The right-hander struck out a career-high 13 hitters and baffled Furman through the first five innings. But a five-run 6th ruined the outing, as West Virginia lost 7-3 on Friday in the first game of the series.
Donato mixed a pair of offspeed pitches with a steady fastball and struck out the side twice, including 10 of the first 14 batters he faced in cruising into the 6th inning. But the third time proved a charm for the Furman line-up, which kept attacking early in the counts to put up five runs in the frame, then added two more in the 8th inning in the win.
West Virginia? It never found much success against Furman's Wil Gaddis (5-2), who allowed the two runs while scattering seven hits over eight innings in picking up his fith win. WVU's Kyle Davis was the only one to consistently hit Gaddis, going 2-for-4. Freshmen Darius Hill went 2-for-4 with an RBI and and Marques Inman had the only other RBI for the Mountaineers, who finished with nine hits.
It all seemed fine through five innings, both pitchers working efficiently and effectively through the order. But Furman timed up Donato (1-3) well in its third trip through, and began to spray slid base hits to every section of the ball park. Donato retired the first hitter in the 6th inning before the Paladins loaded the bases with a single, double and hit-by-pitch.
A pair of run-scoring singles then made it 2-0 before the Mountaineers cut down a run at the plate for the second out. That left runners at first and second, and Furman five-hitter Landon Kay delivered with an RBI double for a 3-0 lead. A bloop single to center by Sky Overton made it 5-0 before Overton was thrown out trying to advance to second base on the throw home.
West Virginia (16-12) cut into the lead in the bottom half on three consecutive singles by Kyle Davis, KC Huth and Darius Hill. That made it 5-1 and put runners on the corners with one out for Marques Inman, who offered up a tailor made double play ball. But the throw was dropped by first baseman Brandon Elmy, allowing Huth to score for a 5-2 game.
That seemed to give WVU some momentum, but that was short lived as Furman scored twice in the 8th inning to chase Donato and put the game out of reach. Donato finished with 7.2 innings pitched, allowing seven runs, all earned, with 13 strikeouts, and as shown in the video above, the junior was not pleased with his lack of offensive support early.
The collegiate career-best in strikeouts for Donato was also an all-time personal best at any level. The WVU school record for strikeouts in a game is 22 by John Radosevich in 1964 versus Waynesburg.
Furman racked up 11 hits off the Donato, including four doubles - two by leadoff hitter Carter Grote. Grote went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Elmy racked up three hits and three RBI, while Overton had a pair of RBI. Cameron Whitehead went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and another RBI for Furman, which snapped a three game losing streak. The Paladins (12-17) entered having lost five of six.
WVU entered winners of four of five; It still leads the all-time series with Furman 10-7. The last meeting between the programs prior to this one came in 2006, when Furman won 5-4 in the first series game in 39 years.
Furman was without outfielder and designated hitter Jabari Richards (.395 ERA, 4 HR, 13 RBI) and third baseman Jordan Simpson (.351, 3 HR, 23 RBI). Both are on suspension, and will not play in the series. Game two is Saturday at 4 p.m. The Mountaineers will start southpaw Ross Vance (4-1, 3.68 ERA) against right-hander Matthew Quarles (3-2, 5.22 ERA).