WEXFORD — Opportunities against Brendan McKay come few and far between.
Mars knows that all too well.
Blackhawk’s junior southpaw outdueled David Bednar, limiting the Planets to just one hit, as the Cougars won a WPIAL Class AAA first-round baseball playoff game by a score of 2-0 Monday evening at North Allegheny High School.
McKay’s dominance included 16 strikeouts and he walked just one.
“He’s now given up just one run in five career playoff games,” said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia. “There is no stage too big for him.
“He had been pitching in warm weather,” added Amalia. “With it being cold tonight, I don’t think he really got going until the third inning.”
Bednar pitched a solid game himself, striking out 12, walking three and allowing the two runs (one earned) on just five hits.
Two of the hits he was charged with giving up came when his outfielders lost flyballs in the lights.
“David did everything he could do to help us win tonight,” said Planet coach Brian Hobaugh. “We knew what he (McKay) was going to bring and I told our guys that we needed to be perfect tonight.”
There were a few sequences in the game when the Planets (12-8) fell short of perfection and it cost them their season.
Both runs Bednar surrendered came in the bottom of the third inning.
After striking out the first six batters he faced, Bednar allowed a single to Joe Campbell to lead off the third. Campbell moved to second base on an errant pick-off throw and to third on a groundout. With two outs, a wild pitch brought Campbell home with the game’s first run and Joe Campagna followed with a single that scored Rich Rowe, who had walked earlier in the inning.
“Bednar is one of the two best pitchers we’ve faced this year,” said Amalia. “I think we got him out of his rhythm there in the third. Our kids battled.”
The Cougars (10-6) were unable to push another run across the rest of the game, but thanks to McKay, they didn’t have to.
The lone hit he allowed was an infield single to Bednar in the second frame. He managed to strike out five batters in the top of the fourth due to Matt Eperesi and Sam Swiatek reaching first base after third strikes against both batters skipped away from Blackhawk catcher Jake Emge.
In the final three innings combined, McKay allowed just one baserunner, a two-out walk to Eperesi in the sixth. McKay closed the game in style by striking out the side in the seventh.
“I really think that we are the better team,” said Hobaugh. “We beat them earlier this year (6-4 on April 3). I told our guys before today’s game that we have to make Blackhawk beat us, not just McKay. But he is so sharp and he doesn’t make mistakes.”
Bednar finishes his senior campaign with a 4-2 record, 66 strikeouts compared to just 10 walks and an earned-run average of 0.92.
“We have a lot of talented juniors coming back,” Hobaugh said. “We’ll be in the hunt.”