NEW MIDDLETOWN -As Springfield pitcher Dalton Donachie walked back to the dugout after the third inning Thursday against Lisbon, he began to realize he was in the midst of a special game.
With nine strikeouts already in the bag, the junior right-hander started thinking it was possible to reach 21, the highest total possible for a seven-inning game.
A mere 19 strikeouts and his second career no-hitter will have to do.
On a chilly damp evening. the Tigers ace delivered a vintage performance, outdueling Lisbon pitcher Jagr Groubert en route to a 1-0 win a Springfield High School.
It was fitting that Donachie registered the game's only hit, an RBI single in the third - the Tigers' lone hit against Groubert.
Springfield - ranked second in the Division III coaches state poll - improves to 17-1 overall and 9-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. Lisbon falls to 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the ITCL upper tier.
"My stuff was good enough I thought I had a good shot at 21 strikeouts but I'll take it," Donachie said. "Their pitcher (Groubert) was throwing pretty well, so I just had to keep battling the whole night."
Everything in Donachie's arsenal was in top form Thursday. His fastball was humming past the Lisbon batters all night, while his curveball and slider had excellent late-breaking action. At one point he fanned nine straight batters.
The first ball Lisbon put in play came when Marcus Nenincka led off the fifth inning with a tapper between first and second. The only time the no-hitter was in doubt came in the sixth on a slow roller to third base by Avery Andric.
"My pitches weren't being executed as well early in the season," Donachie said. "When I've gotten in tough spots during games, I've had to work on taking my time and pitching to the best of my ability. Tonight was by far the best I've felt out there this year."
Donachie logged 53 innings in the Tigers' state runner-up season a year ago, but entered Thursday night having thrown just 18 innings thanks to a combination of rainouts and blowouts.
"I think Dalton was a bit worn out last year, but with all the rainouts we've had this year, we think he still has a ton left in the tank at this stage of the season," Springfield coach Matt Weymer said. "He showed why he is our ace tonight."
Donachie (5-1) encountered one of his only tough spots in the first inning. After Jagr Groubert led off with a walk, Frankie Morrell reached on a throwing error, setting up a first-and-third situation with one out and Eric Walker-Lisbon's best hitter-at the plate.
However, with two strikes against him Walker fouled off a pitch that skipped off the knob of the bat and pinched the skin on his right hand. The result was an ugly black and blue welt and an early exit for the senior. Donachie promptly struck out pinch hitter Jaret Everett along with Matt Spencer to skate free of trouble.
"That was a great opportunity for us," Lisbon coach Doug Andric said. "Eric is without question our best hitter. To lose him and bring a kid in off the bench with two strikes on him in a key spot was tough."
Complicating things for Lisbon was the fact that Walker was the Blue Devils starting pitcher. Jagr Groubert-the scheduled catcher-was forced into mound action and came through as good as the Blue Devils could have hoped, yielding only one hit and two strikeouts through six innings. The Tigers put a handful of hard-hit ball in play, but the Blue Devils played solid error-free ball in the field.
"Jagr did a great job of getting ahead with his fastball," Andric said. "He stayed in control and made them put the ball in play, our fielders did a great job of backing him up."
Springfield scored the only run of the game in the third inning. Hunter Snyder drew a two-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Donachie laced a 2-0 pitch to left, easily bringing home Snyder.
"It was cold and there was some wind so it was tough to get hits to fall in," Donachie said. "I was just trying to be aggressive and look for a good pitch."
The seventh inning felt more secure than most one-run games as Donachie struck out the side to finish his gem.
"Tonight was as good as I've felt in a long time," Donachie said. "Hopefully I can keep it going as we finish the league and get into the tournament."
Lisbon is at Southern on Monday, while Springfield travels to fellow ITCL unbeaten South Range.
It was Donachie's second career no-hitter. The other one came in a five-inning game last year against Mineral Ridge.
Donachie threw 120 pitches. Weymer said he normally limits him to between 90-95.
"Hopefully it doesn't come back to bite us," Weymer said. "If he had given up a hit I would have taken him out, but I understand the mentality of a pitcher and I wanted to give him a chance."
Springfield's prom is this weekend, preceding the Monday showdown with South Range.
"I hope it's not too big a deal," laughed Weymer. "I fully expect us to be ready to go."
SP-Dalton Donachie, wp (7IP, 19K, 4BB) and Hunter Snyder.
LI-Jagr Groubert, lp (6IP, 2K, 4BB) and Jaret Everett.