

In game 1, De La Rosa jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead over the usually slow-starting Beltran. Beltran got to within 5-4, but a five-point run by De La Rosa on five straight kills made it 10-4.

An ace drive serve by Beltran made it 10-5 and a skip by De La Rosa closed the gap to 10-6. De La Rosa had two game-point attempts but Beltran managed two backhand kills down the left line. On his next serve, Beltran served up another ace backhand drive serve and then connected with a backhand kill to the left corner to make it 10-8. A skip by De La Rosa cut the lead to 10-9, but Beltran skipped an open shot in the middle of the court to lose serve.

On the ensuing serve by De La Rosa, a half lob down the right side, Beltran buried it into the floor to give game 1 to De La Rosa.

De La Rosa never trailed in game 2, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. Beltran pulled to within 7-4 but De La Rosa held him off and took the win.

In game 3, it took a while for either player to get started on the scoreboard. After 13 serves between the two, the score was 2-2. Beltran took a 3-2 lead with a backhand kill, but De La Rosa regained the advantage on his ensuing serve via a skip by Beltran and a forehand kill to go up 4-3.

Beltran then went on a 3-0 run with three straight kills to go up 6-4. De La Rosa did the same on his next serve to tie it at 6-6. Two serves later, de La Rosa used three straight kills and a skip by Beltran to take a 10-6 lead.

Beltran managed to pick up one more point before De La Rosa closed it out on his next serve.

Doubles Championship Final

Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran d Rocky Carson/Jose Diaz 15-12, 15-14

Doubles Championship Final Recap

By Dale Gosser

Beltran/De La Rosa upend Carson/Diaz in two straight

After defeating Alvaro Beltran in the singles final minutes earlier, Daniel De La Rosa teamed with his fellow countryman to take the doubles title with a two-game sweep of the No. 1 seeded Rocky Carson and Jose Diaz, 15-12, 15-14

Before the finals loss, Carson and Diaz had not dropped a game in the tournament. The No. 1 seeds led by an 8-5 margin midway through game 1, but on Beltran’s serve the Mexican team scored four straight to take a 9-8 lead. They did so via three kills by Beltran and a skip by Carson. De La Rosa and Beltran made it 10-8 on another Carson skip but Beltran returned the favor on Diaz’s next serve to make it 10-9. With Carson serving after the half out, his team regained the lead after three misses by Beltran and De La Rosa and took a 12-10 lead.

But that was the final time they served. On Beltran’s ensuing serve, he buried a forehand kill and Carson skipped a shot to tie it at 12-12. During the next rally, De La Rosa took a shot off the side wall that found the right corner for the kill and the one-point lead, 13-12. A Diaz miss on the next rally gave De La Rosa and Beltran game point.

An avoidable call on De La Rosa forced a half out but a Carson skip gave the game 1 win to De La Rosa and Beltran.

In game 2, it appeared the match would go to a tiebreaker with Carson and Diaz leading 14-12 and Carson serving for the win. However, a Beltran kill forced a side out. Beltran cut it to 14-13 with a forehand pinch kill, but a cross court kill by Carson put the ball in De La Rosa’s hands.

A backhand kill down the line tied it at 14-14 and then a kill by De La Rosa ended the match.

Doubles Semifinals

Jose Diaz/Rocky Carson d Mario Mercado/Sebastian Franco 15-6, 15-8

Alvaro Beltran/Daniel De La Rosa d Jose Rojas/Markie Rojas 15-12, 15-11

Doubles Semifinals Recaps

By Dale Gosser 

Diaz/Carson defeat Mercado/Franco

In a preview of a potential national doubles duo, Rocky Carson and Jose Diaz cruised through their semifinal match against Mario Mercado and Sebastian Franco, 15-6, 15-8.

With Diaz’s regular partner, Jake Bredenbeck, out with shoulder injury, he and Carson are gaining some practice time.

