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June 2, 2014

Somerset faces tall task with Blackhawk

Somerset High School’s baseball team will attempt to do the unthinkable today in a PIAA Class AAA first-round playoff game at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona.

The Golden Eagles must hand Blackhawk pitcher Brendan McKay his second loss of the season in order to remain alive in the bracket.

Louisville recruit McKay had a scoreless streak of 72 1⁄3 innings snapped in the WPIAL Class AAA title game against West Allegheny last week.

West Allegheny not only ended a stretch that tied for the second-longest scoreless inning streak in U.S. baseball history, the Indians actually beat Blackhawk 5-3 in eight innings. It was McKay’s first loss since two seasons ago and dropped his career record to 29-2.

Somerset (18-1-1) defended its 6-AAA title and won its sixth district crown since 1988 by edging Hollidaysburg 3-2 on Wednesday.

The Eagles will face Blackhawk (14-3) at 3 p.m.

“I went down and saw him throw,” Somerset coach Steve Costea said of senior left-hander McKay. “He throws well. He’s the real deal. His fastball can be overpowering. He has a nasty curveball. It’s all about coming in with the right attitude and making sure we are there to hit the ball and put the ball in play.

“He’s legit, and he’s good, but as West Allegheny showed, he can be beat.”

McKay threw all eight innings against West Allegheny and had 10 strikeouts and no walks. Initially, it was reported in the Pittsburgh media that McKay’s scoreless inning streak ended at 71 2⁄3, but Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia reviewed the 2013 scorebooks and found 2⁄3 of an inning McKay pitched against Central Valley, which had been overlooked in his career stats, according to media reports.

The national record of 80 consecutive scoreless innings has stood since 1973.

Somerset won the 6-AAA crown in dramatic fashion as senior catcher Tanner Stull reached on an infield single in a 2-all game in the bottom of the seventh at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Stull used a delay steal to take second and advanced to third on an errant throw to the outfield. He made a big turn down the third-base line and continued home when the ball was launched behind home plate and caught by the catcher, who briefly stumbled and lost a race to the plate.

Somerset pitcher Alex Dirienzo allowed seven hits, struck out three, walked three and hit a batter. The Eagles played error-free ball until making one miscue in the top of the seventh.

“We’ve come together,” Costea said. “We’ve played well defensively all year. Timely hitting has been our key. There have been times we’ve struggled at the plate but we’ve always found guys to come through and carry us through a game.

“Tanner Stull did it the other night (in the District 6 title game). Each night someone else is stepping up in that role and we’re finding a way to win. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Costea said on Friday he will determine his starter on game day. Dirienzo would have four days rest.

“Alex Dirienzo threw a lot of pitches,” Costea said. “We’ll wait and see what we want to do. Michael VanLenten can throw. Ross Direnzo can throw. I have faith in these guys.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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