Blake Niemann is calling baseball games this summer for the Bend Elks of the West Coast League. (Photo provided by Blake Niemann)

Fans of the Bends Elks are getting to know Blake Niemann this summer. That’s because the Philomath High graduate and Arizona State sports journalism student is calling games for the summer baseball club, which competes against the Corvallis Knights and several other teams in the West Coast League.

Niemann is doing play-by-play for all games home and away — 57 total for the regular season, plus any potential playoff games. Heading into tonight’s action at Springfield, the Elks had a 7-7 record.

Niemann said getting the job came about in an unorthodox way. He saw a listing for the position but it was 30 days old, which could mean it had been filled. But he decided to make contact with the club anyway and discovered it was still vacant.

“I sent them a reel of my work that I’ve gathered from Arizona State my freshman year and they liked what they saw,” Niemann said Tuesday in a phone interview while on the road with the team. “They sent me a job offer and the rest is history.”

Niemann picked up some great experience at ASU this past year.

“I broadcasted a variety of sports from women’s basketball to hockey to baseball to softball and everything in between,” he said. “The biggest opportunity I got was going to the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas — that was probably the most memorable experience from my freshman year.”

The job with the Bend Elks entails more than his voice going out over the airwaves.

“I do the play-by-play side of things — broadcasting and preparing and stuff for that — but I also serve in a variety of other roles since I’m kinda their only form of media coverage,” Niemann said. “So I do the postgame write-ups and the social media work and I’ll cut up highlights when the team wins. So it’s just kind of preparing me for what would in essence be a minor league job but in terms of a lower level. But you’re getting that same sort of experience just in a different environment.”

Bend played at the Corvallis Knights recently.

“That was a full circle moment, for sure, being able to see Mike Parker again,” Niemann said, referring to the veteran “Voice of the Beavers” broadcaster. “He’s been the most influential figure in my broadcasting career … someone I’ve looked up to the entire time I’ve been interested in broadcasting. I got to interview him back before I even knew that I wanted to go Cronkite.”

That’s a reference to Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Niemann, majoring in sports journalism, will be entering his sophomore year in August.

Listen to Blake Niemann’s play-by-play of Bend Elks baseball

Niemann’s interest in broadcasting developed early on at Philomath High School.

“I took a broadcast media class my freshman year and I really enjoyed it and I just reflected on those memories in that class and then I really took it seriously,” Niemann said.

During his junior and senior years, he started a YouTube channel called “Blake’s Take” and started doing play-by-play of Warriors hoops.

“Really, the broadcast media program allowed me those opportunities to get those reps and it’s totally shown in being able to get a step ahead of high competition at Arizona State,” he said.

So, what’s the dream? The perfect career?

“Oh man, I’ve got two dreams and they’re on different ends of the spectrum,” Niemann said. “One is to be on SportsCenter and to be able to work at ESPN. The other one might be a little more realistic and that is whenever Mike Parker decides to finally hang it up, I would love to be able to fill in after him. … Obviously, I would never be able to fill his shoes but would love to be able to serve in that role for him and try to emulate his legacy.”

From left, Ty May, Blake Ecker and Cole Beardsley wear their all-star championship medals Saturday at Corban University in Salem. (Photo provided by Sue Creel via Blake Ecker)

Boys basketball all-stars

Philomath’s Ty May and Cole Beardsley had exceptional performances last week with the 4A-3A-2A West All-Stars, which was coached by their high school coach, Blake Ecker. The two former Warriors, who graduated a few weeks ago, played key roles in the team’s winning of the four-team tournament.

To start, the West defeated the East, 118-69, this past Friday at Bushnell University in Eugene. May made 13 of 22 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and added a free throw for 29 points. On defense, he had three blocked shots.

Meanwhile, Beardsley finished with 16 points on 7 of 13 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and a free throw. Beardsley also had a dozen rebounds, four steals and six assists. Samuel Horne, of Cascade, also scored 29. 

“Our goal was to get 100 and we just kept scoring, scoring, scoring,” Ecker said. “We kinda overwhelmed that team a bit — we had some pretty good talent.”

Against the South All-Stars in the finals Saturday at Corban University in Salem, Ecker said the Warriors won by about 25 points — the official statistics were not available from the game.

“We were able to hold down Kaleb Burnett, who was Player of the Year in 4A — Cole guarded him a lot and he had like 53 or 58 (points) Friday night,” Ecker said. “He probably had 12 points, I’m guessing, I can’t remember for sure. Cole played phenomenal.”

Beardsley, who will play collegiately at Bushnell, was among the team’s top scorers in the championship game.

“In his second game, he may have been our leading scorer — Samuel Horne did pretty good as well,” Ecker said.

May was also strong in the second game.

“It was a good culmination for me; I really did have a good time doing it,” Ecker said about coaching the all-stars.

PHS graduate Abigail Brown played on the championship-winning 4A-3A-2A West squad. (Photo by Jeremy McDonald/JMcDonaldMedia)

Girls basketball all-stars

The 4A-3A-2A girls basketball series played out at Bushnell and Corban as well and the team that included Philomath High’s Abigail Brown also took the tournament title. The West squad rallied from a double-digit deficit to take the championship game, 68-56.

“It was a ton of fun, a huge success,” said Shelly Brown, Abigail’s mom. “She scored points and played really well. Her team was really well-rounded and did a good job of getting the ball to whoever was open.”

Among Brown’s teammates was Brooke Burke of Sweet Home.

“That was fun because they’ve been competing against each other for four years and to get to be teammates and see the personal side was fun for her,” Shelly Brown said.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.