After dispensing of Alejandro Herrera and Alejandro Landa in the quarterfinals, 15-13, 15-12, and Mercado and Franco, the pair have yet to drop a game in the tournament.

De La Rosa/Beltran knock off Rojas brothers

The second doubles semifinal of the day was closer than the first as Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran took down Jose and Markie Rojas, 15-12, 15-11.

In game 1, the teams kept it close throughout the match, neither team leading by more than two points for most of the game.

Trailing 6-4, the Rojas duo scored three straight, the last an ace serve, to go up 7-6. A reverse pinch by De La Rosa tied it at 7-7 with Beltran serving and then a skip by Jose Rojas gave Beltran and De La Rosa an 8-7 lead. The teams would exchange leads several times but at 12-12, De La Rosa rolled a reverse pinch with a forehand to make it 13-12.

Skip shots by each Rojas brother gave Beltran and De La Rosa the final two points and the game.

In game 2, it was much of the same as the teams battled to a 10-10 tie before De La Rosa and Beltran converted back-to-back kills to make it 12-10. A miss by De La Rosa cut the lead to 12-11 for the Rojas brothers. However, a backhand reverse pinch by Beltran and a Markie Rojas skip extended the lead to 14-11. De la Rosa ended the match with a reverse pinch kill.

Doubles Quarterfinals

Jose Diaz/Rocky Carson d Alejandro Herrera/Alejandro Landa 15-13, 15-12

Mario Mercado/Sebastian Franco d Jordan Barth/Justus Benson 15-12, 5-15, 11-8

Jose Rojas/Markie Rojas d Felipe Camacho/Robert Collins 15-12, 15-5

Alvaro Beltran/Daniel De La Rosa d Andree Parrilla/David Horn 15-12, 15-7

Semifinals

Alvaro Beltran d Rocky Carson 6-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-0, 11-9

Daniel De La Rosa d Alejandro Landa 11-5, 12-10, 11-7

Semifinals Recaps

Beltran holds off Carson in semifinals

In a match that lasted more than two hours, Alvaro Beltran held of No. 2-ranked Rocky Carson, 6-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-0, 11-9.

Carson had his chances, but two technicals cost him two points early in game 5. Trailing 3-1, Carson had words for the ref, resulting in one technical, making it 3-0. Then Carson refused to shut the door of the court and was penalized a second technical to trail 3-(-1).

Beltran extended his lead to 6-1 but Carson scraped back to tie it at 6-6 with an ace serve. Carson then took a 7-6 lead, but Beltran retook the lead with a kill and skip by Carson to go up 8-7. Beltran added another forehand kill down the middle of the court to make it 9-7.

After two side outs, Beltran made it 10-7 with an ace on a forehand drive z serve. Carson did cut the lead to 10-9 before Beltran ended the match with a backhand kill off a z serve.

Game 1 started slow and was tied at 6-6 before Carson went on a 5-0 run to take the win. Beltran took game 2 when Carson skipped a backhand while trailing 11-10 to lose 12-10. Game 3 was tied 5-5 before Carson killed three straight shots, one forehand and two backhands, and then benefitted from a Beltran skip to go up 9-5. He finished it off to take a 2-1 lead in games.

Game 4 was all Beltran who rolled to an 11-0 win.

De la Rosa sweeps Landa

Daniel de la Rosa made quick work of Alejandro Land, winning in less than one hour, 11-5, 12-10, 1-7.

Landa raced out to a 5-2 lead in the game 1, but de la Rosa tied it at 5-5 with a kill, a Landa skip and an ace on a forehand lob serve. De la Rosa extended his lead to 8-5 with a reverse pinch kill, a forehand kill and a Landa skip.

After going up 9-5 on a Landa skip, de la Rosa benefitted from another Landa skip off a lob serve to Landa’s forehand. He then picked up the win on an ace drive serve to Landa’s backhand.

