Things could not have gone much better for Houston-area native Chad Donato in his Double-A debut for his hometown team.
The Astros prospect gave up two hits and two walks and recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings, leading Corpus Christi to a 10-0 triumph over Midland on Saturday night at Whataburger Field.
Video: Hooks' Donato gets 10th punchout in debut
Donato said he had about 30 people in the stands supporting him, from his parents, his wife and their 8-month-old daughter to friends and his high school coach.
"They were really excited," he said. "They don't get to see a lot of my pro outings. It really made me feel good to come out here tonight and dominate tonight for them. I'm glad to be back in Texas and have them [be] a part of this journey."
The fans welcomed the Cypress native back to the area and greeted him enthusiastically as he warmed up and took the mound.
"That was really awesome, having that home welcoming," he said. "That really gave me some energy in the stadium."
Donato struck out the side in the first inning and, after issuing a leadoff walk to Taylor Motter in the second, fanned the next two RockHounds. Including those two strikeouts, the 24-year-old retired 12 batters in a row -- six on strikes -- and took a no-hitter into the sixth.
"I was really able to spot my fastball, put it where I wanted and be able to land my off-speed," Donato said, "throwing it through the zone with aggression for strikes."
Donato tried not to let the possibility of a no-hitter get to him.
"I honestly didn't pay attention," he said. "I went out there and kept commanding my pitches, throwing them through the strike zone. I knew my strikeouts were getting high, but I didn't want to think about it, to be honest."
A's No. 17 prospect Kevin Merrell hit Donato's 1-1 pitch into center field to lead off the sixth, ending the no-hit bid, and stole second when Collin Theroux was retired on his 10th and final strikeout. He got back-to-back ground balls to end the threat and retired the first two batters in the seventh before walking Nate Mondou and giving up a double to Edwin Diaz.
Donato received a standing ovation as he walked to the Hooks dugout.
"It really gave me the chills," he said. "They knew that I was from Texas, little hometown boy. It made me feel really good about myself, and I'm excited to be part of this club. Just tip my hat to the fans. There was great energy in the stadium tonight. It was an unbelievable experience."
After Donato threw 74 of 99 pitches for strikes, Leovanny Rodriguez fanned Brallan Perez to strand both runners in scoring position.
Gameday box score
The right-hander made 15 appearances, including 13 starts, for Class A Advanced Fayetteville and went 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 24 walks over 69 1/3 innings. Last season, the West Virginia University product threw 77 2/3 innings between Class A Short Season Tri-Cities and Class A Quad Cities and was 9-0 with 1.62 ERA in 12 starts among 15 appearances. He struck out 98 and walked 22.
Donato said that while his statistics with Fayetteville may not have been gaudy, they were partly the result of things not going his way.
"The numbers weren't where I wanted them to be," he said, "but for them to give me that call and for them to trust me to come to Double-A and get a start and show them what I've got, that's really good to have them in my corner."
2019 MiLB include
Donato also missed his daughter, who visited him twice this season in Fayetteville.
"Not being able to see her every day and watch her grow up" was especially tough, he said. "And now she's getting some teeth and I missed [some] of those first-time experiences. But now that I'm back in Texas, hopefully, I'll be able to interact a lot more and be there for her."
Donato spent some time with his friends and family after the game, and brought his daughter to the mound to take a couple of photos to remember a special night.
"Just starting this journey off for her," he said, "to know you [could] live your dreams and they do come true."
Astros No. 20 prospect Abraham Toro went 4-for-5 with an RBI in his third straight multi-hit game for the Hooks.