West Xtra: Blackhawk's McKay had opponents firing blanks

Male High School Athlete of the Year

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In the back of his mind, Brendan McKay knew at some point he might surrender a run.

A star left-handed pitcher and ace of Blackhawk's varsity baseball team, McKay captivated the entire WPIAL this past spring and gained national attention with his string of scoreless innings pitched over a span of two seasons.

McKay, a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder, kept his impressive streak rolling until finally giving up a score against West Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game. Nevertheless, he maintained 721/3 scoreless innings and tied the second-longest streak in U.S. high school baseball history.

"At first, you're thinking about the streak and trying to keep it going," McKay said. "I knew once I gave up a run, I had to immediately forget about it and worry about my team and worry about shutting down the other team.

"The streak wasn't something I thought too much about. I'd see what people were saying about it on Twitter and the Internet, but didn't talk much about it. I was more focused on helping my team win games."

McKay finished his senior year 8-1 with a 0.55 ERA and struck out 130 batters while allowing 27 hits in 63 innings. He was selected as Gatorade's Pennsylvania Player of the Year for a second consecutive year and named the Post-Gazette's All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.

For all of those accolades, McKay has been selected as the Post-Gazette's West Xtra Male High School Athlete of the Year.

"He's a great athlete," Blackhawk baseball coach Bob Amalia said. "He never got too high or too low on himself. He never talked about [the scoreless streak] and just did his job. I think the pressure got to him a little.

"Honestly, to be that perfect every time you go out and pitch is a lot to ask. And you would have never known by talking to him because he's so humble."

McKay, who resides in Darlington, finished his high school career with a 30-2 record and 0.53 ERA. He also had 386 strikeouts with only 42 walks in 238 innings.

"To think of what he was able to accomplish is pretty outstanding," Amalia said. "Going back to his junior year he had 10 shut outs in a row. That doesn't happen at any level. It's so hard to go that perfect."

When he wasn't pitching, McKay played first base and was one of Amalia's top offensive players this past season, batting .425 (23 for 54) with 17 RBIs.

"He's gotten so much bigger and stronger since his freshman year," Amalia said. "His fastball topped out at 82 [mph] then and now he's at 93.

"I remember the first time I saw him pitch a section game for us. I told my assistant coaches he might not go to college [and directly to the pros] because he's so good. He's gotten bigger and stronger and ended up being a great hitter with a .432 career batting average."

Behind McKay this season, Blackhawk went 8-2 in Section 1-AAA and shared the section title with Montour. The Cougars advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA title game but lost to West Allegheny, 5-3. After losing in the state quarterfinals, Blackhawk finished its season with a 15-4 overall record.

"There's no doubt that we had an amazing season," McKay said. "We only lost a few games and we played a lot better than last year. Guys stepped up and everyone had a great season.

"You can't really say we had a bad season because we lost in the WPIAL championship. West Allegheny made good contact and found holes. It's a tough season and you play the entire year to get to that moment."

A University of Louisville recruit, McKay was recently selected by the San Diego Padres in the 34th round of Major League Baseball's annual draft.

"From a very young age, it's been a goal to play professional baseball," McKay said. "It's a dream come true to be selected to play with the top players of the country."

McKay, however, won't be signing with the Padres and will head to Louisville this week after playing for Amalia's Blackhawk American Legion team this summer. He made his final appearance with the team July 5 and threw a no-hitter against Beaver Falls during the semifinal series of the county playoffs.

"I love Louisville," said McKay, who plans on majoring in sports administration. "It's a great team and they made it to the College World Series for the second time in a row. Next year, they're moving into the ACC, so they'll be facing better competition and the top teams in the country."

Amalia, however, admitted he's going to miss McKay next season.

"I already miss him," he said. "Brendan is a fantastic all-around player. More than anything, he's a better kid than a player and that says something.

"He's the best player I've seen in the 15 years I've been coaching high school baseball. If I coach another 20 years, I'll probably never see another player like Brendan."

* -- Daily PG Athlete of the Year

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