In game 2, de la Rosa jumped out to a commanding 6-0 lead. But Landa, trailing 8-5, took a 9-8 lead with four straight points off a two kills and two de la Rosa skips. De la Rosa managed to retake the lead at 10-9, but a side out by Landa and then a kill tied the game at 10-10.

A cross court pass kill by de la Rosa put him back on serve and he finished the game with two straight points.

De la Rosa led throughout game 3. Landa got to within 8-6, but de la Rosa took a 9-6 lead with three big diving saves before Landa skipped a shot. An ace by de la Rosa on a mis-direction drive serve to the forehand made it 10-6. Landa added another point before de la Rosa ended the match.

Quarterfinals

Daniel De La Rosa d Sebastian Franco 3-11, 11-9, 11-3, 5-11, 11-3

Rocky Carson d Mario Mercado 13-11, 12-10, 11-4

Alejandro Landa d Andree Parrilla 11-4, 11-8, 2-11, 10-12, 12-10

Alvaro Beltran d Jansen Allen 11-6, 11-4, 6-11, 11-3

Quarterfinals Recaps

By Dale Gosser

De La Rosa needs 5 to get past Franco

No. 3-ranked Daniel De La Rosa needed five games to hold of a stubborn Sebastian Franco of Colombia, 3-11, 11-9, 11-3, 5-11, 11-3.

Franco cruised to an early 6-1 lead and then 8-3 before holding on for the win against the slow-starting De La Rosa.

Game 2 was much more competitive as Franco bolted to a 3-0 lead before De La Rosa tied it at 5-5. De La Rosa made a strong push with good serves to take a 6-5 lead. But Franco ran off four unanswered points to make it 9-6. But it was all De La Rosa from there. A kill and an ace made it 9-8 before a Franco skip tied the game, 9-9. Two straight points ended the game and tied the match at one game each.

Game 3 belonged to De La Rosa, who jumped to a quick 7-3 lead and never looked back. Another role reversal saw Franco dominate game 4. De la Rosa was up 5-4 before Franco took a 7-5 lead, helped by an ace drive serve and another kill.

Franco extended his lead to 10-5 with a backhand splat roll out kill and a skip by De La Rosa. Three serves later, Franco put the game away with a kill. The fifth game started off tight with the pair battling to a 2-2 standoff, but De La Rosa broke the tie with three straight points to make it 5-2. A skip ball by De La Rosa got Franco to within 5-3.

However, De La Rosa put the game and match practically away with five straight points for a 10-3 advantage. He put the match away on his next serve with a kill that ended Franco’s chances.

Carson takes down Mercado in 3

No. 2 ranked Rocky Carson took down Colombia’s Mario Mercado in three straight games, but it was not by any means an easy victory. Carson took game 1, 13-11, before coming from behind to win a hard-fought game 2, 12-10. Game 3 was anti-climatic as Carson rolled 11-4.

Carson took a 7-4 lead in game 2 but Mercado fought back to tie it at 7-7. Mercado then took a 10-8 lead and appeared on his way to winning the game, but an overturned call on appeal by Carson gave him another chance to come back.

Serving down by two, Carson served four straight points to secure the two game advantage. The two straight hard-fought losses left Mercado with little left as Carson rolled for the three-game sweep.

Landa shocks Parrilla with massive comeback

Perhaps the match of the day saw Alejandro Landa overcome his own temper to settle down in game 5, winning 12-10 after trailing 10-2 to Andree Parrilla. He did so by scoring 10 straight points for the win and after starting the game with a negative 1 after receiving a technical after game 4.

Landa appeared to be on cruise control, winning games 1 and 2, 11-4, 11-8. He dropped game 3 by an 11-2 margin as Parrilla worked himself back into the match after Landa received two technicals and was docked two points while trailing 9-4.

Game 4 was anyone’s game as both players battled to a 10-10 tie, but two straight points by Parrilla forced the game 5.

