The overall records are good but not great, for Nick Blackburn individually and Neuqua Valley as a team.
Closer inspection reveals a group that could be playing for the Class 4A state championship in a couple of weeks.
Seeded third in the Romeoville Sectional, Neuqua Valley (29-7) is 28-4 against Illinois competition this spring and boasts the kind of pitching numbers that can't be explained away by the new BBCOR bats.
The Illinois-bound Blackburn's one-hitter in the Wildcats' 7-0 victory against Bolingbrook was their 13th shutout of the spring.
The team has a 1.97 ERA, 10 pitchers have earned a victory and six have at least two.
"We knew we were going to have a pretty good team, but we really needed the juniors to step up," Blackburn said. "Jeff Evak in the two spot is hitting .460 and David Gerber is shutting it down on the mound. He's 7-0 with an ERA under one. That's what we needed to become that next-caliber team."
Blackburn (7-3) and Neuqua Valley took their lumps early.
They went 1-3 during a March trip to Memphis, and Blackburn lasted just 3 1/3 innings during a 10-0 loss to Christian Brothers, which won its Tennessee record 11th state championship last spring.
"Absolutely 100-percent without question those games made us a better team," Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner said. "Those are the best teams we've seen by far. One of the pitchers we saw is going to Ole Miss (Mississippi), another to Arkansas, another to LSU. It was the first time we took that trip, but we're going back next year."
Blackburn (7-3) hasn't endured another rough outing all season. His two other losses came in 2-1 games, and he owns a 1.68 ERA and 0.90 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) despite the rough start.
Renner said the 6-foot-2 righty was throwing his fastball between 88 and 92 against Bolingbrook. He also throws a curveball and a slider, the latter being his "out pitch."
Major league scouts have been showing up when he pitches, though it doesn't appear as if the Illini have reason for concern.
"It's pretty much a dream come true," he said. "Not too many people can say they've been contacted by major league scouts, but most likely I'm going to college."
Nick Blackburn file
School: Neuqua Valley.
Numbers: 7-3, 1.68 ERA, 62 1/3 innings, 77 strikeouts, 20 walks; .379, 2 HR, 29 RBIs.