As Wes Malott stepped on the approach, the Bayside Bowl crowd roared with anticipation. A strike would send the Portland Lumberjacks to a fourth Elias Cup Finals in five seasons, and one step closer to a three-peat.

Earlier in the match, Malott had a message for his team: “Set me up, and I’ll bring us home.”

Malott held true to his word, just as he’s done time and time again at the PBA League. The hometown crowd erupted into a frenzy as the Lumberjacks secured a 223-172 victory over the PBR Milwaukee Pounders in the Anthony Division Finals.

“In this environment, this place, this building, this crowd, it takes a special human to be there,” Lumberjacks manager Tim Mack said. “That's why we call them 'The Franchise.’”

The two-time defending champions brought back the reigning PBA Player of the Year in Kyle Troup and the World Championship winner in Kris Prather. In the PBA League Draft, Mack traded up to ensure rising star Packy Hanrahan would return to Portland as well. Arturo Quintero, the Mexican star rocking an emerald faux hawk, is the Lumberjacks' lone newcomer. 

But when a match is on the line, the Lumberjacks place their trust in Malott, the two-time Mark Roth PBA League MVP and latest inductee to the PBA Hall of Fame.

“I’m very humbled to hear stuff like that,” Malott said. “I've had a lot of success here in this league. For me, I'm a team player. I want to do it for everybody else. I don't know if it causes me to focus a little bit more and really try and make a better shot, but I thrive in these events and this environment.”

The deafening crowd at Bayside Bowl certainly helped propel the Lumberjacks to victory. Malott said winning the 2019 Elias Cup in Portland is a moment he’ll never forget. Defending their title, now titles, in Portland has been on his mind for two years. On Sunday afternoon, the Lumberjacks will get that opportunity in front of who Malott called “the greatest fans in bowling."

Their opponent will be the winner of the Carter Division Finals, which will be decided later this evening.

Regardless of who the Lumberjacks face, Mack knows PBA history will be at stake. A third Elias Cup victory would tie Portland with Silver Lake for the most in PBA League history. A three-peat has never been done before.

“I used to say there's no nothing more important than winning — except breathing, because if you don't breathe, you can't win,” Mack said. “I'm hoping we can take a couple more breaths and get a chance to win on Sunday.”

PBA League presented by Pabst Blue Ribbon Schedule

July 7 at 10 a.m. ET on PBA YouTube — Carter Division Qualifying

July 7 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1 — Carter Division Finals

July 10 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1 — Elias Cup Finals