Maybe the pressure would get to the youngster, and Blackhawk's Brendan McKay would finally act his age.
McKay, a 10th-grader, pitched a perfect game for 5 2/3 innings, but all of a sudden he was facing the bases loaded, one out in the bottom of the last inning, and Blackhawk clinging to a one-run lead.
But no way would McKay act sophomoric. For him, it was as easy as 1-2-3.
McKay got a 1-2-3 double play to end the game, and Blackhawk defeated Belle Vernon, 1-0, in the WPIAL Class AAA baseball championship Thursday night at Consol Energy Park in North Franklin.
On the game-ending play, Belle Vernon's Matt Callaway bounced back to McKay. He threw home to catcher Matt Emge, who threw to first baseman Adam Rousseau. The win gave Blackhawk its second WPIAL baseball title and added another chapter to McKay's storybook sophomore year. He is 8-1 and has not allowed a run in 30 consecutive innings.
"He's a special kid who has a lot of self-confidence," said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia. "I don't think any stage is too big for him."
McKay, a lef-hander, finished with a two-hitter, struck out 11 and lifted his season record to 8-1. His perfect game was broken up when No. 9 hitter Dean Manown singled to right field with two outs in the sixth. Until then, McKay had pitched 112/3 innings of no-hit ball, going back to the WPIAL semifinals against Thomas Jefferson.
But Belle Vernon (18-5), making its first championship appearance, also had a sophomore who had a good showing. Dylan Pietrantoni gave up one run and six hits in six innings before being relieved by Dom Francia in the seventh. Pietrantoni (7-1) lost for the first time this season.
"They're both good, but their pitcher is a little more polished," said Belle Vernon coach Dan Palm.
"McKay's curveball is wicked, but that was something to watch those two sophomores go at it."
Blackhawk scored the only run in the fourth when Tyler Craig hit a leadoff double, moved to third on Steve O'Hara's bunt and scored on Joe Lopez's single.
That was all McKay needed.
He has not allowed a run in his past five games -- six innings against Hopewell, seven against Beaver, one against Chartiers Valley, nine against Thomas Jefferson and seven against Belle Vernon.
But things got a little uneasy for McKay in the seventh. He was fortunate at one point when he threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded. But the ball bounced hard off a wall behind home plate and quickly came back to Emge, keeping Belle Vernon's Adam Ferita at third.
"My heart was pumping, and I was sweating a little," McKay acknowledged. "I just needed to calm down."
With one out in the seventh, Ferita walked and moved to third when Francia lined a single to left. Joe Simsic walked to load the bases.
McKay had an 0-1 count on Callaway before the double play ended yet another heart-stopper for Blackhawk.
The Cougars won three WPIAL playoff games -- and every one was by 1-0. As a team, they have not allowed a run in 37 consecutive innings.
"I was just trying to get a strikeout or groundball," McKay said of the final batter.
Amalia said: "There were two great athletes involved on that last play. Matt Emge was big-time on it. Not too many high school catchers can get the ball and gun a kid out at first like that."
Amalia said he never considered pulling McKay in the seventh.
"Adam Rousseau is a good No. 2 pitcher, but there aren't too many kids like McKay," Amalia said. "He doesn't get rattled at all. It's a luxury."hsbaseball