By JAMES ALLAN
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Cole McDonald realized what was happening in the third inning.
His battery mate, senior Tyler Cropley, was in the dark until he glanced up at the scoreboard following McDonald’s one-out walk in the bottom of the ninth.
Sophomore third baseman Lorenzo Elion saw McDonald mowing hitters down. He was beating around the bush the entire game, but he never said “the” word.
McDonald’s accomplishment was a feat that had not been accomplished by a University of Iowa baseball pitcher since 1965. McDonald threw a nine-inning no-hitter, pitching for the United States in a World University Games Super Round contest against the Czech Republic. USA won 8-0.
Bob Schauenberg threw a nine-inning perfect game against Central College in 1965; Chad Blackwell pitched a seven-inning perfect game against Northwestern in 2000.
McDonald knew where he stood heading into the ninth inning. He was three outs away when the first batter of the inning, Czech Republic’s Michal Ondracek, hit a hard come-backer to McDonald’s left.
“I thought it was through,” said Elion, McDonald’s roommate. “The baseball gods were in our favor.”
“I reacted naturally,” said McDonald. “It was hit hard and I didn’t have much time to think. I got it, ran it over to first, and flipped it. If I didn’t get it, it would have probably been a base hit because it was hit so hard.”
Instead, it was out No. 1.
After issuing a walk to the next batter — McDonald was angry with himself; he hadn’t pitched out of the stretch since the sixth — Czech’s two-hole hitter, Arnost Dubovy, stepped into the batter’s box.
“The same guy came up as in the first inning when Mitch (Boe) and I rolled the double play,” said shortstop Kyle Crowl. “I saw that play happen before it happened. I knew Cole was going to get in on his hands and I saw Cropley put the 1-1 down. I got the ground ball right to me.
“We turned it and got him a no-no. It was unbelievable.”
“Once the guy hit a slow grounder, I knew that was it,” said McDonald. “I didn’t know what to think. That was the first no-hitter I have thrown and ever been close to. I watched it happen and didn’t know what to do after that.”
What he had to do was enjoy the mob celebration with his teammates at the pitcher’s mound at Tianmu Baseball Stadium in Taipei. He completed the no-hitter, striking out seven while issuing three walks.
“(Cole) works so hard; I wasn’t surprised with the outcome,” said Elion. “I knew in the first inning that he was dialed in and no one could hit him. This is the first no-hitter I have been a part of… it couldn’t happen to a better guy than Donnie.”
The performance was a welcomed step for McDonald after enduring a difficult sophomore season. He was in the starting rotation for the first half of the season before seeing his role reduced as the year progressed. He finished Iowa’s season with a 2-4 record with a 6.96 ERA in 13 starts.
He pitched three times in the final month of the season and his last outing — against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament — he surrendered four earned runs in two innings.
“This is big for my confidence,” said McDonald. “I had a tough sophomore season. I have been working on a lot of things this summer and it was nice to have a start like that and get the junior year jump-started for the positive.”