The first pitching duel between Thomas Jefferson's Greg Schneider and Blackhawk's Brendan McKay was one for the ages. So was the remake -- for five innings.
After Schneider and McKay matched each other for five shutout innings, Schneider cracked a little and Blackhawk came on strong. Blackhawk scored five runs in the seventh inning and defeated Thomas Jefferson, 6-1, in a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal Thursday at North Allegheny. The win put Blackhawk (22-2) into the semifinals Monday against West York (22-4).
Schneider and McKay are two of the premiere pitchers in the WPIAL, and when they squared off in the semifinals, the game went nine innings before Blackhawk pulled out a 1-0 win. Schneider had a no-hitter until the ninth inning and McKay finished with a two-hitter. After five innings Thursday, Schneider had allowed one hit and McKay two.
"I definitely thought this was going to be like the last time," McKay said. "We were both striking people out left and right."
Then Blackhawk's offense came through with two hits and an unearned run in the sixth. With runners on first and second, Steve O'Hara hit a grounder to second. Thomas Jefferson tried to turn a double play, but the throw from shortstop Joe McHugh was in the dirt to first baseman Joe Shaffer. Zach Hildebrand never stopped running from second and scored.
"I was desperate," Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia said. "I was sending him. I thought one run might do it."
Schneider answered with his bat in the bottom of the sixth when he smacked a run-scoring triple to tie the score, 1-1, and stop McKay's scoreless innings streak at 35.
But Blackhawk chased Schneider in the seventh.
"It has been a long season, and I went out to Greg in the seventh inning and asked him if he was getting tired," Thomas Jefferson coach Rich Krivanek said. "For the first time all year, he answered 'yeah.' "
Blackhawk's Brandon Mansell hit a one-out triple and scored on Brendan Kearney's single. An error put runners on first and second before McKay got an infield hit to load the bases. Joe Shaffer came in to relieve Schneider and Blackhawk got two more infield hits from Matt Emge and Tyler Craig to score two runs and make it 4-1. The fifth run scored when Steve O'Hara was hit by a pitch, and Nick Martin followed with a sacrifice fly.
Schneider (9-2), a senior right-hander, was charged with five runs, three earned. He allowed six hits and struck out 11. He came into the game with a 0.24 ERA and had allowed only six runs (two earned) all season in 751/3 innings.
"He throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs and we had to jump on those because if his slider is pretty much unhittable if he gets it over," Amalia said.
McKay (9-1), a sophomore left-hander, finished with a five-hitter and struck out 12.