Landa led 8-6 midway through game 4 but Parrilla took a 9-8 lead courtesy of a backhand kill down the line, a Landa skip and another kill.

Another miss by Landa made it 10-8 for Parrilla, but Landa scored two straight points with a forehand pinch rollout and an ace serve for the tie.

Parrilla was well on his way to his first semifinals appearance on the Tour, cruising to a 10-2 lead over a disgruntled Landa. But Landa took serve, trailing 10-2, and whittled away at the lead. He served up an ace to make it 10-10 and benefitted from two straight skips by Parrilla to finish off the match.

Beltran needs 4 to knock off Allen

No. 4-ranked Alvaro Beltran is known for starting slow in game 1, but against No. 6 Jansen Allen he was just the opposite, winning 11-6, 11-4, 6-11, 11-3.

Beltran used a high lob serve to the forehand to keep Allen off balance in the first two games. Allen couldn’t get a good return, setting up Beltran for the re-kill numerous times.

Allen made an adjustment in game 3 and managed to keep Beltran off balance. With the match tied 6-6, a skip by Beltran gave Allen a 7-6 lead and that was all he would need. Two more points made it 9-6 before Beltran attempted to cut into the advantage. However, a skip gave Allen another chance and he took advantage of it by scoring three straight to win the game.

Beltran dominated game 4, jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead. Allen cut it to 5-2, but another 5-0 run by Beltran basically put the game out of reach.  

Round of 16s

Daniel De La Rosa d Jose Diaz 11-2, 11-7, 11-8

Sebastian Franco d Robert Collins 11-0, 11-7, 11-3

Rocky Carson d Samuel Murray 11-6, 11-7, 11-1

Mario Mercado d Jordan Barth 8-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-0

Alejandro Landa d Jose Rojas 8-11, 11-3, 11-1, 11-5

Andree Parrilla d Markie Rojas 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-3

Jansen Allen d David Horn 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-3

Alvaro Beltran d Lee Connell 11-13, 11-1, 11-3, 11-7

Thursday

Round of 32s

Jordan Barth d Felipe Camacho 11-5, 11-8, 11-9

Samuel Murray d Matthew Majxner 13-11, 11-2, 11-5

David Horn d Tanner Prentice 11-5, 11-1, 11-2

Lee Connell d Scott McClellan 11-9, 11-7, 11-7

Alejandro Landa d Bradly Rogers 11-7, 11-6, 1-11, 11-6

Andree Parrilla d James Landeryou 11-2, 11-5, 11-4

Robert Collins d Justus Benson 5-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-3, 11-6

Jose Diaz d Alejandro Herrera 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7

Round of 64s

Jordan Barth d Tyler Thielen 11-8, 11-3, 11-13, 11-7

Justus Benson d Jeff Zomer 11-7, 11-3, 11-3

IRT fans sure to get double the pleasure at 2017 Lewis Drug Pro/Am

The top professional racquetball players in the world will descend upon Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Jan. 19 to begin play in the 39th annual Lewis Drug Pro/Am, a cornerstone International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Tier 1-Plus event.

Billed as the longest continuing running racquetball tournament in the land, the four-day tournament will feature top ranked pros in an event players and fans alike praise as a can’t miss event that sets the standard for racquetball tournaments.

“We are the Gold Standard when it comes to tournaments,” said Mark Griffin, CEO of Lewis Drug, the tournament’s title sponsor.

Players agree. 

Rocky Carson, the IRT’s number two-ranked player from Ladera Beach, California said he “wouldn’t miss the Lewis Drug Pro/Am for anything. It is that special.” That is no small endorsement from a player who lives off the sunny coast of California and can go surfing in late January before flying off to frigid Sioux Falls.

“Even when I am done playing professionally I plan to still go back to Sioux Falls for the Lewis Drug Pro/Am,” Carson said.

