It's not as if Joey Porter can feel Brendan McKay breathing down his neck. But from 1,000 miles away in Mississippi, Porter is watching the Blackhawk High School star pitcher get, oh, so close to his long-standing national record.
"The Internet," said Porter. "I saw an article on him on Yahoo Sports. Somebody has sent things about him to my wife on Facebook, too. So I know about him. He must be pretty darn good."
McKay is the marvelous left-handed pitcher in Beaver County with the almost-surreal streak of not allowing a run in 69 consecutive innings, dating to last season. It is the third-longest streak in U.S. high school baseball history, and his story has grabbed the attention of many Western Pennsylvania sports fans. McKay has a chance at the national record of 80 consecutive scoreless innings, set in 1973 by Porter when he was a 5-foot-9, 136-pound left-hander at South Natchez High School in Mississippi.
McKay, a 6-1, 220-pound left-hander, will pitch against West Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA championship Wednesday night at Consol Energy Park in Washington, Pa. Blackhawk also will play in the PIAA playoffs next week.
Porter is 58 and lives in Columbia, Miss. He wishes McKay luck, but it sounds like he wouldn't be devastated if someone found a way to score.
"It does matter to me. I'd like to keep the record," Porter said with a chuckle. "But all records are made to be broken. You never know when it's going to happen."
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only unbeaten NFL team to win a Super Bowl and some of the players from that team are known to celebrate and pop champagne when an undefeated team loses late in the season. They want their record preserved.
"I won't go as far as doing that," Porter said of the Dolphins' antics. "I've really enjoyed having this record for more than 40 years. But maybe it's time for someone else to enjoy it."
The consecutive-inning scoreless streak has been well-documented, but McKay is chasing another of Porter's feats. Porter also has the national record for consecutive shutouts with 11. Only this past weekend, Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia figured out McKay has 10 consecutive shutouts dating to last season. So McKay has a chance at one record in the WPIAL final.
"He's left-handed and so was I. So we have an advantage," said Porter. "But he's certainly a little bigger than I was."
Porter also was a football star and played basketball in high school. In 2000, readers of The Democrat newspaper in Natchez voted him the second-best athlete of their area in the 1900s. So, he was anything but an average Joe. And don't call him Joe, either.
"I still go by Joey," he said.
As a senior at South Natchez, Porter played quarterback/running back in football and led South Natchez to the state title game. In baseball, he helped South Natchez win the state title and finished his career with a 20-3 record.
He went on to play Division II college baseball at Delta State, but played only two years because of arm troubles. He went on to coach football at South Natchez and then Columbia High School, where he led the team to a state title game. He eventually became the athletic director at Columbia, but retired from that position in 2008. He is now a self-employed salesman.
Porter can't remember if his 80-inning scoreless streak was over one or two seasons. But he does remember when it ended.
"It was the state playoffs," he said. "As a matter of fact, the game I got beat, I only gave up one run. That was the second round, but we ended up coming back and winning the state championship. Back then, we were playing best two out of three in each round.
"I remember one time during the streak, I gave up a triple leading off an inning, and I got out of it. Things happen. Tell [McKay] he can't do it all by himself."
Porter was 11-1 as a senior, and when asked if he had any final message to give to McKay, Porter said, "I would say good luck to him. Not just to him, but to his teammates, too. They must be playing good defense behind him."
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh