Jesse DelaHerran and Lorri Howell, the reigning Golden Empire USBC At Large Bowlers of the Year.

As the area’s reigning Golden Empire USBC At-Large Male Bowler of the Year, Jesse DelaHerran is used to having plenty of success on the local lanes.

In fact, the 54-year-old Bakersfield resident’s 43-year bowling resume includes three perfect games and 18 299s.

But with the shutdown of non-essential businesses — including bowling alleys — in mid-March, DelaHerran’s game had grown a bit rusty when he returned to action earlier this month.

Fortunately for him, his struggles appear to have been short-lived.

On Tuesday night, he was back to form, capping off a 759 series with near perfection in the third game — another 299.

“Of course all eyes are on you,” said DelaHerran, who opened his final game of the night with 11 straight strikes. “And you know somebody is recording you because they want to post it on Facebook.”

But even as bowlers from neighboring lanes stopped what they were doing and migrated to get a better look at possible perfection, DelaHerran insists he wasn’t nervous.

“I’ve already tuned that out because I’ve been there before,” DelaHerran said. “So I don’t feel added pressure or nervous because I know what to do. So it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m just hoping and praying that on my last ball I throw, all 10 pins go down into the pit.”

It wasn’t meant to be Tuesday. DelaHerran left the 10 pin and settled for another near-miss.

“I kind of knew that I threw it good, but it was a little light in the pocket, so it wasn’t really right where I wanted it to go,” said DelaHerran with a chuckle. “But the pins just kind of swished around a bit, but nothing hit that 10 pin. It didn’t wobble or anything. I wish it would have wobbled, because I would have stomped on the floor so hard I would have made it fall.”

DelaHerran’s performance brought back memories for Lorri Howell, the GEUSBC Women's At-Large Bowler of the Year, who was also in action Tuesday.

Howell lost out on a 300 game two years ago when she left the 10 pin on her final roll and settled for a career-best 299.

“I think you always (feel nervous) when you have that one ball to throw,” Howell said. “And you have everyone standing around watching. And he did the same thing I did, he threw the ball and left the 10 pin. I knew how he felt.”

The same could be said about missing bowling the past few months.

The 54-year-old Howell, who started bowling when she was 12, went as far as to set up plastic pins in her backyard patio and tossed an old bowling ball on her grass to stay in shape. She even hooked up her Nintendo Wii gaming system so she could simulate bowling.

“I just needed to keep my swing, so I didn’t forget how to do it,” said Howell, a Foothill High graduate. “When I first found out we couldn’t bowl, I was like, ‘what am I going to do?' Because I’m used to having that routine of bowling three times a week and then nothing. Really, that’s all I did was bowl, so when this came up I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I gonna do?’”

Although her makeshift bowling alley helped, Howell says she really struggled living without her typical human contact.

“It was stressful because I’m a social person and I like to be out among people and have fun,” Howell said. “And not being able to be around my bowling friends, you can’t bowl, was kind of stressful for me. You know it’s exercise and it's basically the only thing I do other than housework and yard work.”

Once she was able to return to action, Howell has found a new energy in her game.

“Having those couple of months off and then getting back to bowling, it was like I learned how to bowl all over again,” Howell said. “The correct way. The first couple of balls that I threw, I threw them like I was supposed to. I have been bowling a lot better than I was before the virus broke out. I’ve hit mark every time, so it’s like, I’m kind of glad (I had to take the break).

“It brought me back to where I’m supposed to be again. When you’re bowling, bowling, bowling, after a while you just tend to go out there and just throw the ball and not even worry about it. But now, I drop it right on my mark, every time. It’s like it helped me.”

DelaHerran’s return to bowling was not as fluid. He struggled to score consistently and suffered a few more aches and pains than he was used to.

“When I returned to bowling, it did feel weird,” said DelaHerran, who bowled five games in Porterville and nine at Morongo Casino in Cabazon in early June. It was the first time he had bowled since March 15.

“Throwing the ball for the first time in a while, the ball felt heavy at first, after not throwing it for such a long period of time,” he said “So of course I was rusty from being out for almost three months, and I didn’t bowl that great. My timing was off a little bit. And then the following day I had a blister on my bowling finger and my arm was a little bit sore.”

DelaHerran’s struggles continued in league play at Southwest Lanes on June 16 when he bowled a 553 series.

“Of course I went there and I hadn’t even practiced,” said DelaHerran, who plans to compete in a national tournament in Reno, Sept. 21-22. “So I was just trying to get my form again. I was still rusty and trying to figure things out, so I didn’t bowl that great. My timing was still off. So I went back to practice on Saturday to try to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and I think I figured it out.”

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