One of the reasons for the tourney’s popularity is that organizers roll out the thick red carpet for the pros, and they respond by showing up without fail despite temperatures that often fall below zero degrees. Recently the temperature in Sioux Falls fell below 20-degrees minus zero, but officials say the cold won’t deter players and fans from flocking to the Sioux Falls Family YMCA to enjoy sizzling pro action. 

Fans are guaranteed a double dose of top pro action: more than 25 pros are expected to take part in singles action, and a handful of teams are expected to compete in the IRT Doubles draw, according to Mark Gibbs, tournament co-organizer. 

“The number of doubles teams registered probably will not be known until a week before the tournament, but we expect another entertaining draw” Gibbs said. The doubles championship match is scheduled to take place immediately following the singles championship match on Sunday.

While Waselenchuk has dominated the pro singles bracket in the Lewis Drug Pro/Am the last two seasons – his finals victories in 2014 and 2015 were each in straight games, giving up a total of 32 points in six games–pro doubles has become a highly competitive affair for two reasons: prize money now is awarded, and teams get to work on their game just a few weeks prior to the USA Racquetball National Doubles Tournament in Tempe, Arizona. That tournament is set for Feb. 8-12.

Over the last four years at the Lewis Drug doubles has provided nail-biting action. Carson – currently ranked number two – has been on the winning team three times in that span (2015, 2013 and 2012). Those championships include a hard-fought victory last year over Waselenchuk and Ben Croft by scores of 15-13, 15-14. In 2012, the Carson/Alvaro Beltran team defeated Chris Crowther and Shane Vanderson, and they repeated again in 2013 over the same duo.

Two years ago Waselenchuk and Jason Mannino – IRT President and former #1-ranked player on Tour – played a memorable match against Carson and Jose Rojas, squeaking out a 13-15, 15-11, 11-9 win.

Still, Waselenchuk remains the star attraction, and must be considered the prohibitive favorite to win his third consecutive Lewis Drug singles title.

“King Kane” has come out of the gates fast this year, and (as of press time) has won every Tier 1 or Grand Slam event scheduled in the 2016-17 season. And he has done it in truly dominating fashion. 

  • In the Novasors Ghost of Georgetown Kansas City open in September, Waselenchuk –this year seeking an unprecedented 12th consecutive overall number one ranking – he beat Carson 11-4, 11-2, 11-0.
  • A month later at the UnitedHealth Care US Open, Waselenchuk once again took care of business with a seemingly effortless victory over Carson, this time by scores of 11-2, 11-2, 11-6.
  • Waselenchuk won by injury forfeit over Daniel De La Rosa in the finals of the Galaxy Custom Printing Tournament in early November, but not before advancing to the finals with three dominating victories in which opponents scored a total of 29 points in nine games.
  • In late November, Waselenchuk once again overwhelmed Carson, this time in the finals of the St. Louis Pro Racquetball Winter Rollout by scores of 11-6, 11-4, 11-1.
  • He has won 48 consecutive games played this year, giving up an average of three points per game.
  • Opponents have scored two or fewer points in 23 of those 48 games this season. 

Still, you never know what can happen on any given day, and the struggle for IRT ranking points are at stake throughout every level of the pro singles draw.

Waselenchuk and Carson are ranked number one and two with 4,062 and 3,042.4 points, respectively (as of December 2016) . While their positions appear unassailable, the numbers 3 through 10 slits are up for grabs.

About 600 points separate De La Rosa (#3), Beltran (#4) and Rojas (#5) with seven pro stops scheduled before the season is over. Slots six through 10 are currently occupied by #6-ranked Jansen Allen (1,576), #7 Markie Rojas (1,572), #8 Sebastian Franco (1,424.8), #9 Jake Bredenbeck (1,255.8) and #10 Felipe Camacho (1,218) 

On court action is the main draw for the Lewis Drug, but what gives the tournament its unique flavor and attraction is the style in which it is presented.

