Just as his fellow Iowans were beginning to rise back home, Cole McDonald was putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece halfway across the world.
The Hawkeyes right-hander tossed a no-hitter on just 97 pitches, propelling USA Team to Friday's 8-0 win over Czech Republic to open the World University Games medal round in Taipei, Taiwan.
"He was pounding the zone," USA coach Rick Heller said in a school release. "He was at the knees all night long, and his breaking ball and change-up were good. He kept them off stride all night. He got a lot of ground balls, and our defense was good behind him. It was exactly what we needed."
McDonald walked three and struck out seven, facing two over the minimum as he mowed down Czech Republic hitters with relative ease. He cruised through nine with the help of 14 ground balls and a pair of double plays, the last which ended the game and sent USA into total jubilation.
"It's a surreal feeling," McDonald said. "I knew it was going the whole time, I just tried to stay even-keeled and not make it a big deal and keep on making pitches. I got lucky on a few pitches, but that happens when you throw one."
McDonald’s offense more than helped out as well. USA plated six runs in the first and got multi-RBI contributions from Chris Whelan and Tyler Cropley, who finished 3-for-3 with a double and two walks.
McDonald had modest numbers as a sophomore, going 2-4 with a 6.96 ERA in 13 appearances (11 starts). He entered the weekend rotation after C.J. Eldred went down in the season-opening series and had some productive starts, most notably against Bucknell on March 11 (6 1/3 innings, three runs) and at Kansas State on March 18 (five innings, one run). But McDonald faded as the season wore on and was eventually moved to the bullpen.
Signs, though, point to McDonald being in the rotation mix again in 2018. With the departures of Nick Gallagher, Ryan Erickson and Eldred, the Hawkeyes will have to completely reconstruct their weekend staff. Names like Brady Schanuel, Kole Kampen and Nick Allgeyer will be among the handful of candidates as well, but McDonald will have a shot to emerge.
"Cole went out and grew a lot," Heller said
The four teams that advanced to the medal round — USA, Czech Republic, South Korea and Japan — will now flip opponents before reseeding for the semifinals. USA faces South Korea Friday at 10 p.m. CDT, with the semifinals beginning Sunday at 10 p.m. CDT.
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.