Brendan McKay has a message written on the inside of his Blackhawk High School baseball cap.
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
McKay penned the message in his hat at the beginning of the season to remind himself to work hard.
He reminds everyone else of his talent every time he pitches.
McKay is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound left-handed junior pitcher at Blackhawk and what he has done so far in his career is impressive. But what he has done this year is extraordinary and lending credence that McKay very well might go down as one of the best WPIAL pitchers in a number of years. It's no wonder Louisville, Wake Forest, Kent State and West Virginia already have offered scholarships, and Arizona and Florida State are starting to show interest.
"It really is pretty unbelievable what he is doing," said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia.
• McKay is 6-0 this year with a 0.15 ERA.
• In his past two starts, he has pitched a nine-inning no-hitter with 14 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory against West Allegheny, and in a 1-0 victory against Montour five days earlier, he threw an eight-inning three-hitter and struck out a school record 18.
• Overall, McKay has allowed only three runs -- one earned. He has struck out 85 in 46 innings and walked only six.
• A varsity pitcher since his freshman year, McKay has a 21-1 career record. In 184 innings, he has allowed only 13 earned runs and 18 total runs.
On top of all that, McKay has a .435 batting average this season and batted better than .400 as a freshman and sophomore.
The WPIAL playoffs start Monday, and McKay is one of the showcase players. Blackhawk is the defending Class AAA champion but is only 9-6 this season.
Yet when McKay pitches, the Cougars are a serious threat to beat any team.
"Before it's all said and done, he'll probably have every school record offensively and defensively," Amalia said. "He's a special player who actually has become more humble as he has gotten better. If he keeps working hard and keeps his head, the sky is the limit for him."
McKay is Blackhawk to the core. His parents, Kim and Bruce, are Blackhawk graduates. He got into baseball at a young age, even though he was more familiar with girls softball. Older sisters, Jen and Heather, who are 15 and 17 years older than Brendan, were softball players, and little brother was dragged to softball game after game. Not that little Brendan minded.
"I grew up watching them play softball," said Brendan, who has a 3.4 grade-point average. "I'd always chase foul balls at their games."
McKay was a baseball standout for years but he also played basketball through his sophomore year.
An example of his athletic ability -- he was a part-time starter in basketball as a sophomore.
But baseball was his best sport. He had a national reputation by the time he was a 10th-grader. Maxpreps.com named him one of the top 50 sophomores in the country before the 2012 season.
Although he is an excellent hitter, he has a lofty reputation for his pitching. He has added velocity every year and is now regularly throwing 85-86 mph. That isn't a flame-thrower, but it's still pretty good for a high school junior. Plus, he has impeccable control and an above-average curveball. And he's left-handed.
If he continues to progress, could he be a top-10 round Major League Baseball draft pick next year? Does he throw hard enough?
"I think you just need to have movement on your ball and have a good second or third pitch," said McKay, who throws a fastball, curveball and changeup. "I'd love to get drafted next year. But if I don't, I will still have college. You can get better in college, too."
Said Amalia: "On the high school level, his curveball is almost unhittable. And he'll throw that changeup when it's a 3-2 count. You're talking about a high school kid who has 85 strikeouts and only six walks. That's really something. ... I would be highly surprised if he doesn't get drafted next year. But you just never know how high."