Blackhawk baseball coach Bob Amalia believes pitcher Brendan McKay will be taken in the Major League Baseball draft next year. How high McKay goes in the draft is tough to predict.
But no matter what happens in the draft, McKay now knows he can fall back to a future with a top college baseball program.
In between dominating teams in the American Legion baseball season, McKay recently made a verbal commitment to the University of Louisville. McKay, who will be a senior at Blackhawk, picked a team that has been to the College World Series twice in the past seven seasons, including 2013.
"Louisville really wanted him," Amalia said. "Their head coach [Dan McDonnell] flew in on a private plane to meet with Brendan's family for a home visit."
The attraction was mutual with McKay, who visited Louisville in February. His other finalists were Wake Forest and West Virginia, although a number of other Division I schools also were interested in him.
"I realized when I visited that I loved the place," McKay said of Louisville. "I loved the facilities. I love turf fields and they have one. I loved the fact, too, that they were moving to the ACC."
But when asked what it would take for him to skip a career at Louisville, McKay said, "Probably a really high draft pick and a good chunk of money. But I'll worry about that if it happens. I just need to worry about next [high school] season, competing and getting better. Hopefully, I'll have a decision to make next year."
McKay, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound left-hander, is one of the most dominant pitchers to play in Western Pennsylvania in quite a while. He was the Post-Gazette Player of the Year during the high school season. He now plays for Blackhawk's American Legion team and helped the team win the Beaver County championship last weekend. Blackhawk is playing host to the Region 6 tournament this weekend.
As they were in high school, McKay's American Legion statistics are surreal. In one game, he pitched a one-hitter and faced 22 batters. He struck out 20 of them.
Heading into the Region 6 tournament, McKay had a 9-0 record and had allowed only five runs (four earned) in 592/3 innings. His ERA was 0.47. He had 111 strikeouts and walked only six.
He also was undefeated during the high school season. In high school and American Legion combined, he was 16-0 and had allowed only eight runs (five earned) in 1192/3 innings, with 228 strikeouts.
On top of his pitching, he also is hitting .477 for the American Legion team after hitting better than .400 for the high school team. He plays first base and outfield when he doesn't pitch.
"I think he is going to get drafted next year," said Amalia, who coaches Blackhawk's high school and American Legion teams. "People down here have said he's the best two-way player from Beaver County since [New Brighton's] Terry Francona. I don't know, but I know in the 26 years I've been coaching down here, there's not a two-way guy, hitting and pitching, as good as him."
Friday night lights
The list of WPIAL football teams who play home games on Saturdays has decreased by two.
South Side Beaver has installed lights and will play home games Friday nights. Shenango used to play home games on Saturday nights, but has moved its games to Friday nights this season.
That means only five WPIAL teams still play home games Saturday afternoons because they don't have lights at their stadiums. They are Wilkinsburg, Western Beaver, Summit Academy, Riverview and Imani Christian. Bishop Canevin also plays some home games Saturday nights at Dormont Stadium.
WPIAL football wasn't always played mostly in prime time on Fridays. In the late 1970s, there were almost 40 teams that played home games on Saturday afternoons.
Changing their colors
Pat Carey is the new football coach at North Hills, taking over for Jack McCurry, who retired as the third-winningest coach in WPIAL history. Carey is giving the Indians a new look and it has nothing to do with Xs and Os.
Gone are the white helmets with "Indians" script that McCurry used for decades. In are red helmets with "Indians" script. Gone are the old-style jerseys with stripes down the shoulders and sleeves. In are new uniforms that are red, white and gray. North Hills will sometimes wear gray pants.
Carey is not trying to erase North Hills tradition. He was a standout player at North Hills and was a longtime assistant under McCurry.
"We're not trying to get rid of the past. We wanted to keep some of the tradition," he said. "The new look is just kind of a trend a lot of people are going to. I don't get as excited about this stuff, but the kids get a little excited about the new look and uniforms. I thought maybe the timing was right and it maybe would be a good time to give us a little new look."
Carey, however, will keep the North Hills tradition of giving out skull and crossbone helmet decals for big plays or accomplishments.
Cherpak on Twitter
Ask Thomas Jefferson football coach Bill Cherpak if he uses Twitter and you'll get a big laugh.
"I hate Twitter," Cherpak said.
Cherpak, one of the most successful coaches in WPIAL history, discourages his players from using Twitter, or at least not make posts on the social media site. Senior linebacker Chase Winovich was heavily recruited by colleges before picking Michigan this spring. Cherpak told Winovich not to have a Twitter account.
"Just because when you're on Twitter, there are so many people who try to influence you," Cherpak said.
If Cherpak had his way, none of his kids would be on Twitter.
"I just think kids aren't mature enough or smart enough to understand the ramifications of what they put on there," Cherpak said. "Kids just don't realize the image they might create through Twitter might not be who they are, but that's all that people know of them."
Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.