Emge, McKay provide battery power for top-ranked Blackhawk

| Friday, April 20, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

Sophomore pitcher Brendan McKay, already an all-state honoree, has it in him to be an all-time great at Blackhawk. And it shouldn't be a surprise that time spent with one of the successful program's best-ever catchers — Matt Emge — is helping to build that résumé.

There might not be a better battery in Class AAA. Certainly not many with more power.

“Both those guys are really hitting the crap out of the ball,” longtime Cougars coach Bob Amalia said.

Pacing No. 1 Blackhawk's 10-1 start, the standouts are each batting better than .500. Emge, an Ohio State-bound senior, is showing special power, hitting .583 with 21 RBI, three doubles, a triple and two home runs.

That's not what catches his coach's eye, though.

“As good of a hitter he is, I still think he's better defensively,” Amalia said. “He throws batters out. He's not fast, but he's quick; he blocks everything, frames well, has great leadership qualities.

“He talks to the pitchers. Brendan will be the first one to tell you it's a big help having him behind there.”

Indeed, Emge played a role in helping McKay to a fantastic freshman season. The 6-foot-1 lefty, who also plays at first base, was 6-0 last year with a 0.88 earned-run average and 57 strikeouts in 48 innings. He also batted .480 with 20 RBI in helping the Cougars to a third consecutive Section 1 championship.

“(Emge) has helped me have confidence in my pitches,” McKay said. “He's a great kid and knows how to talk you through situations.”

This season, McKay is adding a changeup to his repertoire and has yet to allow an earned run.

“It's a fun time for me catching when he's on the mound,” Emge said. “He's got really great stuff. Even at the plate, with him batting right in front of me, I get to watch him. We're batting three and four, same as last year.”

McKay has yielded just two runs this spring, both coming in Blackhawk's 2-0 loss Monday to section rival Hopewell. The defeat dropped the Cougars into a first-place tie with the Vikings and Beaver at 5-1.

“Baseball is funny. We hit the ball hard, and we hit it right at them,” said Amalia, whose team rebounded to defeat Moon, 11-3, on Wednesday and is hosting Beaver today.

“This is one tough section, and you've got to be ready to play,”

Fortunately for the Cougars, talent is laced through the lineup — and it's not limited to Emge and McKay.

Amalia calls consistent senior shortstop Tyler Craig “one of the best I've had in 13 years,” and junior outfielder Cole Chiappiale and senior outfielder Brandon Mansell are each batting well over .300.

Complementing McKay on the mound, senior pitcher Adam Rousseau is 4-0.

“(Emge and McKay) get a lot of credit, but we've got a lot of other good players out there,” Amalia said. “We couldn't be 10-1 without those guys.”

Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dstefano@tribweb.com or 412-380-5697.

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