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Outside » Outside Features

What's Making the Bend Elks So Hot?

With the best record in the league, hometown team wraps up its regular season

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As the season moves into its final stretch, with only two weeks remaining before the playoffs, the Bend Elks have already clinched the division title, with nine fewer losses than the second place team, division rivals Corvallis Knights. In fact, the team is so strong this year that they have nearly as many wins as the other three teams in their division combined and, at 28 wins, are a full four games in front of the leaders of the other two division leaders, the west division's Bellingham Bells and east division's Kelowna Falcons.

The Elks play in the decade-old West Coast league, in which the teams are a collection of college students. With nearly daily games, the schedule is set up to mimic the major leagues and is an opportunity for college ball players to simulate that relentless pace—and, moreover, for major league scouts to determine the talent and stamina levels of these young players.

What is it that is making this year's team so good?

It is hard to say: There is no single standout for the program.

Certainly, hitting is a strong suit for the team, with four players—roughly 20 percent of the roster—batting better than .400; the team average is .326, certainly a mark that no major league team can match. (The highest MLB team average was .349 by Philadelphia in 1894.) Yet, in spite of the strong batting, there is no real powerhouse, with only 25 home runs from the whole team combined, five coming from Tyler Davis, a player from California (Northwest Nazarene College) and another five from West Tunnell (Baylor University).

The pitching is also strong, lead by 6-foot-5 Jordan Wilcox from University of Portland. With a 3-2 record, he has pitched 36 innings so far, with marked improvement throughout the season: In his first game in early June, the Corvallis batter had seven hits against him and won 3-0. But since then, in only one other game did a team have that many hits—in mid-June, when he pitched again against Corvallis. But this time, although the Corvallis Knights hit eight pitches, the Elks still won 11-5. In his only other loss, an away game in Klamath, the Elks lost a squeaker, 3-4, but the opposing team only managed 4 hits against Wilcox.

Patrick McGuff, from Morehead State University, has been another go-to player, and is currently undefeated (5-0), with a 2.59 ERA.

Fielding is another reliable element of the team, with an infallible first-baseman, Billy King, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Oregon State.

But it is not just what's happening on the field, but also at the office. Perhaps not coincidentally, the team was purchased by new owners in October—John and Tami Marick, who own a cell phone company; and in keeping with the theme of teamwork, their daughter, Kelsie, a graduate of Gonzaga University, has taken over marketing and sales for the team.

Remaining Home Games

6:35 pm, Tuesday, July 28 vs. Bellingham Bells

4:35 pm, Wednesday, July 29 (double-header) vs. Bellingham Bells

6:35 pm, Monday, August 3, vs. Kitsap Blue Jackets

6:35 pm, Tuesday, August 4, vs. Kitsap Blue Jackets

6:35 pm, Wednesday, August 5, vs. Kitsap Blue Jackets

6:35 pm, Friday, August 7, vs. Klamath Falls Gems

6:35 pm, Saturday, August 8, vs. Klamath Falls Gems

6:35 pm, Sunday, August 9, vs. Klamath Falls Gems

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