TAIPEI, Taiwan — Cole McDonald pitched the game of his life on Friday, 7,300 miles from home at the World University Games.
With Team USA across his chest, the University of Iowa junior from New Hampton threw a no-hitter in the Hawkeyes’ 8-0 win over the Czech Republic.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” he said. “I’ve never thrown one before, so I don’t really know what to think.”
McDonald was mobbed on the mound by teammates after the win.
“I’m over in Taipei and it just so happens that I throw a no-hitter,” he said. “It’s definitely a really awesome feeling and I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
McDonald knew early he could be in for a special outing, noting he realized he hadn’t given up a hit after three innings. But he didn’t work away from his game plan and continued to keep the Czech hitters guessing by using all of his pitches.
“Everything was working, my fastball, slider and change-up,” the 20-year-old said. “I just mixed it with every single batter. Just kept them off balance.”
The Hawkeyes wasted no time in getting McDonald some run support. Senior catcher Tyler Cropley laced a two-run double down the left field line in the top of the first. Team USA wound up scoring six times in the opening frame and took advantage of three Czech Republic errors and two walks from starting pitcher Tomas Duffek.
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McDonald’s brilliance and lots of scoring gave the Iowa supporters plenty to be excited about. A group of about 50 alumni dressed in black and gold — and equipped with colorful wigs and noisemakers — has made its presence felt above the Team USA dugout, cheering non-stop at each game so far.
“It’s not usual that we will see the University of Iowa baseball team in Taiwan,” said Taipei native Simon Yu, one of the organizers who graduated with a Master of Engineering degree in 1988. “This is very precious. So that’s why I ask all the alumni to come out and cheer for them.
“The school taught us well. We’ve grown, we have business in Taiwan, so we want to show our appreciation.”
The Hawkeyes are certainly grateful for the support.
“It just makes you feel great that the Hawkeyes from Taipei have come out to support us,” Coach Rick Heller said. “I don’t think any of us expected it. And then to look out there and see how many people showed up to support us, it makes us all proud.”
Team USA has a quick turnaround and will play Team Korea in its second and final Super Round game on Saturday morning (10 p.m., Iowa time, tonight).