West Xtra: West Allegheny's title game upset was one for the ages

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The Consol Energy Park grandstand was packed with spectators anticipating history with Blackhawk pitcher Brendan McKay on the mound last Thursday.

Rightfully so. McKay entered the game with a 69-inning scoreless streak and was looking to lead the Cougars to their second WPIAL Class AAA title in three years.

Not much chatter was spreading around the Cougars' opponent that night at the beginning of the game, but that wasn't the case three hours later. Who was that opponent? West Allegheny. Or as some people like to refer to them now, the 2014 WPIAL Class AAA champions.

"It truly is awesome," Indians coach Bryan Cornell said. "Just everything that went on in that game. That is the seventh time he pitched against us in his career and we never beat him.

"The kids are the ones who really believed they could do it when no one else gave them a chance. They believed they could win.

"They are very confident in their abilities and believe in one another. They believe they are going to win every time they get on the field."

The Indians belief became a reality with a thrilling 5-3 win in eight innings, ending McKay's reign of perfection. The loss was only the second of McKay's career and first since his sophomore year. The Indians rattled McKay in the third inning, plating the first run on a two-out RBI double by Tyler Amedure.

"It was just crazy how it happened," Cornell said. "Our community really rallied around us. We have tape of that run, and it was amazing the noise and the crowd going crazy whenever it happened."

Unfortunately for the Indians, that magic in the WPIAL title game wasn't there Monday as their season ended in the same fate as in 2007, with a loss to Punxsutawney in the first round of the PIAA tournament. The Chucks beat the Indians, 3-2, at Kelly Automotive Park in Butler.

It will take a while, however, for the glow from the WPIAL championship to fade away.

The championship game was a complete 180 degrees from the first matchup between the Section 1 rivals where McKay no-hit the Indians in a 10-0 win.

"We faced him earlier in the year and we were backed up with games," Cornell said. "We had to worry about games other than Blackhawk. We were worried about just making the playoffs because our section is tough. Colin [Claus] wanted the baseball but we didn't give it to him. Strategically with our pitching, we went a different route. It wasn't indicative of who we are as a team. We beat them the second time, 2-1."

The title was the third in the past eight years for the Indians and 10th overall for Cornell who also serves as the defensive coordinator on the football team, but none were in the same ballpark to what this one meant.

"It's not even close," Cornell said. "I have been very fortunate. I am also the defensive coordinator for the football team. This is my 10th championship between baseball and football and this is the best one because of the hype around it.

"No one gave us a chance against Brendan [McKay]. Regardless if we would have won or not, I really believe that is one of the best games I have ever been involved with. We were relaxed because no one thought we had a chance. We had nothing to lose."

In 2007 and '08 when the Indians won back-to-back titles, it was expected. The Indians entered as a favorite and finished the job. This time they did what most people figured was the unthinkable.

"When we won in 2007 and 2008, we were the target," Cornell said. "We were supposed to win.

"No one was talking about West Allegheny this time, not even when we made the playoffs. Our players felt disrespected. We beat four section champions in the playoffs. We had a tough road to get to where we were. It put a chip on their shoulders. We finished playing very good baseball."

The Indians beat Laurel Highlands, Chartiers Valley and Hampton to reach the title game.

The most important ingredient in their run to a WPIAL title has been great pitching, let by Claus and Amedure.

"We don't skip a beat from Colin to Tyler," Cornell said. "We would love to start Tyler but we didn't need to. It is nice to have a one-two punch like that and feel confident with them.

"We felt all year that we were going to be strong as a staff. We didn't lose anyone from last year. There were times during the year we had to use our full staff, so we felt confident but with the weather [causing postponements during the playoffs], we were able to rely on Colin every game. He took his game to the next level. The kids believed that anytime he steps on the mound, we can win."

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