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Cole McDonald: 'Just because we haven’t played well the last two weeks doesn’t mean we’re a bad team.' Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

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After two solid upperclassmen years that resurrected his collegiate career, Cole McDonald has a home in professional baseball.

The Houston Astros selected McDonald Wednesday in the 15th round of the MLB Draft. The senior right-hander is the sixth Iowa pitcher drafted in the past three seasons.

In his first year as the Hawkeyes’ weekend anchor, McDonald provided stability throughout. He went 6-3 with a 3.54 ERA, striking out 83 and walking 29 in 89 innings.

McDonald was a star in his final collegiate start. With Iowa desperately needing a spark in the Big Ten Tournament, McDonald twirled eight solid innings en route to a 4-2 upset over top seed Indiana. No doubt that outing provided one last boost to his stock.

“I love repping the Iowa Hawkeyes across my chest,” McDonald said after toppling the Hoosiers. “I wanted to go out there and compete and give us a chance to win.

“I was just thinking about it being the last start, just thinking to myself, ‘Hey, the last four years have been the greatest of my life.’”   

A draft-day phone call once seemed far-fetched for McDonald, who struggled as a sophomore and was eventually yanked from the weekend rotation. His ERA ballooned to 6.96 as confidence wavered.

But a revamped mental approach led to success in 2018, setting the table for a big senior year. McDonald re-joined the weekend rotation as a junior and produced a 3.23 ERA in 11 starts. He thrived as the Sunday workhorse behind ace Nick Allgeyer.

When Allgeyer bounced to pro ball last June, McDonald was ready to grab the reins.

He began this season with a couple bumpy appearances, but McDonald returned to form in plenty of time. Seven of his final 10 outings were quality starts, including five straight from April 5 to May 3. When Iowa’s season dangled in Omaha, McDonald rescued his fellow Hawkeyes.

Iowa’s now had three straight Friday starters parlay a strong year into an exciting draft day. Nick Gallagher went in the 16th round to the Cleveland Indians in 2017, then Allgeyer landed with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th round last June.

It’s time for McDonald to get his shot.     

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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