A new pinball wizard is crowned

Lane County pinball hotshots compete in statewide championship

Zoe Vrabel, currently ranked sixth in the world among female pinball players, competed in the Oregon State Pinball Championships on Jan. 19. She battled it out until the third round, when she was finally defeated by John Fujita. (Elizabeth West // The Torch)
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The Oregon State Pinball Championship rolled into Eugene’s Blairally Vintage Arcade on Jan. 19 for the first time in the event’s six-year history. Hosted by the International Flipper Pinball Association, 2019 is the first year in which Eugene produced qualifying players for the tournament – five of the 24 competitors live and work in Lane County.

The opportunity to compete in the Championship tournament has been scarce in the past, as the IFPA requires a history of sanctioned tournaments to qualify. Matt Walton and Mira Mason-Reader helped make this possible for local residents when they co-founded Emerald City Pinball League, hosted in Eugene out of Blairally Vintage Arcade and Level Up Arcade. Emerald City Pinball League is open to all skill levels, an all ages community of enthusiasts.

Reigning state champion Colin Urban of Portland, ranked 47th overall, was a favorite heading into the competition. At 16 years old, Urban’s prodigious skill at the game had his rivals worried for good reason, advancing into the finals comfortably against Daniel Rone of Portland.

Rone has been playing the game in bars for over 10 years, but only took up the competitive mantle four years ago when the opportunity to play in a league presented itself. “I like that I can be out, but still play a game if I want to,” Rone said. Like many other competitors, Rone enjoys the social aspect of the game. Ranked 220th overall, Rone claimed he had a “rocky start” in tournament play, but still enjoys it every time he plays.

“It can come down to something simple, like having too much caffeine. You can be a really good player … sometimes you just have a bad night.”

Darren Dorman, pinball enthusiast and IFPA comptetitor

Rone defeated several veteran players, including IFPA Oregon Representative Greg Dunlap as he rose through the ranks to challenge Urban. In a best of seven, Rone won the tournament 4-2 and claimed the $3,000 cash prize.

Portland’s Daniel Rone faces off against 16-year old pinball prodigy Colin Urban during the IFPA Oregon State Championships on Jan. 19. Rone took home the title, and will go on to compete for Oregon at the IFPA National Championships in Las Vegas on March 28. (Elizabeth West // The Torch)

Two of the five qualifying players from Eugene made it to the third round. Brandon Rangel and Darren Dorman both put forth admirable performances, alongside Women’s World Champion Zoe Vrabel of Portland, who currently holds the third spot in the international women’s league. Coming off a four-game winning streak in the second round, Dorman, a resident of Eugene for 53 years, offered some insight to a few of the night’s upsets.

“It can come down to something simple, like having too much caffeine,” he said. “You can be a really good player … sometimes you just have a bad night.”

Dorman empathized, later being defeated himself.

One of Eugene’s own, Darren Dorman, gave an impressive performance at the Oregon State Pinball Championship this Saturday by making it into the third round. He faced off against Andy Cobb, who bested him with a 4-2 win. (Elizabeth West // The Torch)

Though the Oregon State Pinball Championship had only one victor, the tournament was lively and successful, drawing large crowds of all ages into Blairally’s Vintage Arcade. Competitors and visitors alike enjoyed Blairally’s “free-play weekend” and fully stocked bar. As Rone tilts toward the North American Championships, the game has just begun for Eugene’s Pinball league.