Sometimes the third time is the charm--no matter how uncharming the first two times are.
After being no-hit by Brendan McKay in their previous two meetings against him -- once this year and once last year -- the West Allegheny High School baseball team had a third chance to face the Blackhawk High School ace last week in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game.
Not only did the Indians register a hit this time, they also scored in the third inning, snapping his highly publicized scoreless streak at 721/3 innings, tied for the second most in high school baseball history. But, the Indians weren't done. The team scored five total runs off McKay to eventually win in extra innings, 5-3, and take the WPIAL crown last Thursday at Consol Energy Park.
West Allegheny pitcher Colin Claus started the third inning with a single off McKay before being replaced by a courtesy runner--a bench player who replaces the pitcher or catcher on the basepaths to allow the other player to prepare for their position in the field. Nic Daigle, the courtesy runner, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a groundout, and finally, scored with two outs on Tyler Amedure's seeing-eye double that dodged the first baseman's glove as it squeezed just inside the foul line.
"They have a video of it on YouTube and you hear the ping of the bat and then it's silent, then you hear 'Get through!' and all of a sudden, everyone erupts," Amedure said of his RBI double. "It's just too cool."
Amedure, a junior who batted in the leadoff spot, pitched five scoreless innings in relief and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, is one of the Indians' stars.
Contrast that with the seldom-used Daigle, who, when asked what position he played, answered, "pinch runner" before sheepishly adding, "right field." He just as easily could have responded with "free safety" or "wide receiver," as he considers himself to be more of a football player than a baseball player. A senior and two-year football starter, he has committed to play football at John Carroll University.
Next year will be the first time Daigle, who has notched just four hits this season, and Amedure won't be competing together in quite some time. The two have known each other since they were 7 and 8 years old and recently have been teammates at West Allegheny on the baseball diamond--and the gridiron. It wasn't until this season that they got close, however.
"This year, it all came together," Daigle said of their friendship--and athletic success.
Both were football starters this year, playing safety and wide receiver on the WPIAL championship team this past fall. Amedure was also the punter and, Daigle, the punt returner. Their football success pales in comparison, however, to ending McKay's streak and beating Blackhawk last week.
"We've won two football WPIAL championships and I've won a state championship in rugby and honestly, nothing compared," Daigle said of scoring the run that broke the streak. "It was just such a cool feeling, hearing the whole stadium going absolutely insane."
Their shared pride comes from nothing but respect for the Blackhawk pitcher.
"Heck of an athlete," Amedure said of McKay. "Our student section chanted 'Overrated,' but there's not a chance. We can say 'overrated' as much as we want, but he's going to be making millions."
Amedure felt that a lack of confidence impaired them in the past and caused them to be no-hit by McKay twice. He revealed that batting against McKay is a mental battle, because it is easy to feel defeated before you step in the box.
"You think in your head, 'Well, it's McKay, I'm going to strike out,'" he said.
The team had a more inspired attitude this time around, however, in part because of encouragement from the coaching staff.
"[The coaches] told us that he's an 18-year-old kid, just like we are, and he wakes up and puts his pants on the same way we do, one leg at a time. He's not invincible," Daigle said.
After all of the media attention surrounding McKay and confidence from the coaches, Daigle said they had a new mindset: "Why not us? Why can't we be the ones to end it?"
And end it they did.
Amedure admitted he has not produced in the clutch in past situations and when he hit the hard grounder to the right side, he thought it was foul. But, it bounced just inside the line and Daigle jogged home as West Allegheny coach Bryan Cornell fist-pumped and arm-waved up and down the third base line -- instilling even more confidence and energy into his team.
Amedure, a diminutive 5-foot-5 right-hander, exclusively threw fastballs, which top out at 84 mph, and curveballs in his five innings of one-hit pitching, in out-dueling McKay, a major league prospect and University of Louisville commit equipped with a deceiving curveball and changeup and a fastball that touches the lower 90s.
Amedure explained that winning the WPIAL baseball championship was a bigger moment for him than winning the football title, but couldn't figure out why.
Daigle had an answer for his teammate: "It's because no one thought we could do it."
Hayes Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1525. Twitter: @HayesGardner