Star and strikes: Ranta a two-sport standout
Ranta has done well in baseball and bowling
For some athletes, success seems to come naturally. It doesn't matter the sport, some individuals just have the "it" factor.
Oconomowoc's Jeff Ranta is one of those guys.
Whether on the baseball field or the bowling alley, Ranta has been outstanding over the years. The 53-year-old Oconomowoc High School graduate (1977) had an excellent Land O'Lakes baseball career, and once he retired from that game, he took up bowling. It only took him a few years to quickly become one of the top bowlers in the Lake Country.
"I've been pretty lucky in my athletic career," Ranta said. "Baseball came pretty easy for me, and all of the teams I played on won a lot of games. Those guys I played with on the Five O's teams were all great baseball players, all of them. That was a talented group of guys. And once I quit playing baseball, I started bowling. And once I got a little more serious about it, I started getting some big scores. I've had a lot of fun in both sports."
It's hard to determine which sport he's been best at. His numbers in both are impressive.
Ranta, a left-handed hitter and thrower, was one of the top players on the Five O's baseball teams that dominated play in the Western Division. His teams won eight straight divisional titles, still a league record. In a span of four years, they captured three LOL Grand Championships (1978, 1980, 1981), becoming just the second LOL West team to accomplish that feat in the 91-year history of the Land O'Lakes program.
Not only was Ranta an outstanding defensive outfielder with a big arm, but he also was one of the top hitters in the league for a period of 12 years. From 1977 to 1988, Ranta batted .338 for the Five O's, one of the league's top marks in that span of seasons. He had plenty of power, belting seven home runs during the 1980 season.
"Jeff was a very valuable player for us on those Land O' Lakes teams," said LOL Hall of Famer Dave Schlosser and one of Ranta's teammates. "He could do it all. He could hit for average and power, was a very good base-runner and played excellent defense. There's no doubt that he was one of the reasons we had all of that success."
Moves to bowling
Once he decided to give up baseball, a sport he played for almost 30 years, he started bowling. He bowled with some of his softball teammates on Steve's Service team. He still bowls with them on Monday nights at Mapleway Bowl. Ranta said he averaged about 170 the first couple of years.
But being mediocre on the lanes wasn't good enough for the talented Ranta. He wanted to average 200 and compete with the best bowlers in the area.
It only took the left-hander a couple of seasons to move that average into the 200s, and then way beyond.
Last year, bowling in three leagues, Ranta had his best season ever. He averaged a career-best 222 at Hartbrook Lanes in the Thursday Mixed league and averaged 211 in the Big Eight league at Mapleway and 208 in the Monday Spot league at Mapleway.
Ranta has four 300 games to his credit, three of them at Mapleway and one at Hartbrook. However, that elusive 800 series is still something that he hasn't been able to come up with.
"The 800 is one thing I want badly," Ranta said. "It's the holy grail in bowling. I've been close a couple of times but couldn't finish it off in the final game. For some reason I just couldn't finish. I've started with two big games several times and then lost my consistency in the third game. But I haven't given up on it yet. As long as I'm still bowling, I'm going to be chasing the 800."
This year he's off to another big start, sporting a 227 average at Hartbrook and marks of over 200 in two Mapleway leagues.
Can that 800 series be too far off?
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AS IT APPEARED IN PRINT: PDF collection of Oconomowoc "Athletic Fields Forever" coverage.
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