The pros love to win and earn points, but this particular tournament provides more, including a “personal touch” not experienced at other pro stops along the way, according to Mannino. He cites the tournament’s “cozy, home-cooking” atmosphere for one of the reasons the pros appreciate traveling to Sioux Falls. “The hospitality is the best I have ever seen, not just the Saturday night banquet, but on every day of the tournament,” Mannino said.

The event is famous for its down home environment wherein amateurs and fans can easily mingle and approach the pros, and not just in the designated “Players Village”.

”Throughout the tournament you will see the pros sitting in the stands watching matches with players and fans. They stay for hours and are approachable, and fans and players enjoy the interaction. It is a throwback tournament environment,” co-director Mark Gibbs said. 

Fans respond by watching the pros play in every round, even qualifying play. “The stands are always packed each day, not just for the semifinals or finals,” Mannino said.

Another fan friendly feature is that spectators are not charged to watch live matches, according to Troy Stallings, tourney co-director. “That is just another personal touch that Mark (Griffin) provides that promotes racquetball,” Stallings said. “The sport needs more Mark Griffins.”

Griffin is credited with providing the tournament’s signature touch of class: a catered banquet that would be the envy of any elite wedding reception. The dinner is free to all tournament entrants, and guests can attend for a nominal fee. During the lavish affair there is an ongoing drawing for door prizes supplied by Lewis Drug -and not just your typical items.

Carson said the tournament’s banquet and prize drawing is a special feature the Tour pros look forward to each winter. One year he said he won a drill gun, and prizes such as computers, electronics and tools are not uncommon. If prizes are too cumbersome to be taken home on an airplane, as a special touch Griffin and his staff arrange for the articles to be shipped free of charge.

Gibbs said the tournament, in its 39th year, likely will not undergo any changes this time around, although organizers may punch up the scenario next year when the tournament enters its 40th consecutive year in existence. 

“If it isn’t broke, why fix it? Still, next year we might do something special to mark its 40th anniversary,” Gibbs said.

TOURNEY TIDBITS 

  • Matches to be televised on IRTNetwork.com
  • Primary sponsor is Lewis Drug; other sponsors include Howalt+McDowell Insurance and Coca Cola
  • IRT pro matches to be played at the Sioux Falls Family YMCA; amateur matches are scheduled for the YMCA and two satellite clubs in Sioux Falls – the Elmen Center on the campus of Augustana College, and the Sanford Wellness Center
  • The Sioux Falls Family YMCA has several viewable courts, including two glass-walled competition courts
  • There is no admission charge to watch the pros compete
  • The Pro-Am is scheduled for Thursday night; pro qualifying will take place Thursday morning
  • The 2016 South Dakota Amateur State Championships also are scheduled to take place during the event

By Don Grigas

Don Grigas is an award-winning journalist who grew up on the south side of Chicago and is now living in Bolingbrook, IL, where he first developed a passion for racquetball. In 1979 Don played his first game of racquetball at the Bolingbrook Park District Racquet and Health Club. Within two years Don rose from a Novice to an Open player, and shortly thereafter became the club professional at the Naper Olympic Fitness Center for more than 20 years until that facility closed in 2007. After winning three state championships in doubles, Don retired from active playing and now writes for the IRT as well as working on other freelance projects.

Media Coverage

Mark Griffin welcomes top I-R-T players to Sioux Falls via KDLT News

Rocky Carson on Calling All Sports with Mark Ovenden and Mike Henriksen

Mark Griffin on Calling All Sports with Mark Ovenden and Mike Henriksen

Lewis racquetball tourney opens via KELO 1320AM/107.9 FM

No. 1 player will miss Lewis Drug racquetball event via Argus Leader

Racquetball prodigy to play baseball at Augustana via Argus Leader

#2 Rocky Carson Advances To Semi-Finals via KDLT News

De La Rosa Dominates at Lewis via KDLT News

De La Rosa serves youth with Lewis championship via Argus Leader

De La Rosa Dominates The Day via KDLT News