Justin Donatella knew before he threw his first pitch on Wednesday that his night was going to be a good one. And that's a microcosm of his eye-popping start to 2016.
For the third time in four starts this season, the D-backs prospect posted six scoreless innings, improving to 3-0 and dropping his ERA to 0.39 as Class A Kane County rolled to a 9-0 victory over Dayton.
"In the bullpen warming up, I kind of felt that I had my good stuff today," Donatella said. "I just told myself, 'You're feeling good. Stuff's looking good. The biggest thing that could bite you is your focus. Try to keep your focus.' For the most part, I did a pretty good job of that tonight. I wasn't great but good enough to win."
The Dragons likely would admit Donatella was more than just good enough. The 21-year-old right-hander stranded a runner in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings before facing the minimum in the fifth and sixth.
"No pitcher likes giving up runs, moreso for me," he said. "When they get to second and third, I try to lock it in a little bit and do what I can to help prevent the runs from scoring."
Donatella succeeded, despite the challenge of battling to maintain focus on a night when he believed his stuff alone could carry him.
"I would say it's tougher because you get a little cocky sometimes," Donatella said. "It's easier to lose focus when you feel good. You feel like you're on top of the world and next thing you know, the world can be on top of you. I'd say it's a little tougher."
Donatella went to the mound with a comfortable cushion, thanks to a four-run top of the first, then waited through another lengthy inning when the Cougars sent six to the plate and added a run in the second.
"Anytime our offense is scoring runs and putting us in the best chance to win, it's a great feeling," he said. "That itself takes a load off a pitcher. You don't have to press to make pitches. We did a good job today of good team baseball."
In four Midwest League starts, Donatella has given up one run on 15 hits over 23 innings, striking out 20 while walking only two. Since the D-backs selected him in the 15th round of last year's Draft, he boasts a 1.09 ERA in 16 Minor League appearances, including 10 starts.
"Instead of focusing on the velocity and all this stuff, it's been trying to win one pitch at a time," he said. "That leads to everything else, to control and all that stuff. That's what I would say has helped me be successful so far."
Eight of the nine Cougars in the starting lineup had at least one hit as Kane County totaled 15 and went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Trevor Mitsui and Galli Cribbs led the way with three RBIs apiece.
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.